Marvel’s Shang-Chi: A Busy Spectacular Film

Shang-Chi is Marvel's first film featuring an Asian-led superhero. // Illustration: Mazie Neill

Colorful, But Cliched

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the newest film from Marvel Studios and features an almost entirely Asian cast. It’s an exciting, funny, and colorful spectacle that’s quite entertaining, though it is a little confusing and predictable at times. Be warned, this review will contain some spoilers.

The beginning of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is spectacular, containing some of the best action scenes in any Marvel movie from recent films. In particular, one scene on a bus is shot and choreographed brilliantly, visually pleasing, and exhilaratingly paced so well that it captures the audience’s attention just after the beginning of the film. The latter half of the film is rather busy, with so many elements being added at once both visually and in the story. This makes it a little difficult to keep up, though for the most part all that happens is just a visual, CGI-riddled spectacle that is entertaining though not particularly interesting.

There are a couple of things that stood out as signs that Marvel is working off of some sort of formula. Both this movie and Black Widow involve the main character having to go find their long-lost sister who they were separated from. This is due to their father having them trained to become an assassin, only for them to fight for some contrived reason the moment they reunite. There were also a couple of scenes with dialogue that played out as word-for-word cliches, such as when Katie is trying to get Shang to tell her why he knows how to fight so well. She then convinces him to let her accompany him on his journey, in the scene where they were first greeted at Ta Lo. 

Katie’s character was somewhat lacking in purpose aside from serving as both the comic relief and as an anchor for the audience to feel grounded, but later into the movie, a second, even less necessary comic relief character is introduced in Trevor, whose sole purpose seemed to be to distract from the actual plot of the film (though he was actually funny on a couple of occasions).

This film introduces many fantasy elements to the MCU, which is a little overwhelming in the way that it is done. The MCU normally swayed towards more sci-fi elements, but this film has bridged the gap into a fully high-fantasy setting. It will be interesting to see how this will be expanded upon, though it is concerning that this is being introduced simultaneously with the multiverse in other MCU films. Depending on the execution, there could be a risk of the MCU spreading itself too thin to elaborate sufficiently on every interesting concept they explore.

Overall, this newest Marvel movie is a lot of fun, though it isn’t a film that should be thought too hard about. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is worth the watch for most Marvel fans, and is sure to make plenty of money at the box office.

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