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SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Review- Vibrant, Epic, one of Marvel’s best

James reviews Marvel’s upcoming epic adventure- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings!

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Marvel Studios)

I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a Marvel movie. I won’t lie. I’ve had a bit of fatigue lately. Marvel’s most recent projects following Avengers: Endgame just haven’t been hitting those beats for me and I think it’s because they’re really shifting things around. Which is actually a good thing. Regardless, I was worried that I would never enjoy a Marvel movie like I used to… And then the lights went down and Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings started.

Outside of the epic cinema, electric crowd, and booming DJ that made this special screening an insanely memorable one, Shang-Chi, very quickly, climbed the ladder in regards to my top MCU movies. There is so much to love in the lastest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the things that seperate it from all the rest make it so much stronger and prominent. Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings stands out amongst the rest because, very much like Doctor Strange, it dared to be bold. A lot of people may walk into Shang-Chi with very little knowledge, like I did. But they’ll walk out with a hunger for more. Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings is a marvel in every right. From its narrative straight through to the visuals . But where do I start?

Before I fully understood who Shang-Chi was and what his world actually involved, the fighting choreography was the major selling point for me. It’s a very limited way of looking at a film and I think it shows how simple I can be but I was incredibly excited to see how Shang-Chi approached it. To put it simply, the fighting is spectacular. There’s a really nice mixture of fighting styles that bring Shang-Chi to life. You have that heavy-hitting and fast paced choreography that is implemented beautifully. Not only is it executed perfectly by the cast and performers, it’s also integrated into the story, The various locations play a big part in how these fights go down and they make each fight unique. Whether it’s fighting in a bus or down the side of a building, the environment is used to enhance each sequence allowing the film to truly show off each characters set of skills.

On top of that, you also have the more traditional style of fighting which is seen in many Chinese movies. This style is more graceful and appears more like a dance. Rather than trying to damage, this style focuses on defence and deflection. The two styles offer a perfect juxtaposition that really helps to define Shang-Chi as a character. He is the perfect combination of both power and grace. Strength and control. The choreophraphy is unlike anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that refers to all combat…

Yes, the hand-to-hand combat is outstanding, but the Ten Rings themselves are on an entirely new level. The way in which they are used to traverse and fight is utter genius. They are absolutely wonderful to look at and they helped shape some of the best fights I’ve ever witnessed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s an art to all of the sequences in Shang-Chi and despite its focus on intense choreography, the story is never sacrificed. The stakes are still very much in the foreground, and without saying a word the martial art-based characters are able to reveal more about themselves through simple gestures and stances. The fighting is of course there to look cool, which it nails, but it also guides us through Shang-Chi’s story.

Tying in nicely with the various fights and set pieces are the visual effects. Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings is an incredibly visual film, especially as you enter the second half. From that point, the entire film transforms. Now, there are a few moments where the effects wavered slightly but overall Shang-Chi does an excellent job at giving us something fresh. By tapping into the wonderful mythology that surrounds Shang-Chi, we’re presented with an entirely new world that is full of danger and beauty. Oddly, it took me back to my first viewing of Thor back in 2011. I felt as though I had truly escaped.

Not only is Shang-Chi visually impressive, but you can tell they definitely had a lot of fun with it especially in terms of the gorgeous ecosystem. The wildlife is unique and nature itself thrives almost like a sentient being. In comparison to the busy city life that Shang-Chi escapes to, the mythological side enriches Shang-Chi with vibrant colours, a playful environment and a rich history. If I had to critique any of it, all I can say is that I simply wish to explore it more. What we get, especially for an establishing movie, is fantastic. But once you show me a fantasy world that has a lot to offer, I immediately want to know more. It’s greedy of me, but I can’t help it. Shang-Chi took me to somewhere new and it felt good to feel that escapism and wonder once again. It had been a while and I definitely needed it.

I think what helps Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings is that it is incredibly easy to follow. The story itself is very simple and that isn’t an issue. It actually lets us focus on the characters who really do carry the narrative. Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi is charasmatic, charming and determined. Awkwafina’s Katy is fun, strong and acts as Shang-Chi’s strength. The two combined make for an epic duo. Their chemistry is fantastic and their friendship is unbreakable. They share some incredibly funny moments together and I remember feeling quite worried about Katy. I was worried that Awkwafina’s role would be very limited but she really shines. Sure, she may not have Shang-Chi’s skill but she serves a very endearing purpose that holds the film together. It’s almost as though she’s Shang-Chi’s moral compass. A reminder of what he has and who he is now.

However, the biggest surprise for me was Tony Leung Chiu-wai’s Wenwu. I wasn’t expecting a particularly memorable villain but Tony’s performance really stood out. There’s a harsh toughness to Wenwu that makes him appear like a typical villain. But then his parental side seeps through that mask and you quickly realise that the Mandarin isn’t what we thought. He’s angry, vulnerable and conflicted. There was also a sadness to him. It adds a really nice dynamic that acts as a well-needed weight. It forms the heart of the story and the Mandarin becomes integral, not just as a villain but as someone who is lost.

The film is full of huge stakes, like in any superhero blockbuster, but the conflict that really stood out felt incredibly personal and close to home. Shang-Chi checked every box to make it a phenomenal superhero flick but it went above and beyond by gifting us with a very touching family arc that plagues the story from the very beginning. Tony Leung Chiu-wai was a definite highlight and while he may not be the next Thanos or Loki, this version of the Mandarin stands out for reasons I really didn’t see coming.

Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings is just fantastic. It has everything you could ever want and more. It’s fun, sweet, action-packed and thrilling. It’s a visual triumph that will have crowds all over the world giddy with excitement. I am a firm believer that this is one of Marvel’s best solo movies to date. Similar to what Guardians of the Galaxy did for me, Shang-Chi has given me a new hero to look up to and a new world to explore. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Shang-Chi, you certainly know how to make an enterance.

Don’t forget to check out the action-packed trailer:

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a script by by Daniel Callaham, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stars Simu Liu, Tony Leung and Awkwafina. The film is set to storm into cinemas for on September 3, 2021. You won’t want to miss this one.


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