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December 06th, 2021

shang chi spotlight pageSimu Liu in a scene from Marvel’s newest “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four projects have started off quite successfully, and this past weekend, I was lucky enough to hit the movie theater for the phase’s latest installment, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” The movie follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) as he is forced to confront part of his past after he is drawn back into his father's Ten Rings organization after several years.

One of the first things about this movie that deserves praise is the visuals, because they are absolutely stunning in every scene. There’s so much great use of color and lighting throughout the movie, and it’s all extremely effective, particularly in the scenes set in the village where Shang-Chi’s mother grew up. The lighting helps set each scene pretty perfectly, and the use of the bright colors is also pure eye candy. Other movies I’ve watched that are set in Asia have used similar effects, and I was happy to see it here. 

Another part of the visuals that was also rather stunning were the fight scenes throughout. Each move is very precisely choreographed and executed, and each of the fight scenes were extremely fun to watch and stunning at the same time. My overall favorite fight scene in the movie is the fight on the bus that happens a short time into the movie, and the climactic fight between Shang-Chi and his father near the end was also very well done. I also liked how there was a bit of mixture with the fighting styles – some of them were more graceful and fantastic (think along the lines of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and there were some that were more quick and forceful, like what has already been seen in past MCU films with Captain America and Black Widow. Overall, the fight scenes and other stunt work were done really well, and it made the movie extra fun to watch. 

The performances in the movie were also well done, and I thought everyone was very well cast. Simu Liu did a great job in the lead role and was able to inject some warmth and heart into the character in spite of his beginnings, and Liu also did a great job in giving Shang-Chi a sense of humor, making for a very well-rounded performance. I also really liked Awkwafina’s performance as Shang-Chi’s best friend, Katy – she’s funny and quirky without being obnoxious, and she also does great during the handful of more dramatic scenes she is in. Katy’s character is also a little lost throughout the movie and not entirely sure what she’s supposed to be in life (like many other young people at that point in life), and she also does a great job portraying that sense of uncertainty. I also enjoyed Tony Leung as Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father (and the movie’s villain) – his character is so complex and multifaceted and while his actions are not recommended, the motives are actually spelled out pretty clearly, and he’s able to portray all of that really well. 

Something else I appreciated about the movie is the use of the female characters throughout. They’re clearly supporting characters, but they also each get their own narrative arcs and you get to see a little bit into their thought processes and understand what they’re feeling. I also liked how they were all portrayed as strong without being reduced to caricature status, kind of like the Dora Milaje army in “Black Panther.” That balance is reached very well, and I appreciated seeing that onscreen. 

Also with the characterization, I liked how the relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy is kept pretty platonic – you can tell they like each other, but I’m glad the movie ended with them being good friends instead of the required love story. My favorite scenes with them are the karaoke bar scenes, they made me nearly double over with laughter.

While I did overall enjoy the movie, I did have some slight issues with the movie’s pacing throughout. There were some points where the action would be going really fast, and then it would all of a sudden slow to almost a crawl, and it was almost jarring. I think the editing with those particular scenes could have been evened out slightly, and then the pacing would have been perfect. 

Overall, I very much enjoyed “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and I would give it a B-plus grade. I really enjoyed the visuals and cinematography throughout the movie with the use of lighting and color, and each scene was set perfectly with all of that in place. I also really enjoyed the performances throughout the movie, particularly with Simu Liu and Awkwafina as the leads, and I really liked the use of the female characters throughout. If you’re a fan of any of the other MCU movies, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a good addition to the MCU. 

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