Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a blast from start to finish. Packed with action, drop in some drama and make it complete with comedy. This cast works so well together on screen with such chemistry, and they really elevate one another’s performance. Everything felt so fresh and unique in the best ways, and I think everyone will be pleased with different aspects of the movie.
The fight choreography is unlike what we’re used to seeing in mainstream American movies, and that makes this all the more refreshing. It feels like the wrong descriptor to use, but the fight scenes feel almost majestic? There’s a beauty to watching the carefully timed and strategic motions of the martial arts, which stand in dark contrast to the erratic kicking and jumping we’re accustomed to seeing.
Simu Liu is proving that he has what it takes to be a star. His personality makes him seem like someone you’ve met before, but his talent shines through to make him unlike anyone else workmen today. He is just so likable. If you don’t think so, I genuinely have trust issues with you. Tasked with some big pressure to live up to by representing a leading Asian-American superhero and serving up a sense of charm or character, he delivers on all fronts.
Awkwafina is a worthy addition to the MCU, and I think she belongs in all movies from here on out, and, yes, I mean every movie anyone makes from now on. She has always been funny, but she is a different kind of funny in Shang-Chi. She’s Shaun’s best friend, but she also feels like your best friend giving you a hard time with everything you do. The whole theater erupted with laughter at almost every line she said.
Tony Leung is a Chinese acting icon, and his role here certainly lives up to that. He brings a level of intensity and sophistication that can make the hair on your neck stand up. Meng’er Zhang brings such a powerful character out to the forefront, and she added a nice detail to the family dynamic. No surprise here, but Michelle Yeoh is superb as always. Ben Kingsley is the true scene-stealer in a role that has no right working quite as well in this story as it does. He’s hilarious, and everyone is going to want their own Morris in a few weeks.
The score composed for the movie is such an interesting and effective blend pulling from its Asian inspirations both classical and modern. There are alternating undertones of harps and other string instruments playing over today’s trap and EDM beats. Given the content of Shang-Chi, it’s especially well suited for this.
The soundtrack is impeccable. A soundtrack for any series or film is supposed to immerse its audience in a unique atmosphere and work in tandem with the visuals and on-screen effects, and the Shang-Chi soundtrack more than foots the bill. Featuring appearances from some hot modern artists like Anderson .Paak, Saweetie, Rick Ross, Rich Brian, DJ Snake, and more, the star power also served up some well-suited Asian-American representation to bridge that gap.
The mystical visual effects are very impressive. I know that all Marvel movies do really great visual tricks and techniques to pull off action sequences and CGI characters, but this felt so natural. All of the scenes involving water were phenomenal, but there is one scene in particular set at Shaun’s childhood home that really sticks with me. When you see it, I think you’ll agree.
Another way that the visual effects stood out were with the animals in Ta Lo. You’ll remember the rhinos and animals from Wakanda, but there are a lot more animals in Ta Lo that are fluffy, hairy, and ultra-realistic. I want several of them as pets, to be honest.
The biggest disappointment from the film — and it’s only disappointing because of how great the rest of it is — is that Shang-Chi ends up falling into the tried-and-true Marvel formula with an intricate, detailed backstory and exposition but a fight-heavy and CGI-dependent back half. The final act is massive, and it definitely fits the bill for an epic Marvel fight, but the ending feels overwhelming with not enough of a satisfying resolution.
One thing everyone can appreciate about this standout of a movie is how it works so well as a standalone film, but it also serves as a great launching board into the next phase of the MCU at the same time. It quite literally expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing in a new level of fantasy we haven’t explored yet, but that new lore is part of the appeal after all.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters on Friday, September 3. Get your tickets here.