eli’s review published on Letterboxd:
sonic the hedgehog looks different here
I could literally imagine the cinematic experience I would have gotten had I seen this in the theatre. Out of all the Phase Four projects I’ve seen so far this is easily the most impressive work. Already it is difficult enough because it is a origin story of a completely new character never before seen or referenced on the big screen, even one I didn’t know existed before this was announced. The MCU has built up a name with the Avengers and up till now have only really focused on the well known team (with certain exceptions such as Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel and the GOTG). Okay, that’s quite a busy list of “exceptions” but regardless, they’ve all contributed in the long run to the climatic universal team-up in Endgame. This essentially culminates in a satisfying third act closing of our team. Phase Four kicked off with a deeper look into some of our remaining Avengers, particularly those who didn’t get much screen-time in the original first three phases; Wanda, Sam, Bucky, Loki and a wrap-up on our beloved Natasha, even if it was a bit overdue. But this one, Shang-Chi, was a unique one. It was a chance to introduce a completely new character, starting fresh off and setting up a possible fan favourite character and a set path in the MCU future. There’s a sort of large risk with it. You literally don’t know where it could go. But most of it relies on good direction and production. And after watching it, I can confirm it sticks to it.
I’m glad. I’m quite a fan of the MCU- the Infinity Saga was such a blast but ever since January kicked off after a whole year of inactivity with Wandavision, I felt disappointment slowly creep in until my expectations were pretty much slim when it came to Loki in August. Suddenly the love I had for the MCU seemed to diminish as I watched Marvel Studios continue to upload in what I deemed in as nothing more than a bunch of fan service content, accompanied by a sort of rushed “okay let’s just do this so we can set up the next culmination arc with the level of Endgame” mindset. My eyes would skim across the screen in horror and disappointment as I came across news of confirmed or rumoured upcoming projects for the MCU. It was all too much. And it all felt bland. Soulless. But I didn’t want to let go of one of my favourite franchises just yet. I had so much hype, and still do, especially for No Way Home and Multiverse of Madness. So I’m glad. I’m glad I stayed. I’m glad I watched Shang-Chi and realised the spark is still there. The potential. The love I had for the previous projects could still be easily replicated.
The movie itself is simply a satisfying touch and addition to the universe. Simu Liu is an incredible likeable protagonist and Tony Leung Chiu-wai is a fantastic addition to the cast, even though I believe it’s not as simple as placing him in the category of the movie’s villain. I think that’s another one of the things I like so much about this. Character complexity is an important trait to take into consideration when making a movie and I’m glad this movie didn’t stick to the formula of “oo i want to kill people hahah #lol” villain. Most of the other MCU movies stray from this formula too, so I’m glad it sticks to its running streak (we won’t talk about the ones that didn’t).
The CGI. Absolutely incredible. I don’t think people talk enough about the special effects in this movie. Maybe this was due to having just watched this in IMAX on Disney+ but regardless, the colours are beautiful and are up in the MCU’s best for me.
The fight scenes. I think this is probably the strongest aspect of the movie. Instead of rough, wobbly, shaky cam recording stiff punches and blows, the film includes amazingly choreographed fight scenes, which flow like silk. Incredibly satisfying to watch. I am so glad they really put in the work and attention to detail for martial arts fighting.
Honestly, the only thing that really drags it down for me has to be the humour. The MCU’s guilty habit of throwing in snark sarcastic one-liners every five seconds is still present here. Luckily it didn’t try that hard but when it did, I found it unbearable. Most of it derived from how annoying I found Awkwafina. Apart from Raya and the Last Dragon, I usually can’t bear her acting as she tends to play the same specific character with this type of humour, which I dislike. It’s a shame she seemed present in this movie mostly for comedic effect, because I could see potential in one of the movie’s most critical moments in the ending regarding Awkwafina. There was only one line that elicited the closest to a laugh from me and that was due to Razor Fist’s “we…we should work together.”
To finish up, I just want to point one of the things running through my mind during the third act was “getting a lot of httyd and kung fu panda 3 vibes from this”.
I love being a fanboy