Martial arts movies are a dime a dozen. In 2021 alone, we’ve had Mortal Kombat, Snake Eyes and Notorious Nick. While all three were good in their own right, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings took the cake in 2021’s race for best martial arts movie. In all fairness, I am a big MCU fan and have been following the Marvel movies since Iron Man 3. My whole family is hooked as well. So, in the middle of the pandemic, me and the wife packed up our nine year old and our three month old and went to our local cinema and watched the latest Marvel movie. Here’s our review of the latest martial arts experience!
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Bruce Lee Throwback
The first thing that I noticed about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was it’s homage to classic martial arts movies, notably Bruce Lee. This makes sense because Shang-Chi was originally created as essentially a ripoff of Bruce Lee in the 70’s. Being on a big Bruce Lee kick lately, this was right up my alley. Ever since the movie was announced, Shang-Chi piqued my interest as a sleeper in the MCU’s upcoming Phase 4 slate.
Right off the bat, Shang-Chi delivered on the action. The movie started off with the bus scene and immediately the choreography was Bruce Lee-esque. It brings in Razor Fist, a James Bond like villain with a sword for an arm.
Simu Liu expressed a great rendition of a martial artist on the run with his Shang-Chi. He was confident when he needed to be, shy when called for, and did the overall role perfectly on the night. He and Awkwafina had a fantastic chemistry on the screen as two great, long long time friendship. It was absolutely believable.
The movie not only dabbled in the traditional Bruce Lee, villain in a private location with a huge ninja army, trope of martial arts either. As accustomed to the comics, there was a major mystical element to the movie as well. From the soul suckers and the dragon, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings left little to be imagined. The fantasy element fits in perfectly with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as well. Shang-Chi wasn’t over powered at all. He fit in as a guy who was good but not all-powerful, which, unlike Captain Marvel, gave the film a sense of urgency. We didn’t see Shang-Chi overcome all odds. He was defeated a bit and it was displayed well in both the present and flashbacks of the move.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The Bad (Not Much)
There really isn’t much of anything bad about Shang-Chi in Marvel’s latest flick. If you’re not a fan of the Marvel or superhero movies, you might be against the latest movie. But, while it is in the MCU and you have several references (The Blip, Wong, Abomination), you don’t have to have seen all 20+ movies and the new shows to understand what’s going on.
While the movie is near perfect as a martial arts film, if you’re going in looking for nonstop action, you’ll be let down. The movie has a good bit of exposition, especially in the middle, causing an action lull at times. You can get a bit bored waiting for the next perfectly choreographed fight scene, but the story and wait makes the fight scenes that much more precious.
That’s really it, and and these critiques are not major problems with the film. In fact, they’re really just an opinion and preference for your own personal movie taste. Being the Marvel acolyte I am, I loved the film. But I also understand that the superhero genre is played out to some, and that’s okay.
Final Rating: 9/10
I give Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings a whopping 9/10 on our even ten point scale. It is a perfect homage to Bruce Lee films that inspired the original comic books. The action is top notch. The acting is top notch. The special effects, you guessed it, top notch as well. The only reason the movie wasn’t perfect is because the story didn’t do anything revolutionary. While it’s a good story in it’s own right, the story telling is still a comic book story in it’s origin, and they’re not the best story telling in cinema. But, again, Marvel’s thing is not story telling in a single move, but an overarching story across multiple years, properties, and characters.
If you’ve ever wondered what a big budget martial arts film is like, Shang-Chi is it. I can’t say this for certain, but I would be very confident on betting that the movie had the biggest budget of any martial arts movie in history. And if you’re being honest, it shows. Now, to wait and do a Technical Readout on it like I did with Thanos vs. The Hulk and GSP vs. Captain America…