Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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

Me halfway through this movie: Holy shit! That’s the guy who's in all the Wong Kar-Wai films! So that’s what he’s been up to nowadays!

While I can’t say that Shang-Chi is a reinvention of the standard Marvel formula, I can confidently say that it's a fresh new take on the franchise that does its part to differentiate it from its contemporaries, while also retaining what made them work. The most immediate aspect that makes the film different is its incredible fight scenes. They play out less like bombastic superhero bouts and more like over-the-top, martial arts showdowns. The way they are all filmed has a very fast-paced, flowing energy to them that keeps the action from ever getting stale. They were no doubt the highlight of the film, but that’s not to say there aren't other aspects to appreciate. The characters are all very likable, and they feel a lot more grounded than other Marvel characters. Shang-Chi himself is a charismatic, funny protagonist, but not in a quippy, sarcastic way like Tony Stark, but in a more lovable, goofball way. It’s this approach to characters that makes the film so enjoyable, and that extends to the villain as well. He’s a sympathetic character whose actions are rooted in an understandable desire, and it's easy to see how his judgement is clouded.

Overall, this may be tied with Loki as the best thing Marvel has put out, post-Endgame. It serves as a wonderful introduction to a whole new cast of characters for this universe, expanding the canon of the franchise without being too held down by its predecessors. While it does feature the occasional reference or character from a past movie, it feels like its own thing entirely, which is what any standalone film in the MCU should strive to do. It’s not a film that will change your opinion on Marvel if you already don’t like the franchise, but for a fan of this world, this was an absolute blast to watch in theaters.

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