Movie review: Shang-Chi and the legend of the Three Rings

Review by: Aditya Thiyag

Director: Destin Cretton

Rating: 3.5/5

With the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer smashing the record for the most views on a movie trailer in 24 hours and Avengers: Endgame being the highest grossing film of all time, it’s easy to feel like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is nothing more than filler in the greater context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU). However, strong fight choreography, brilliant cinematography, and a relatively complex antagonist in the Mandarin makes Shang-Chi a solid addition to the MCU.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton perfectly establishes the visual style and the tone of the film within the very first fight sequence; combining traditional martial arts, elemental battles reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a lush forest as the battleground all comes together to envelop the viewer in this mystical world rooted in East Asian culture. This opening scene not only is visually stunning, but the repartee between Shang Chi’s parents, Tony Leung’s Mandarin and Fala Chen’s Ying Li, is charming and injects personality and humor into the fight. Canadian Actor Simu Liu additionally brings a great presence to the titular character. Originally starting off as a caricature of a protagonist, Shang-Chi eventually grows into a complex character defined by the relationship between his heritage and his father – all of which is conveyed expertly through body language and line delivery courtesy of Liu.

However, while Leung’s Mandarin and Liu’s Shang-Chi are clear highlights, the film’s biggest downfall is in its side characters. The humor brought by Awkwafina’s Katy feels forced at best and, while her presence is meant to be a relatable character for the audience, her lack of charisma makes this character trope unengaging in every sense of the word.

The story, while starting out strong, feels like it starts to lose its identity towards the midpoint of the film, introducing new characters, exposition, and conflicts well into its third act. The film introduces these conflicts to compensate for character arcs and as a result, the conclusion to most of these plot points doesn’t feel earned and detracts from an otherwise engaging narrative.

While Shang-Chi has its fair share of narrative and character problems, its charming leads, entertaining action sequences, and expert choreography make it a delightful thrill ride from start to finish. Here’s hoping Marvel carries the positives from this film into the rest of Phase four.