Shang Chi Review: Marvel’s Best Action Movie Hits More Than It Misses

Marvel Studios’ “ShangChi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” stars Simu Liu as ShangChi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The film also stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as ShangChi’s friend Katy and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan, as well as Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng. “ShangChi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, and opens in theaters on September 3, 2021.                   

Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings Trailer:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Video review:

https://youtu.be/ccaVIBkqR7Q

The Good:

Without question, the biggest task for Shang Chi was to deliver some solid action and it did. The fight choreography was intense and the stunts that went along with them were even better. Director Destin Daniel Cretton brought on Jackie Chan’s stunt coordinators, and you’ll immediately notice the similar physical stunts from the bus scene and the fight club. Along with that, there was an additional blend of the  wuxia-style fighting style which many will remember from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The coolest thing about the fighting is that not only does it look really cool, but it also tells a story. There’s a fight scene that is simply beautiful to watch, and it’s even more impressive that no words were needed to understand the story.

(L-R): Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

While the fights were entertaining to watch, none of them would’ve have been successful without the amazing performances from the cast. Simu Liu is a star in the making, and is a promising action star as the character Shang Chi. He was exceptional in his fight scenes and it was an added bonus that he was able to do many of his own stunts as well. Not only that, but his comedic timing and delivery of witty humor was pretty funny.

Wenwu (Tony Leung) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Alongside Simu Liu, Tony  Leung (who plays Wenwu or the real Mandarin) probably stole the show thanks to his performance. As the main villain, he was probably one of the more intriguing characters in Shang Chi. I loved how complex his character was in the film. Despite doing some pretty shady things, he had a code and understandable motivations. What I think I appreciate the most is how he’s able to switch into different modes. His attitude and behavior can shift depending on the situation, and Leung executes those transitions with ease. He hit all the right points to be both a terrifying villain and father.

(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

I found it refreshing when the film would highlight some of the cultural aspects of various Asian cultures. Whether it be the food, the mythical Asian lore,  or even the unique family dynamics, Shang-Chi taps into all of that respectfully. I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a family drama this movie showcased. I certainly appreciated how the ideas of tradition and legacy all fed into those family themes to really help Shang Chi feel more relatable.

(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Lastly, the visuals in Shang Chi were stunning. The fight choreography wasn’t just fancy stunts, but it also incorporated the surrounding environment to make the scenes more vivid. I liked the CGI special effects that were used to make the grade finale of the film. Although I would say that is very subjective because my expectations for CGI may vary compared to others. As long as you don’t give me The Scorpion King level of CGI, I’m pretty forgiving in that department. I believe Shang Chi‘s special effects were good enough to keep me engaged.

The Bad:

One issue I had with Shang Chi is that despite so many cool action scenes, and intriguing characters, this movie fell short in some of the story telling. There were several moments where an additional flashback would’ve been really good to see. For example, we only hear about Shang Chi’s past when he comes to America, but we don’t really get to see any of those moments. The reason why this is an issue is because it’s a missed opportunity to help audiences understand the impact of his transition in moving to the West. It’s one thing to hear about the toll an action takes on a character, but it’s another to have us actually see even just a quick flashback or two.

(L-R): Actress Fala Chen and Shang-Chi (Jayden Tianyi Zhang) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021.

Shang Chi has a great cast of female characters, but I felt they weren’t handled very well. Shang Chi’s mother is wrapped with all this mystery around her, and during a major conflict, we don’t even get to see what happens. Then you have Shang Chi’s sister who has a great introduction but her conflict with Shang Chi felt rushed and under developed. What we lose here is a chance to learn more about their relationship and how it later could inform their individual characters. Then finally you have a certain female character get the “Mary Sue” treatment. The problem isn’t the fact that she gains a new ability, it’s that there’s no good explanation given for it. I’ll just say that a certain Avenger may get jealous.

(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The female characters weren’t the only ones squandered in Shang Chi. You also have the Death Dealer being pretty anticlimactic as well. The character is poised in the film to be a potential nemesis for Shang Chi, but the Death Dealer eventually becomes an afterthought. This Asian Taskmaster, could’ve been a pivotal moment for Shang Chi’s character development, but for whatever reason more attention was given to the far less interesting Razor Fist instead. Yet another missed opportunity for an epic showdown.

A minor letdown with Shang Chi is how the final battle looks like it copied directly from Black Panther. There were just way too many similarities such as the family feud or even how the final battle ensued. To keep things spoiler-free I won’t continue on, but the comparisons were making the ending a little too predictable.

(Center): Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Finally, there’s a character fans will be familiar with that Shang Chi spent way too much time with. So many of this character’s scenes felt unnecessary and forced just for the sake of comic relief.  Some of that screen time could’ve gone towards more fight scenes, or flashbacks to actually give Shang Chi himself a bit more depth to his character. A quick cameo would’ve been great for this character, but many of these scenes felt like they would’ve been better suited for the deleted scenes section on Disney+.

The Verdict:

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is superb blend of action, drama and comedy that’s packed with tantalizing visuals. It’s easily Marvel Studios’ best action movie to date. When I say action, I’m specifically talking about the hand to hand fighting and martial arts. In case you’re wondering, Shang Chi is not comparable to other great action movies like The Raid films. This is still a Marvel Studios product (owned by Disney). Until they are ready to cross that PG-13 threshold, the fighting won’t get to The Raid level at all. As I brought up earlier, thanks to the stunt teams, Shang Chi is a combination of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and almost any Jackie Chan movie.

(L-R): Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Try to avoid any trailers for Shang Chi if you can, because I believe they reveal a bit too much. The trailers show certain scenes to the point where the moment you get into that environment, you already know what’s going to happen. It’s just disappointing because the movie treats it like it’s supposed to be a surprise.

(L-R): Katy (Awkwafina), Jon Jon (Ronny Chieng) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

There are two post credit scenes to keep an eye out for. The first one is definitely the most interesting one as it does tease some things for the future of the MCU. The second one is a little less enticing but something that may factor in on a lesser scale. Shang Chi was fun to watch, and if possible, worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. That way you can fully experience the visuals and make up your own mind if they work for you or not.

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writers: David Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
Stars: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict
Wong, Yuen Wah, Ronny Chieng, Zach Cherry, Dallas Liu, with Michelle Yeoh,
and Tony Leung
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be in theaters September 3, 2021. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more movie news and reviews!

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Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10
  • Acting - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8/10
    8/10
  • Watchability - 9/10
    9/10
  • Rewatchability - 7/10
    7/10
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About Emmanuel "E-Man" Noisette

Emmanuel is a Chicago film critic who founded Eman's Movie Reviews. He freelances as a writer and video content creator for sites such as MovieTickets.com. Be sure to join the other 33K+ fans on his Facebook Fan Page for even more movie opinions and fun. Feel free to contact him with any professional inquiries: [email protected]