'Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings' (2021) Review: Martial Arts Marvel
After crafting a universe spanning 24 films, multiple television series, the 25th film in the interconnected Marvel franchise attempts to go back to basics. Introducing a new face to its ever growing pantheon of characters with Shang-Chi, the first ever Asian leading a major American superhero blockbuster.
As the audience meets Shang for the first time, we enter into a world that’s become all too familiar, almost to the movie’s detriment. It’s a difficult thing to evoke surprise in a universe where the impossible has been seen time and time again. The film acknowledges this in Shang Chi’s first fight. In it he battles a gang of experienced martial artists, and a man with a glowing blade for a hand, adequately named Razor Fist.
Instead of shock and awe, the onlookers are mostly unbothered by what’s occurring. One character even seized the opportunity to live stream the event to his audience. The indifference of the citizens lets the action commence without consequence as Simu Liu tears through his opponents like a Jackie Chan tribute artist.
The film’s attitude towards its more fantastic elements reflects the journey of Shang Chi himself. He’s a young, unmotivated millennial with no conception of anything close to a 5 year plan. As the movie progresses Shang is revealed as less of a hero in the making, but more of a reluctant one. As he moves closer to accepting the responsibility of a saviour and a defender, the film becomes less apathetic. One scene in particular shows the fallen soldiers of a standard Marvel battleground receiving a ceremony of remembrance.
For a film that exists in the same universe as Iron Men and Green Goliaths, ‘Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ brings its own share of amazing fantasy to the table. There are magical beasts, colourful masked assassin’s, and a super powered underground fighting ring. It has all the makings of an epic, and succeeds in the execution. Yet the film repeatedly brings the focus back to its characters.
The story is engaging with the stakes clearly established, and the film sets up its biggest plot points to coincide with its strongest character moments. It’s a successful introduction to an endearing and exhilarating portrayal by Simu Liu, and a strong supporting cast. It’s one of the best blockbusters I’ve seen in a long while.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Note: With the recent restrictions imposed in the fight against Covid-19, cinemas are suffering now more than ever. While I appreciate you reading this review, movies are still incredibly subjective. If you think you might enjoy yourself, I encourage everyone to support the cinema industry as much as they can, and safely enjoy an evening at the movies. Stay safe, and remember, life’s too short for bad movies.