Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

It’s certainly no Ran. While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may look to boast effective, huge spectacles, some of the magic is taken out of the stature. It is not there. While the iconography is, the heart is not. But that is what audiences should expect of Marvel. It brags about its special effects and its action scenes yet is just another Marvel feature that allows the secret society trope to reign supreme. Are there not enough of those already? Evidently not. For such a vast and expansive universe on offer, it is disappointing to see how most of it hits the same riffs and notes as all the others.

Where Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings differs though is in duping the audience into believing it is a martial arts spectacle. Flips and CGI tricks are not the same as the physical strengths of Enter the Dragon or the scope of colour from Hero. Destin Daniel Cretton’s direction tries to tie the knot between the two, but deflates both and carries on anyway. Exposition from Awkwafina here, “what’s up Gangnam style” there. Inspired writing indeed. It is the signs of a generation trying to figure out what their target audience love, and missing their mark by a decade. Nothing but weak exposition to explain away the issues of Shaun (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina). They have little chemistry and less on-screen presence. Those loser characters are hard to like, harder still when they are turned into heroes.

At least the fight scenes are responsible. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has some brief moments of inspiring content. Flutters within fight scenes are ruined by the necessity of weak humour and record scratch moments. The flow is broken because the people on the bus are both calm and trying to make their few lines of dialogue work. Every time a block of exposition crops up or a fight scene begins to show, the poor-quality comedy throws itself into the mixture and breaks the pacing. It is not an issue found only in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but something that has plagued some of the previous films. That is the tact and style of the series. The similarity of it all. That ineffective, putrid desire to be funny and sorrowful in unison has wilted the best of moments this flagging series of feature-length, spoon-feeding merchandise machines could offer. It comes across as lacking a genuine desire or style and instead feels like it is pushing against the changes that would save the series from mundanity.

No thought is needed. Power the brain down. Consume the content on screen. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings struggles in both prodding its audience with pertinent questions and offering some form of entertaining spectacle. It sits atop the fence of indifference and has nothing else to show for its mediocrity. It sways neither to worldbuilding for yet another secret organisation (it’s a miracle they’ve not bumped into one another by now) nor does it leap towards exciting an audience with spectacles beyond forgettable, passable set pieces. Neither are effective or memorable. All the tropes are there. The cameo-clad moments that do nothing of value and make no sense, the one-liner supporting character whose performance is from someone with more talent exuded elsewhere, and the vague veteran of the screen, this time in the form of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. A tedious affair, and a grim, foul one at that.

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