I enjoyed this a little more than I thought, but that’s not saying a whole lot. If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’d know I’m not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From an artistic perspective, these films are simply insulting with their shamelessly lazy plots and almost intentional absence of logic, not to mention the consistently terrible editing and cinematography that is made even worse by the hideous CGI. I’ve almost always seen these as the worst thing to ever happen to cinema. While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a bit of a step in the right direction for Marvel, it’s still awfully underwhelming in its absent originality.
First off, there are way too many lines of dialogue that have been used over and over again in similar movies. For instance, someone says, “we’re not gonna make it” in a moment where the common viewer would naturally think, “of course they’re gonna make it.” Whereas, it frequently goes for laughs designed to immediately interrupt a serious moment, and it’s often between the two leads. Anytime the narrative delves into the backstory, it gets really boring with all the exposition delivered in unnatural ways nobody ever talks, particularly whenever Shang-Chi’s sister is involved. With all that it does to explain the plot, never does it give a reason to care. Heck, its only attempt at giving a reason to care about Shang-Chi is by throwing in nostalgic throwbacks such as DDR, and not with stuff that’s actually important such as making the cinematography somewhat pleasant to watch.
Although the martial arts combat is at least pretty good, the best fight choreography the MCU has ever had in fact. It even manages to take on the form of a dance with the accompanying music, which works later to the effect of generating sympathy for Shang-Chi’s mother as well as the main villain. Lead actor Simu Liu has done stunt work before, and it pays off in every scene where he has to fight others fist-to-fist. There are other delightful little additions that spark the joy of the other few components the MCU occasionally does well, such as its rather demented definition of cuteness, as conveyed through a little faceless creature with multiple sets of wings. The plot also establishes the before and after comparison of the hero well, how Shang-Chi (or Shaun) starts out as a valet driver with his best friend and ends up embracing the past he was previously trying to steer away from.
Except with the usual positive components from the cinematic universe, this film also features all the bad ones, including the awful CGI and the painfully unfunny side character who joins the hero mid-journey. Not to mention this fantastical revisionist take on Chinese history is more insulting than anything else, as it just Americanizes it with all these unhealthy doses that include making Shang-Chi as a child- who is still learning English- speak without a Chinese accent. When will Marvel ever learn how to not be the worst ever at accents?
Even if the fantasy land inspired by Chinese mythology looks awful, it still has some cool touches such as the inclusion of kitsunes and wood carvings that feel lush with history, and it manages to get a bit freaky when tentacled dragons full of personality overrun the climax. Sometimes the digital effects can look cool, such as when water droplets freeze in midair, and sometimes Chinese history is depicted in ways everyone of any age should appreciate, such as the Mandarin voiceover narration in the prologue. A few chuckles can even be managed, which is far more than what could be said of Marvel’s latest effort, Black Widow. It cleverly incorporates nods to Disney’s Aladdin as Awkwafina delivers some of the funniest one-liners, which ironically help enhance the character tension.
Too bad though that Awkwafina is playing such an awful character, one who is morally the exact opposite of her character in The Farewell, a movie that actually does honor Chinese family traditions properly. In fact, nothing about this entire movie is moral; besides just the obvious glorifying of violence, it presents battle strategies and tactics that no army in real life has ever done, and no main characters in these battles ever suffer any injuries whatsoever- no broken bones from falling fifty feet. Don’t be fooled by the mostly Asian cast—this movie isn’t about honoring a culture, it’s more concerned about lingering on a hot guy as he gets out of a cool car (one that the heroes steal, by the way).
Think about it: Marvel is at the point where it now churns out four of these movies a year. That’s right: FOUR. That’s one every two or three months. Doesn’t that feel like a bit too much for you? In a while, cinematic universes will take over all of cinema, and nobody will go to theaters anymore except for these lazy insults to high moral value. A movie theater is not a church, and superheroes are not gods. You know better than to watch something that’s just the same thing you’ve always seen before, so I highly advise you not watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings; watch something that’s more guaranteed to be something you’ve never seen before.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!