Critipeg: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

★★★★½ out of 5

Simu Liu, as Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Supplied photo)

Currently playing in theatres.

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a superhero film that follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in his attempt to foil the evil plot of his Machiavellian father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung).

To kick things off, the fight scenes in the film are a refreshing departure from Marvel’s tendency to show off flashy CGI magic or tech in their battles.

The gorgeous hand-to-hand martial fight choreography is stunning. It’s quick, fun and incredibly impressive. While most of the fight sequences pale somewhat in comparison to the bus scene toward the end of the first act, the excitement and momentum is sustained throughout the majority of the movie.

That said, the action does wane somewhat during the final battle, where CGI and special effects rear their heads. Even so, it’s not so disappointing that it eclipses the rest of the viewing experience.

Another wonderful aspect of the film that differentiates it from other Marvel works is the friendship between Shang-Chi and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina).

It’s a longstanding tradition of sorts that a superhero has their counterpart, and when the superhero and their counterpart are of different genders, they often fall into a romantic relationship. This does not happen for Shang-Chi and Katy.

Their platonic relationship is established early on and firmly remains that way for the entirety of the story. Additionally, they’re shown to be a team that supports each other. They laugh together, have fun together and make poor choices together. Seeing a lighthearted but strong friendship on screen adds an extra layer of enjoyment to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – not to mention that Awkwafina is a delight to watch in general.

Unfortunately, there is one lacklustre facet of the film that hinders its rating, but not overmuch: in a nutshell, there are some issues with the villain, Xu Wenwu.

Xu Wenwu is established early on as an immortal man empowered by the magical and dangerous 10 rings. Wielding the rings as a weapon, he creates and commands a hostile organization that shares its name.

Xu Wenwu, however, renounces his evil ways upon meeting the love of his life Ying Li (Fala Chen), only to revert back to villainy upon his wife’s death.

This is a lot of character development to pack alongside everything else going on in the narrative. Unfortunately, the way it is handled is subpar. While it’s easy enough to just go along with these rapid character changes during the first and second acts, Xu Wenwu’s motives become weaker as the film goes on, and his arc comes off as flimsy toward the end.

All together, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is definitely worth catching in theatres. Despite its errors, it’s a fun, action-packed time with solid performances and its fair share of thrilling scenes.

Published in Volume 76, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 23, 2021)

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