ratbastard’s review published on Letterboxd:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Centuries ago, 'Xu Wenwu' discovers a set of 10 mystical rings which grants him superhuman powers and immortality. Wenwu establishes the 'Ten Rings' - a network which seeks to topple corrupt regimes. Wenwu falls in love with Li, and the couple has two children - 'Shang-Chi' and 'Xialing'. When Li is killed by a rival gang, Wenwu sends Shang-Chi through an intense martial arts training. When failing to assassinate a rival gang member, Shang-Chi escapes to San Francisco - where he lives a quiet life, until his past catches up with him. Shang-Chi is forced to confront the ghosts of his past, and fulfil his destiny - to essentially become Lord of the Rings…
Flashy superhero origin / fantasy from Marvel Studios. Evocative of 'Harry Potter' in some ways. A briskly paced, convoluted, loud, uneven and grandiose affair. Boasting some impressively choreographed martial arts sequences, sumptuous spectacle and some solid performances. Simu Liu is great in the titular role, displaying impressive physicality with a genuine 'everyman' likability - dishing out beatings without a single hair slipping out of place. Liu shares good chemistry with Awkwafina, while prestige actors Michelle Yeoh, Sir Ben and Tony Leung supply straight-faced weight to the daft, mystical lore. It's a bit hit or miss. The mix of realism, fantasy, comedy and martial arts doesn't slickly gel together. I was personally surprised by the instances of poor CGI elements, green screen compositing and not-so-seamless edit stitching - it's a shame, as it frequently took me out of the experience. Aside from a few needle drops, the score is mostly forgettable.
It's a surgically-precise and enjoyable crowd pleaser, as you would come to expect from Marvel Studios. Liu shines and establishes himself into the series with style, though it all feels a bit flat, familiar.