Review: ‘Shang-Chi’ a bland start to the new Marvel phase

Shang-Chi+introduces+the+first+Asian+American+lead+in+a+Marvel+movie.+The+film+arrived+in+theaters+on+Sept.+3%2C+2021.+

Photo Source: Marvel Studios

‘Shang-Chi’ introduces the first Asian American lead in a Marvel movie. The film arrived in theaters on Sept. 3, 2021.

Kyle Sheaffer, Podcaster & Staff Writer

With the new phase of Marvel Movies kicking off, many are excited to see what Marvel has up its sleeve after the decade-defining films “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” One of the first movies in this new phase is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” 

Shang-Chi is just not my cup of tea. I had a fun time with the movie, and am excited to see how he will fit in the Marvel Universe as he seems to be a big player moving forward with the overall storyline, but I feel that the movie by itself was forgettable.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is about a young man trained to kill at the age of seven by his 1000 year old father. The Father is a leader of an organization called the Ten Rings, named after an artifact that has kept the Father alive and gives him superpowers. 

For me, the premise is where I start to lose interest, as I feel this is a story I have seen over a hundred times. I could tell what was going to happen right from the beginning, and the movie followed my prediction all the way to the end credits. This is not to say that the movie was all bad. The actors, particularly Simu Liu who plays the titular character, did an excellent job, and I hope I can see him in a movie with better material as he did his best to portray a man who is scared of moving forward. Another positive was the designs for the sets, costumes and even the creatures the heroes meet. I’m not super knowledgeable about Asian culture or mythology, but many of the designs for the creatures shown in the movie were very creative and the CGI used to bring them to life was spectacular.

Both of these factors, as well as the infusion of Asian culture and mysticism, help make Shang-Chi into a Marvel movie that doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie. This isn’t a bad thing, as there have been other movies that change the formula enough to make something different, such as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Thor: Ragnarok.” 

Shang-Chi didn’t change the formula enough, however, which is where I think the movie fell flat. The prime example of this is the patented Marvel movie humor, where they inject humor in places so as to stop the movie from taking itself too seriously. In other Marvel movies, I usually laugh at the jokes, but I found myself laughing at only one part of the movie (the end credits scene in the karaoke bar) and felt that the other attempts at humor were just slowing down the story. It made me want to yell “hurry up.” These slowdowns appear all throughout the movie, not only with the humor, but with the dialogue and general plot points. However, when the characters began fighting, the action never slowed down. 

The fight scenes were some of the best I’ve seen in a Marvel movie. They were fast paced, well choreographed and the camera stayed still long enough for me to see what was going on. A great example is the fight scene on the bus early on in the movie where the fighters take full advantage of the surroundings. They move around inside and outside the bus, cut the rubber connector in the middle and use the environment to its full advantage.  While I think this fight was my favorite, it does not overshadow any of the later fights in the movie. The action was one of the best changes to the formula in the movie, and I’m excited to see how Shang-Chi’s martial arts skills will impact  Marvel films going forward.

If I were to describe Shang-Chi in a few words, it would be “competent, but forgettable.” Even cool fight scenes cannot save the movie from being just above average, as the context is what makes fights truly special. Marvel fans will probably be very satisfied with this film, and so will people who connect with the film’s central message of family. As someone who checks neither of these boxes, I would still recommend the movie because at the very least, you will leave the theater feeling entertained by this movie.