Shang-Chi Reviews Promise “Supremely Entertaining” and “Surprisingly Emotional” Film
We’re counting down the days until we can finally see the newest Marvel hero to rise in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on September 3rd, 2021. After multiple release delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are finally five short days away from the film’s theatrical release and 45 (+5) days away from its release on Disney+.
Needless to say, we’re pretty excited for a new hero to love, discuss, and dissect his comic book history here at Marvel Blog, so we’ve been devouring the reviews in anticipation of the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings theatrical premiere in less then a week. And it’s safe to say that Marvel may have another hit on its hands.
Shang-Chi Review Roundup (Scored)
Over at our sister website, MickeyBlog.com, Josh Ryan wrote a roundup of some of the early reactions to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings following the world premiere in Los Angeles, California on August 16th, and this Marvel Blog reporter got the bright idea to do the same thing!
First up, over at Den of Geek, Brandon Boo gave Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings a solid review of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
It was entirely possible for [Shang-Chi] to wind up being underwhelming, or gimmicky, or cliched, despite its intrinsically positive cultural relevance. Luckily, this isn’t the case whatsoever. It’s a supremely entertaining movie on every level, and the fact that it will likely kick in the door for more Asian superheroes to take center stage in the future (Jubilee, please) is icing on the cake.
Rotten Tomatoes approved Geeks of Color reviewer Josephine L. gave the film a rating of 8.5/10, and said that, “It is a fantastic origin story that is very friendly for viewers like me with little to no existing Marvel knowledge. Overall, I found this movie to be a must-watch; better yet, I came out of this movie wanting to watch it again and again!”
Nick Allen, who watched it for Roger Ebert‘s website, gave Shang-Chi a positive review with 3.5 out of 4 stars (mainly for the film’s amazing action).
Cretton and his team constantly play with height, light, reflections, and staging when it comes to orchestrating a fight set-piece that surprises the audience (like a jaw-dropping, way-up-high nighttime battle royale on some scaffolding in Macao), and then foregrounds the choreography as the main spectacle; it’s not just about who is throwing the punches and kicks. I should admit that numerous beats in these sharply edited sequences blew me back in my chair…
Next up, Katie Smith-Wong of Movie Marker gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, noting that success of the film is largely “due to Liu, who offers comedy and action skills, as well as a determination to a character that anchors the film.”
Rounding out the Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews that provide scores is one from
Any fan of Asian cinema will surely be delighted by Shang-Chi, if only to see The Grandmaster star Tony Leung and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh, who plays Shang-Chi’s aunt, appear in a full-on Marvel martial arts movie. Both are dignified and elegant, though neither can steal the film from Liu, who won’t just be remembered here for being the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He might yet be seen as the best.
Shang-Chi Review Roundup (No Score)
To be honest, I don’t understand why some websites and newspapers score movies and others don’t, but it seemed like a great way to divide up all the awesome reviews coming out for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (and if you feel like learning more about movie review scores, then this article by Eric Ravenscraft explains how the whole process is sorta flawed anyway).
Now that my aside is out of the way…
The Los Angeles Times sent Rotten Tomatoes top critic Justin Chang, who, in short, said Shang-Chi was “most enjoyable when it shakes off the tedious franchise imperatives and forges its own path,” and some of those franchise-breaking moments are due to the amazing casting that Marvel did for the film.
Some of the Shang-Chi cast members that Chang chose to highlight are the film’s strong female characters. He said:
The movie’s late-breaking highlights include Michelle Yeoh’s performance as Ying Nan, a mentor figure to Shang-Chi and Xialing who dispenses pearls of wisdom with customary poise and offers a warm counterweight to Leung’s brooding chill. Ying Nan pops up in Ta Lo, a secluded Chinese village that occasions some of the movie’s more striking visuals (including a dynamic joyride through a leafy labyrinth) and paves the way to the movie’s exciting mountainside climax.
Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter also focused on the amazing action sequences in the new Marvel Studios blockbuster, saying, “Shang-Chi quickly distinguishes itself with its action, which emphasizes precision and agility over brute-force strength or weightless CG trickery (though there’s plenty of those as well, thanks to the Ten Rings that grant its wearers godlike power).”
In her review, Han also highlights how the action sequences and sets were used in a truly integrated fashion, almost like watching a ballet on stage, adding:
The film’s most thrilling set piece is essentially a hallway fight scene set on a speeding bus, and Liu looks the very picture of cool as he twists and swings and kicks his way through half a dozen henchmen, the camera breathlessly tracking his every move. But the characters’ martial arts training informs softer moments, too, like a wuxia-inspired meet-cute between Shang-Chi’s parents that takes on the flirty symmetry of a dance.
Why Representation Matters
In addition to reviews focusing on more “traditional” film critic beats, like cinematography, fight choreography, and the influence of Asian cinema on the film, there were also reviewers who discussed the impact of the film on the Asian-American community. This is an important aspect of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and these essays/reviews spoke to the fight for representation, not just onscreen but in society at large (something that is particularly important to Liu himself too), and what it can mean for someone to see themselves in entertainment.
"It wasn't racially motivated," said the killer, after murdering six Asian women at targeted Asian-owned businesses, one of which is literally called Young's Asian Massage.
We need to re-examine our legal definition of a hate crime because IT IS NOT WORKING FOR US.
— Simu Liu (刘思慕) (@SimuLiu) March 18, 2021
Therese Lacson talked about the ups-and-downs of the film for Comics Beat, highlighting how the film’s stars shine in their comedic moments, noting, “While I had reservations about Marvel casting [Awkwafina] so soon after [Raya and the Last Dragon], it was the right choice. Shang-Chi is certainly not shy when it comes to the jokes and that might be too much for some, but they land every time. Especially when you throw Ronny Chieng and Ben Kingsley‘s Trevor Slattery back into the mix.”
Beyond the comedy, Lacson talks about what seeing Shang-Chi meant to her as a Chinese-American, saying:
I fully expected to enjoy Shang-Chi simply because MCU movies are fun to watch and I was excited, but I, like many others, was also cautious. But, when the screen opens and we start off with a flashback narrated completely in Mandarin, I immediately felt seen. This wasn’t just a couple throwaway phrases, this was a full sequence, this was the exposition of the story. Hearing my first language being spoken on screen, in a Marvel movie, and then hearing it spoken again during press conferences, by the stars of the film, it made me surprisingly emotional.
Shang-Chi reviewer for The Illuminerdi, Vin, who was sitting in on the press conference in which Lacson asked about the decision to let the Mandarin language flow freely in the film, was inspired by her words/question and wrote a think piece about what the movie meant to him.
The decision to use Mandarin, as well as phrases commonly used to otherize the Asian-American experience, really struck an emotional cord with Vin, who said:
There was a specific moment in the cast’s discussion that stood out to me, when they talked about “speaking ABC.” ABC refers to “American-Born Chinese”, which is a term used to separate native immigrants from the second-generation who were born in the United States (In South Asian immigrant culture we use ABCD, American-Born Confused Desi – but more on that when Ms. Marvel comes out).
“ABC”/”ABCD” are phrases that can sometimes be used to “otherize” the children of immigrants, basically saying “You’ll never be truly like us — you’re a fake American who doesn’t even know their background.” It’s a status that every second-generation immigrant can relate to. Of course it’s not always used so malevolently, but acknowledging such a complexly personal-yet-universal struggle in a giant mass-appeal blockbuster movie from Disney will be a surreal experience for audiences around the world.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Marvel Studios newest film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, will hit theaters in five short days. Are you ready, Marvel Blog True Believers? What part of the film are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments section!