For the most part, I had fun watching Destin Daniel Crettons Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Such a long title.
I decided to not see the movie in theaters. It actually made quite a bit at the box office this year where it will probably end up as the second highest grossing movie of 2021, domestically and it should stay at #9 internationally. But I waited to see the movie at home.
I was super excited to see not only Cretton finally get his shot at a movie of this size, serving as the MCUs first asian director, but I was very intrigued by a legit Martial Arts MCU movie, knowing zero about who Shang-Chi is, the MCU’s first Asian lead—played by Simu Liu.
Despite it pretty much serving as the origin story of a largely unknown marvel character, the movie wastes little time, assuming that either fans are familiar with the character, they’ve done their research, or are familiar with the Ten Rings organization that has already been present in the MCU. So it can feel more like an origin story of the Ten Rings than Shang-Chi.
I think it does a fine job reintroducing us to the Ten Rings with a history lesson on the ancient artifacts as well as an introduction of the main figures within the organization, the immortal Wenwu played by the badass Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, wife Yi played by Fala Chen and their children, Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing—played by Meng’er Zhang.
Then we jump back into the present day and It feels like the definitive millennial MCU movie. Set in San Francisco, lots of comedic beats and formulaic characters stretched across the entire movie. Shang-Chi’s best friend Katy—played by Awkwafina lends her great comedic abilities but it’s a bit awkward at times. Even Simu plays into some of the funnier bits more subtly and it works. Even the fake Mandarin from Ironman 3—Trevor Slattery played Ben Kingsley—is back and he’s goofier than before. He’s even got his own little critter friend now, something of an MCU staple these days.
It’s up to the gang to stop their grieving widower father, now turned anti hero, from unleashing literal hell upon the world of Ta Lo and possibly other multiverses(?). Ta Lo is a cool mythological dimension new to the MCU but quickly pushed into the background of the movie.
The big bad of Shang-Chi, not to be confused with his big bad grieving Dad, is great in concept. An ancient demonic entity known as the Dweller-in-Darkness has been locked away and guarded by Shang-Chi’s Mothers side of the family at Ta Lo. But a brainwashed grieving Wenwu is tricked into unleashing the demon and his minions to devour souls but not before sacrificing himself and passing the ten rings baton off onto his son. Then add in the Great Protector CGI Water Dragon of Ta Lo and it’s too much. Maybe its just because I saw the movie on a 50 inch TV. An over the top CGI Kaiju battle ensues and it’s exactly that, the only thing Shang-Chi is able to do with the rings is fend off the demon minions, while the giant beasts battle it out in the sky. With all of the Martial Arts goodness that Shang-Chi consists of, I feel like there could have been a better climax to work with but it is what it is.
Still a fun MCU movie.