For those worried if they’re going to mispronounce SHANG-CHI, don’t. In the movie, there’s a scene where Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) hilariously explains how to say his name to his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina).
With that out of the way, holy sh*t, I was not expecting this type of fantasy action movie from the MCU. I want to sing the film’s praise karaoke-style for the late surprise hit of the summer. As we enter phase four, one thing is clear, Marvel will take chances while sticking to a superhero origin story template. And whoa, do they take chances. For a story that’s simply a brother and sister coping with daddy issues, we get some of the most spectacular action sequences ever to grace the Marvel cinematic universe. On top of that, there’s a bus scene that rivals the intensity of Jan de Bont’s classic SPEED and enough scaffolding to make John Wilson proud.
The movie opens with a beautiful ode to martial arts being a dance. The last time audiences saw this type of elegant fighting was in Ang Lee’s masterpiece, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. Those moments mixed with the fantasy elements are magical. Each time the action slowed down to artful ballet-like moments, I wanted to stand up and cheer.
Even with how fast-paced the first act of this movie is, it still has time for some quiet moments. I loved the family food scenes that reminded me of the indie hit, THE FAREWELL. Also, the bickering between the leads was like a teen-friendly version of Shane Black’s writing, which makes sense with what MCU movie he was previously involved with and how this movie is connected to it.
With all of this praise, I do have one nit. The second act comes to a standstill right as we are hitting the height of the action. Wenwu (international superstar Tony Leung) may be a sympathetic big bad, yet the creators showing his backstory with Ying Li (Fala Chen) takes away from the forward momentum. All of this exposition could’ve been more elegantly sprinkled throughout the rest of the film to make the pacing work better.
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS is “such a lovely place” that I would gladly check in and re-watch it “any time of year.”
It’s available in theatres, where if you can safely see it, it deserves to be seen.