This martial arts super hero spectacle is a lot of fun and surprisingly effective at times while being overly stuffed in other moments.
The plot is full to bursting with ideas and storylines. There are a ton of characters and worlds to explore. The best parts of the film involve Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, his best friend Katy, played by Awkwafina, and his father Xu Wenwu, played by Tony Leung. His father uses ten magic rings to run a massive and ancient criminal empire. He trained Shang to be the greatest fighter in the world. Shang escaped his father and found a normal life, but his peace is shattered by a group of assassins sent by his father.
From there it gets rather silly and overstuffed with magic realms and ancient evils and so many side characters. I really enjoyed the characters and the worlds explored are really interesting, but I feel our lead gets a little lost. It felt to me that Shang-Chi was part of an ensemble rather than the lead of his own movie.
That said this movie is really fun. Honestly I had a great time with this movie. There’s a thrilling Kung fu fight on a bus that is really well choreographed and shot in a fun way.
They balance the drama of the family dynamics with the fun comedy quips really nicely. The movie takes turns with the humor and the drama instead of awkwardly mashing them together like in some other films. This is helped by some great dramatic work by Tony Leung and some fantastic comic moments from Awkwafina. There’s another comedic character whose presence is kind of a surprise. I’m sure the spoilers are out, but if you don’t know who shows up it’s a delightful moment when they arrive.
The action scenes felt very different to me than usual Marvel action. They are very grounded in choreography rather than cgi. Now I’m sure cgi was used to enhance the moments, but the early fights have a tactile kinetic quality that was a lot of fun to see.
My favorite moments are the quiet character moments. Shang and Katy talking about his mom. The movie has a big cgi showdown that is elevated by the pauses in fighting that Tony Leung and Simu Liu have. Tony Leung’s entire backstory is fascinating to see and the way he plays it is impeccable as ever. There’s also a really fun and relatable scene in a bar between Shang, Katy and their much more successful friends. These are the moments that really make the movie for me.
This movie was a really fun ride. I had a great time with it, and I think you will too. Its not so heavy into the Marvel universe that it won’t be accessible to those uninitiated in the MCU. It’s a really fun action adventure fantasy. It’s worth your time.
It’s my cup of tea. B+