Review of 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings'

shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings.jpg Thousands of years ago Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) finds the mysterious Ten Rings worn on the arms that grant him amazing powers. He uses these to create an army of warriors called the Ten Rings and goes onto conquer many people. In 1996 he finds the mythical village of Ta Lo where he falls in love with the village guardian Ying Li (Fala Chen). Li and Wenwu eventually have two children Shang-Chi (Jayden Zhang) and Xialing (Elodie Fong) but, having put aside his conquering days, Wenwu once again takes up the rings when the village is attacked by a rival gang, the Iron Gang who kill his wife. Shang-Chi studies the martial arts from a young age and is sent by his father on mission to assassinate the Iron Gang leader. Traumatised by the experience, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) travels to San Francisco where he becomes a valet working with demon-driver and smart-ass Katy (Awkwafina). It is not too long before his past catches up to him when his father's gang attack him. He traces his sister (Meng'er Zhang) to a fight club in Macau where he learns that his father has become obsessed with finding Ta Lo again believing that his wife is still alive and is being kept in a prison inhabited by a hideous monster. It is up to Shang-Chi, Katy and the village to bring sanity to Wenwu and stop him from destroying the world.

A bit confusing but a lot of fun. The dialogue is a bit silly but the action looks great and it feels very different from other Marvel action hero films. The action looks great with some huge set pieces with not only the expected martial arts but also large amounts of CG-heavy supernatural stuff flying about the screen. With this and the somewhat convoluted story we never really know what is coming next and, indeed, other than Shang-Chi the lines between good and evil are a bit blurred here. With all of this, it feels quite fresh and a whole lot of fun though it does often descend slightly into Asian cliché.

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Awkwafina as Katy are a great team, sparing off each other quite well and make the film which might otherwise have been quite serious, quite entertaining and a lot of fun. It is Katy's silliness and blind ignorance that contrasts with the heavy heart of Shang-Chi. We also have the welcome appearance of Michelle Yeoh as Chang-Chi's martial art expert aunt Ying Nan and Ben Kingsley as inept actor Trevor Slattery. Though Yoeh plays largely to type Kingsley is ultra-camp and fun as a reclusive actor.

A different type of superhero film where the superhero is not quite what you think though with a great feeling of immensity to the story with tremendous historical elements. This coupled with some great acting makes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings refreshing and quite entertaining…though try to watch it on a big screen to more fully appreciate the action sequences (I saw it on a tiny airplane seatback video screen). It is also a tad on the long side…

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2023-04-07

Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Year: 2021

Length: 132 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure