“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
– Rick Warren
I walked into this one completely trusting the history of MARVEL’s previous movies having liked most if not all of them. While I think some definitely fall short of the rest, they still managed to be entertaining, if only lacking a bit in certain areas. While everyone is currently boasting about how amazing MARVEL’s most recent effort is, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, I have to place it in that second category of not as good but still entertaining. I had a very similar reaction to the trailer of this movie as I did Snake Eyes, released earlier this year. And by that I mean they created a feeling of a generic kind, a boring action flick to make a quick buck. But I had to believe MARVEL was better than that. I’m not saying they aren’t better than rushing a project but ultimately I was never wowed by this most recent addition to the MARVELverse.
For myself, one of the most consistent reactions I’ve had with each new MARVEL film that I loved is a feeling of something big being added to something even greater. Over the first decade I fell in love with their ability to connect stories. While creating movies that stood well on their own, their connection to the larger world of superheroes was always an exciting prospect. Each new movie created a source of anticipation for what was to come. And by the time the next thing arrived the anticipation had once again risen to a fever pitch. Rinse and repeat. And I mean that as a good thing. Let me put it this way, the recent release of the trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home has me more excited for what’s to come than the entirety of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. By the end credits I was left with a lukewarm feeling of good enough in a pool of superhero stories I’ve found to be great, some even exceptional. Shang-Chi is a letdown for me, but it’s a MARVEL letdown, which I explained earlier isn’t necessarily awful, just not as good as the rest.
When it was all said and done I tried to think about it simply as a flashy martial arts action flick and in that regard I find this to be the film’s greatest strength. From the fight choreography to the brazen cinematography, Shang-Chi is full of excellent sequences replete with ingenious setting usage and creative transitions.
It was in the moments between that left me with a recall of what I believe to be MARVEL’s biggest, most consistent weakness and that is the villains of its individual movies. The character of Shang-Chi is set against a power hungry megalomaniac and the big twist is it’s his father. We’ve seen this before. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 it was Peter Quill’s father that betrayed him and then became the villain. Loki betrayed Thor, Hela betrayed both Thor and Loki. Alexander Pierce betrayed Nick Fury, Obidiah Stone betrayed Tony Stark. We’ve seen the betrayal of friends and family so that aspect is nothing new.
Shang-Chi’s father is power hungry and uses the ten rings to gain more power as time carries on. He isn’t interesting at all. I still maintain that when it comes to the non-Avenger films, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is the most dynamic, complex and overall interesting villain in all of the first three phases. His quest made sense and I think that is the single greatest trait of a truly memorable villain, one that is relatable to the audience. I couldn’t care less about Shang-Chi’s father. As far as I’m concerned he’s another faceless henchmen for the hero to triumph over. Nothing more. I’ll be honest, I had to look up the character’s name because I forgot almost everything about him. Take away the rings and who/what is he? Forgettable.
The wonderful visuals and mixed martial arts aside, the list of reasons to see this movie continue with the relationship between Shang-Chi actor Simu Liu and Awkwafina who create moments both tender and hilarious and do so repeatedly. They are truly a dynamic duo.
I wanted to love this movie and ultimately I liked it, mostly. Somewhat…
It ended and I was sitting there recalling the same feeling I had when Iron Man 3 ended or Thor: The Dark World finished. It happened, I saw it and that’s fine. I immediately only cared to know what was coming next rather than relishing in what I just saw. I enjoyed Black Widow far more just as I did the Loki series, The Falcon and Winter Soldier and WandaVision. I wish I could shout from the rooftops just how amazing Shang-Chi is like so many other critics seem to be but I feel that would be disingenuous to myself and the very few who give a damn about what I think, if anyone actually does. Shang-Chi is a fun but lacking addition to a plethora of films and stories far better than it tries to be but overall falls short of reaching. Remember, I’m just some random dummy on the internet, my opinion is as important as you let it be.
PG-13 For: sequences of violence, action and language
Runtime: 132 minutes
After Credits Scene: Yes. Two.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Michelle Yeoh
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 6/ Acting: 8/ Directing: 7.5/ Visuals: 9
OVERALL: 7 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. I could take it or leave it.
Check out the trailer below:
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