Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – A Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of my favorite Marvel productions to date. It has excellent characters, story, action, and comedy. I absolutely recommend taking the time to watch this movie, especially now that it’s free on Disney+.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a film produced by Marvel Studios and was released in theatres Sept. 3, 2021. It’s rated PG-13 and is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The film is categorized as action/adventure, and has been well received by audiences and critics alike, with a 7.9 on IMDb, 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and 71 percent on Metacritic. It has earned over $224 million domestically and a current global total of $431 million.           

The plot of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows martial arts master Shang as he confronts his past, and family he left behind in order to stop his father and his mysterious organization, The Ten Rings.

The Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand, delving into ancient Chinese culture. I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, since I didn’t care much for any of the Disney+ shows, and the sheer frequency of Marvel output just took away from what made a Marvel production special to me. Shang-chi delivers. It’s one of my favorite Marvel movies so far. I love the cultural direction they took with all the ties to ancient Chinese folklore. A large portion of dialogue is even spoken in Chinese. The movie definitely has the classic Marvel charm, but that doesn’t take away from the emotional beats of the film. The characters were excellent, my favorite characters were Shang and his father. Their dynamic is similar to Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. A father who wants his child to follow his cause, and, when his child resists, he ends up in conflict with him. Towards the end, you can even see the differences of personality in their fighting styles: Shang’s is more graceful, while his father’s is more aggressive. I especially like the father’s character. In a tragic incident, he lost the one thing he cared about in life and returned to being a bitter, cold person who just wants to return to the time when he was happy. I started to feel some sympathy for him once I realized that he was just a desperate man being manipulated. I thought Katie was a fun character. Despite the development the movie tries to put her through, she doesn’t change at all, and by the end of the movie, she’s still the same wisecrack. Her friendship with Shang led to some really charming interactions, since they both have the same carefree attitude. The film does suffer from weak stakes at some points, but overall the character work outshines those failings. 

Across the board, the acting was exceptional. Simu Liu, who played Shang-Chi, delivered his lines excellently, whether it was witty joking, friendly banter, or emotionally charged dialogue, he killed it and really fit this role perfectly. The same goes for Tony Leung. There is something in Leung’s poise and tone that makes him compelling, and a phenomenal antagonist. Ben Kingsley and Michelle Yeoh also did excellent jobs with the limited screen time they were given. Awkwafina was a great fit for Shang’s wisecracking and loyal friend Katie, and I think the role is right up her alley. 

As a cinematic experience with lots of Chinese culture surrounding it, I expected there to be some exciting martial arts, and I was not disappointed. The fight scenes are reminiscent of old Jackie Chan action sequences, and the settings these fights take place in make for creative and entertaining interactions. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the man behind the fight scenes, Andy Cheng, was a former pupil of Jackie Chan. Every scene is brimming with creativity, action, and intensity. The first fight scene on the bus is probably my favorite, more so than the final climactic fight, because the bus allowed for more creative choreography and expanded the influence of the environment on the fight. The second fight scene on the scaffolding is also very well done, for the same reasons as the first, not to mention that both these sequences look outstanding. They are some of the best fight sequences I’ve seen in a movie, ever. I also loved the utility of the rings in combat. They’re sometimes used as physical stepping stones to help build momentum for a powerful kick, a whip-like weapon, or a powerup for an explosive punch.   

This movie made me laugh quite a bit. By far my character who’s antics had me laughing the most was the return of the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley. There’s an aura of kookiness in the way he delivers his lines that makes the character a riot. A lot of the character interactions are amusing, especially Shang and Katie’s. I loved the comedic cut-ins from random people. During a tense fight scene, there’s a man there who’s just vlogging the whole thing. These little things, tied in with the character relationships, make the whole movie a delightful experience.   

The astronomical amount of money that was thrown into the VFX paid off spectacularly. This movie’s visual effects are absolutely breathtaking. The way the magic rings flow is incredibly well done, and Shang’s father’s blue rings clashing with Shang’s orange was an excellent visual choice, and it helped to further showcase the contrast between the two characters. The fey creatures look phenomenal, really bringing these beasts of ancient Chinese myth and folklore to life. The entire fantasy world in general is abundant with vibrance. I would also like to give kudos to Joel P. West for his sensational work on the outstanding score.

I thought this movie was great! This is the first Marvel project I’ve been interested in since the release of Spiderman: Far From Home, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. The roaring action sequences were akin to those of classic martial arts thrillers, with a twinge of modernity in the dazzling special effects. Even if you aren’t a fan of Marvel, I would recommend giving it a watch. I’m seriously looking forward to the coming sequel. 9/10!