Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ★★★★

I genuinely wasn’t sure what to expect going into Shang-Chi. Marvel hasn’t introduced a brand new hero in nearly three years, and the advertising for this film was (refreshingly) restrained and spoiler-free. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I got, which was a mystical, full-blown fantasy epic that’s easily the best MCU solo film since Black Panther.

This film is GORGEOUS. The first “fight” scene in the opening ten minutes might be the most beautiful thing Marvel has ever put onscreen, and the film just becomes more eye-popping and deliriously colorful as it goes on and the action builds.

And my god, the action. The fight choreography in Shang-Chi is simply light years beyond anything the MCU has attempted up until this point. The set pieces are beautifully crafted and genuinely thrilling, and I’m worried this film has set far too high a bar for its successors.

Meng’er Zhang and Michelle Yeoh both shine, but Tony Leung steals the show as one of the MCU’s best villains by far. Wenwu is both intimidating and heartbreaking, sometimes in the same moment, and his complex relationship with his children is the beating heart of the film, and gives the CGI-heavy final act some real emotional depth.

And while that final third does fall prey to some of the usual MCU pitfalls, (the effects nearly drown out the characters, and a lot of the trademark Marvel humor feels weirdly out of place,) it’s also when the film goes full mythical fantasy/epic family drama, and it really becomes something fresh and special. I almost forgot I was watching an MCU movie during those last forty-five minutes, which felt delightfully reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, The Chronicles of Narnia, and even Spirited Away.

I typically leave an MCU film with an attitude of “well that was fun, on to the next one.” For once I actually can’t wait to see more of Shang-Chi, Xialing, and this exciting new corner of the Marvel universe.

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