‘Shang-Chi’ brings new life to the MCU

Lachie Harvey, Staff Writer

With cinemas opening back up, the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is out for Marvel fans to see. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the latest and greatest superhero film on the block, featuring the first lead Asian superhero in a film in the MCU.

I had the chance to see the film’s debut on Sept. 3, so I’ll share my (spoiler-free) thoughts on it. Unlike most reviews, I won’t spend any time here going over the plot, as it follows the standard superhero movie plotline. It’s not what gives “Shang- Chi” its magic; the characters and visuals do. So I’ll be talking specifically about these aspects, alongside the film’s dialogue.

First, the characters. Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve seen in an MCU project for some time. His story is interesting, and his superpowers are also unique. He derives his power from a set of ten rings, alongside his very refined martial arts skills.

Unfortunately, despite him being the titular character, Shang-Chi is sidelined for much of the film in favor of several side characters.

Katy, played by Awkwafina, and Fala Chen, played by Leiko Wu, both have story arcs that take up screen-time which should have been used to better develop Shang-Chi’s story. These characters are not poorly written, but they simply take up too much of “Shang-Chi’s” runtime. Aside from these two, the remainder of the supporting characters are fantastic. Tony Leung Chiu-wai’s Mandarin is a well-crafted villain who the audience can sympathize with at times. Leung’s performance is easily the best in the film, and

stands out above his fellow cast members consistently throughout the movie.

The visuals in “Shang-Chi” are a roller coaster ride. Shang-Chi’s fighting sequences often had flawless and entertaining choreography. There are also sequences where the audience’s eyes are simply unable to decipher the shaky camera. The color choices were great, with a combination of dazzling blues, reds and greens that help to emphasize characters’ choices, thoughts and emotions.

The film could have benefitted from more practical scenes set in traditional Asian settings. The sequences shot in San Francisco early in the film are very accurate and appear devoid of CGI. Many of the sequences shot later in the film in a traditional Asian temple appear far more doctored and less realistic.

Finally, the dialogue. There are some lines in “Shang- Chi” that caused me to violently slap myself in the face. It’s not a constant issue, however, every so often a character will stop speaking like a human being and turn into a generic video game character. The characters also seem to slip from comical to serious in a heartbeat. This causes a lot of scenes to lose their emotional impact, but most MCU films have this issue. It does a much better job when compared to a film like “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” where characters on the brink of death constantly crack jokes. In other words, there will be times where you will be caught off guard by bad lines in an otherwise solidly written film.

Overall, while the film isn’t perfect, it’s worth watching. Shang-Chi, as a character, has the potential for a very bright future in the MCU.

6/10 Rings.