Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
THE MOVIES — With the release of Marvel's "Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings" so closely on the heels of "Black Widow," it's nice to see order finally being restored in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With a steady stream of superhero movies, Hollywood is once again doing its part to help keep us distracted from everything else.
I did not know a thing about the character Shang-Chi before the movie "Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings," which is surprising because he was introduced to the Marvel universe in 1973. Coincidentally, that's about the same time my character was introduced into my parents' universe.
Unlike me, however, Shang-Chi has gone on to do some amazing things with his life, like save the world and star in his very own superhero movie. I, on the other hand, became just a regular guy who occasionally writes about superhero movies for the local news outlet. It's fine; we all have a job to do and mine is to tell you how well "Shag-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings" does at entertaining us.
It outlasts its bad first impression
After a pretty cliche start to "Shang-Chi," I was a little concerned that the rest of the film would follow suit. Since I didn't know what to expect as far as the character Shang-Chi was concerned I was losing hope that I would care much about him.
I was wrong. The writers did a great job making the main character Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) relatable and cool in a self-deprecating way. I won't ruin the fun of how this plays out, but after a big scene with co-star Awkwafina, the stage is set for the rest of the film.
Of course, we are going to get Hollywood's best when it comes to making a visually over-the-top spectacle with any Marvel action movie.
"Shang-Chi" is no exception. From the beginning there is no shortage of exploding eye candy to keep your attention glued to the screen.
With most of the film taking place in both real and imaginary Asian locations, the feel of the film was important. The filmmakers paid a lot of attention to detail with the Asian culture and symbols in the film, which led to some beautiful imagery.
There was even a sequence in "Shang-Chi" that paid homage to the 2000 wuxia film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Michelle Yeoh, who stars in "Crouching Tiger," plays an important supporting role in "Shang-Chi."
The action sequences felt fresh
I don't know what it is about a good martial arts movie that makes you want to throw punches and sweep legs, but "Shang-Chi" had me and my best friend showing off our best moves in the parking lot after the movie.
These days, I am sure it is hard to choreograph anything new in the world of martial arts action sequences, but somehow the "Shang-Chi" team was able to put together some pretty impressive fight scenes. There was so much action it was easy to miss some of the finer points of choreography but it all added up to make the fight scenes engaging and fresh.
It's too 'Marvel'
As I mentioned before the opening setup felt very familiar and unoriginal. Unfortunately, Marvel has created some of its own film cliches which it can't get away from, such as relying too heavily on its brand of visuals rather than using restraint to tell a film's story.
I know I cited the cinematic moments as a strength of this film, but there are opportunities even in a big movie where less can be more. At times "Shang-Chi" feels like a bit too much and ultimately doesn't feel very special.
The acting isn't great
The acting in "Shang-Chi" wasn't bad, it just wasn't anything extraordinary.
But let's be honest — I don't think we were expecting extraordinary acting in this film. Everyone in the cast does well enough to make the movie fun, but that's about it.
It's nice to be surprised once in a while by a little extra effort in the acting department. For once, I would like to see Marvel put up an acting performance as good as Joaquin Phoenix's "Joker" from the DC Comics movie universe.
What parents need to know
"Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings" is rated PG-13, so there are all the expected swear words and scenes of violence we have come to expect from similar movies with that rating.
One thing that stood out to me was the amount and uses of the swear words I was hearing. I'm not sure if something was different or if I was just more aware of them this time around. Regardless, nothing was overtly offensive or demeaning in any way, and all the language stays well within the PG-13 rating.
Is it worth watching?
"Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings" is a fun movie with all the Marvel bells and whistles we have come to expect.
Shang-Chi as a character will be a great addition to the bigger Marvel story down the line.
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language. The film opens on September 3.