Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of my favourite MCU solo movies.

Story 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tells the story of Chang-Chi who has to confront the mysterious Ten Rings organization that he once left behind. 

There is so much more to the story than what the synopsis tells you. And while I am not going to spoil the story for you, I am going to say that it is one of self-discovery. Something that will resonate with everyone. It is multi-layered without bogging you down with multiple plot points. 

Acting 

Simu Liu's performance is very charming.     He is very much a leading man. I recently started watching the show he was on Kim's Convenience before this movie came out and the more I watched of it, the more I knew that this movie was in good hands. While Kim's Convenience is a comedy, it also has a lot of heart, something this movie has in spades. Shang-Chi is by no means a comedy but he is able to deliver the comedic lines without them sounding forced or foreign. I don't know how much of his fight scenes were him and how many were his stunt double but, you can tell that he really took on the role and made it his own. I can't wait for him to react with other characters in this universe. 

Tony Leung's performance is my favorite in the whole film. Wenwu is a complex villain which makes him really compelling. There is a lot of duality in his performance, and because of that, you can't help but watch him whenever he is on screen. There is also an air of unpredictability in his character, and because of that, you aren't 100% sure what he is going to do, making the performance even more fun to watch. 

Before I watched the movie, I  didn't know what to expect from Awkwafina's character Katy. However, after watching the film, I liked her. I know that Awkwafina is primarily a comedic actress and I wondered if her character would take away from the drama of certain scenes, but she didn't. Katy is actually a great audience proxy, she has the exact same reactions to us the audience which makes her an easier character to endear us to. She has very organic chemistry with Simu, and you're able to believe in their friendship.

Meng'er Zhang is a badass in this role. Xialing is the character that surprised me the most. While not the emotional core of the film, she is a character that needs to exist as she is a nice contrast to Chang-Chi. She is one someone that I would love to see interacts with other characters in the MCU

When I found out Michelle Yeoh was in this movie, I was incredibly excited because she is an amazing actress who manages to be regal and ethereal while also being a badass and that is exactly how I would describe her character. Watching her interact with Simu felt very heartwarming. It also comes in at the right time in the movie as their meeting is able to carry us from the second act to the third.

There are also some really interesting cameos and characters in this movie that I DID NOT expect to see and it was a welcome surprise as it further expands the universe. 

Writing/Direction 

One of the biggest issues of the MCU is its antagonists. They are usually a one-dimension "bad" version of the hero with vague motivations. This movie doesn't fall into that hole. The antagonist in this movie is similar to Killmonger in the sense that you can understand and empathise with their cause (not their methods though) and because of that empathy they are a compelling adversary

The direction in this movie is chefs kiss. From the way, it's shot to the way it is edited. 
Each Act has its own distinct look and feel, each one flows into another without feeling disjointed. And that comes down to the use of colour. This movie geographically takes place in parts of the world that have not been introduced before as well as a city that we have already seen. The colours are vibrant when they need to be and muted when they need to be. And due to the deliberate choices made by Bill Pope the cinematographer, Shang-Chi looks different from the movies that have come before it.

Something that I noticed is the way the fight scenes are edited. They are very reminiscent of single takes. Even though a lot of them aren't, you can actually see what is going on rather than being distracted by quick editing and multiple angles. It really gives both the actors and stunt doubles time to shine. 

I don't know if this was a deliberate choice but there is a shot that is reminiscent of this one in Skyfall

From the colours, to the silhouette of the characters, the two are really similar. Luckily Marvel released a clip with the scene in question. 

 

 And seeing as both fight scenes take place in China, (Skyfall's being in Shanghai and Shang-Chi's being in Macau) the homage makes a lot of sense and is perfectly placed.

The movie also touches on what is probably one of Marvel's biggest faux pas, the handling of the Ten Rings and The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Now I don't know if this movie was in the pipeline when Iron Man 3 was released but it makes sense for this movie to call back to it as the Ten Rings plays a pivotal part in both movies' stories.

CGI/Set Design 

The biggest issue that a lot of people have with Marvel movies is the overuse and over-reliance on CGI especially in the third act and while I am not going to say this movie falls out of that pattern but the third act is a lot more discernable than usual. Of course, the CGI is noticeable but it doesn't really take away from the emotion of the scenes. 

Score/Soundtrack

The score is PHENOMENAL. I loved everything about it. I honestly do not remember the last time, I felt moved to listen to the score of an MCU movie when I left the cinema. And I am listening to it right now as I write this review.

Joel P. West's use of music meshes with the world that Destin Cretton and the writers developed. As the characters move from each location and set-piece, the score mold to fit their location and emotional state. The music also leans heavily on a repetitive harmony that created an auditory identity for the film. I really hope that they stick with it going forward because I love it so much. 

Apart from the score, the soundtrack is also very good. Similar to the way Kendrick Lamar used the Black Panther Soundtrack to spotlight African and African-Amer artists, 88Rising did the same here, by crafting a soundtrack by Asian and Asian-American artists, like Mark Taun, Seori, and Keshi (all artists I listen to and you should too) as well as songs by Anderson .Paak, Swae Lee and Jhene Aiko. 

Both the score and soundtrack how different this movie is from other MCU movies. It quite literally sounds different.

Fun fact, Simu Liu is also featured on the soundtrack.

Overall Thoughts 

Truthfully, I haven't been excited about a movie like this in a long time. I wasn't even this excited to see Black-Widow. And this movie DID NOT disappoint. It feels different from other MCU movies while simultaneously fitting into the universe.

I loved everything about this movie, and there is no way I can talk about this movie without touching on the cultural relevance. I can imagine so many people feeling the absolute joy of seeing themselves represented in a Marvel movie. It's a really visceral response knowing that a superhero in your favourite franchise looks like you. 

As of right now, there aren't a lot of movies I want to go out and watch but I do know that I want to see this one again, and I just might.

I also posted a spoiler filled video on my Youtube channel

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