Review: ‘Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ — Marvel at its best
After crafting a universe-spanning 24 films and multiple television series, the 25th film in the interconnected Marvel franchise attempts to go back to basics. They are introducing a new face to the ever-growing pantheon of characters, with Shang-Chi, the first-ever Asian leading a major American superhero blockbuster.
As the audience meets Shang for the first time, we enter into a world that’s become all too familiar, almost to the movie’s detriment. It’s a difficult thing to evoke surprise in a universe where the impossible has been seen time and time again. The film acknowledges this in Shang Chi’s first fight. In it, he battles a gang of experienced martial artists and a man with a glowing blade for a hand, adequately named Razor Fist, while riding a subway car full of passengers. Instead of shock and awe, the onlookers are mostly unbothered by what’s occurring. One character even seized the opportunity to live stream the event to his audience. The indifference of the citizens lets the action commence without consequence as Simu Liu tears through his opponents like a Jackie Chan tribute artist.
The film’s attitude towards its more fantastic elements reflects the journey of Shang Chi himself. He’s a young, unmotivated millennial with no concept of anything close to a five-year plan. As the movie progresses, Shang is revealed as less of a hero in the making, but more of a reluctant one. As he moves closer to accepting the responsibility of a saviour and a defender, the film becomes less apathetic. One scene, in particular, shows the fallen soldiers of a standard Marvel battleground receiving a ceremony of remembrance.
For a film that exists in the same universe as Iron Men and Green Goliaths, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings its own share of amazing fantasy to the table. There are magical beasts, colourful masked assassins, and a super-powered underground fighting ring. It has all the makings of an epic and succeeds in the execution. Yet, the film repeatedly brings the focus back to its characters.
The story is engaging with the stakes clearly established, and the film sets up its biggest plot points to coincide with its strongest character moments. It’s a successful introduction to an endearing and exhilarating portrayal by Simu Liu and a strong supporting cast. It’s one of the best blockbusters I’ve seen in a long while, and is playing now at the New Kingston Drive In, as well as Carib 5, Sunshine Palace, and Palace Multiplex.
• Rating: Big Screen Watch
Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.