#REVIEW: “SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS”
Review byAmanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
This Film has the best action sequences yet from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Many years ago, Martial Arts master Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) left his family and started a new life in America. Now, he’s happily living in San Francisco working as a Valet Driver with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). He has kept his family, past and excellent fighting abilities a secret from everyone, including Katy. However, his world gets turned upside-down when Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) attacks and steals a family heirloom from him. This forces Shang-Chi to confront his past as he’s drawn into the Ten Rings organization.
This Film is rooted in the themes of family and community, which is why Co-Writer and Director Destin Daniel Cretton is the perfect fit. His previous work, such as Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle, has those same themes. However, Shang-Chi goes deeper to talk about the good and bad in bloodlines and how we are both. Once we accept who we are, for all our imperfections, that’s when we can truly be a hero. This is where Liu shines in this titular role. He plays Shang-Chi as someone carrying a burden. In subtle beats, Liu sheds layers of his hero until we see the flaws and traumas he’s carrying. By the time we reach the epic climax, Liu has exposed his character and physically shows Shang-Chi’s confidence by changing his stride and stature.
We’ve seen action in the Marvel Cibematic Universe, but none was entertaining and captivating as here. From beginning to end, it feels like we are taken on a nonstop thrill ride. The first time we are introduced to what Shang-Chi can do is on a public bus. Liu is fantastic in the scene, managing to hold on to emotional intensity while physically fighting the bad guys. The fight sequences are highly influences by Martial Arts and Kung-fu, but there are also scenes where parkour comes into play. Particularly in a scene where Shang-Chi and Katy attend a fight club to find Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing (an outstanding Meng’er Zhang).
Impressively, this Film is about a male hero but there’s immense focus on the female Supporting Cast. Through Xialing, we learn the family history of her being isolated from the fight training her brother was given. Instead of this discouraging her, she watched and trained herself. Zhang is phenomenal at showing Xialing’s internalized anger and resentment. She exposes it with subtle facial expressions and actions rather than dialogue. Awkwafina is perfectly cast as Katy. Through the fight scenes, comic relief is needed, and Awkwafina excels with perfect comedic timing. However, she isn’t simply the sidekick. Rather, she’s given her own character arch. This is shown when they arrive at the magical Ta-Lo.
Cretton and the VFX team have created a truly beautiful world of Ta-Lo and its adorable animals, like the little magical creature Morris. Without giving too much away, it’s with Morris that comes a character played by a hilarious Ben Kingsley. Additionally, it’s here we see the main battle between father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), and son. Throughout, Leung gives a commanding performance as the power-driven Wenwu. Yet, we get to see his vulnerability for his family in this final battle.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has great action, performances, visual effects and deeply-affecting themes on family and identity.
Marvel Studios Canada release SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS in theatres Friday, September 3, 2021.