SHANG-CHI & THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS: A MARVEL
Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Steeped in Chinese mythology, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) has the unenviable task of recreating not only the Marvel comic and all its splendor but to enliven its characters, make it accessible to Western and Eastern audiences. For the most part, Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy) achieves this feat.
The complex story centers on Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a hero who has yet to prove his worth as a valet parking cars at a plush hotel in San Francisco. His best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), unaware of Sean's (his American name) true heritage, is his co-worker. She attracts trouble at every turn, taking a flashy, red BMW sports car for a spin and disappoints her mother, grandmother by also not realizing her potential. When circumstances put their lives in a tailspin, the pair find themselves in Macao, China as Shang-Chi must face his past, his ruthless father, Mandarin.
Encapsulating this movie, running time of two hours and twelve minutes of eye-popping martial arts, special effects, presents obstacles. In part, that becomes one of the few downsides to Shang-Chi. Some audiences may become overwhelmed by the numerous flashbacks to our hero's childhood, necessary exposition concerning his father's legacy/mother's backstory, the young man's fractured relationship with his sister. All of which competes with CGI as well as inside references to the Marvel multi-universe theme (The character Wong from Dr. Strange and the Avengers series makes a hilarious appearance). This complexity invites another viewing to process all the details.
Once again, the producers have assembled a stand-out cast. Led by Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, he has a Bao-like face (a nod to the short, Bao, 2018), pinchable and soft. However, when pushed to demonstrate his skills, he's indeed a master of martial arts. The perfect foil to Simu, Awkwafina astounds as Katy (if Awkwafina doesn't receive at least a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal, social media may crash with dissatisfied viewers). During the preview, audiences--young and old--laughed all the time, much of it due to the actress's hilarious delivery.
Yes, considering the serious underlying story, Shang-Chi entertains. Even in their solemnity, Michelle Yeoh (a relative of Shang-Chi's), Tony Chiu-Wai Leong (his father), Meng'er Zhang his sister) and Fala Chen (his mother) cast a spell with their dynamic performances. A surprise appearance by a revered actor has particular meaning to MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fans.
The interpreters, adapters of the MCU have a habit of overextending the plot line (two hours would've sufficed) along with overblowing--thankfully only one scene--combat sequences. Restless snack-retrievers support restraint.
If you're a Marvel fan, enjoy action adventure/martial arts, appreciate production design (Sue Chan) and costumes (Kym Barrett) that more than please the eye, or want to be entertained, this marvelous spectacle, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will enthrall.
Rated PG-13 for a smattering of expletives, frightening imagery and violence.
Now playing (opens today) at a theater near you.
Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies or my previous blog site, featuringfilm.com
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