Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings [Grade: C+]

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Story By: Destin Daniel Cretton, Dave Callaham, & Andrew Lanham

Cast: Simu Liu, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Awkwafina, & Meng’er Zhang

* * *

I have been super excited about this film since the trailer. I’ve seen statements like “the best Marvel film in a long time,” and “a triumphant experience,” but I always take those responses lightly because I believe Hollywood—which is predominately white— has a tendency to give praise for many minority projects out of fear of being attacked/seen as racist/seen as being unable to relate/etc (or maybe it’s to continue to feed the cash cow) vs simply being honest.  

So is the film worthy of all the praise it has received this far? I mean, I’m terms of overall visual experience, It definitely shapes up to be fun and visually enticing when it’s all said and done. However, in terms of story…nah. 

* * *

Below are my grades for key components in #Shangchi that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. 

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), Wait for Streaming, Don’t Rush, & Don’t Watch.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.

* * *

Theme: C

Plot & Story: C

Pacing: B

Character Arc/Development: C

* * *

Entertainment Factors

General Public: Worth the $$$

Action & Cinematography lovers: Worth the $$$

Marvel Fans: Interesting Enough

Film Enthusiasts: Interesting Enough

* * *

TAKEAWAYS:

1. First and foremost, the fight choreography was absolutely amazing! 🙌🏾🙌🏾

2. To add to point #1, the cinematography was really breathtaking. 👍🏾👍🏾

3. The character arc and development lacked for me because I believe there was so much focus on the father and the rings that there was a missed opportunity to set Shang’s character up for a more cohesive arc and development.  

It was as if there were 2 different Shang’s written—an Act One Shang who was a guy living a different life than how he grew up (but I didn’t really understand/get a chance to know the “why” especially if the “why they attempted to provide occurred after the “brainwashing”??), and an Act Three Shang who was a guy learning to embrace his talents and understand his true Self; then it seems that someone came in to figure out how to weave the two Shang’s together but missed the importance of grounding his character in Act One.🤦🏾‍♂️

4. Wow…so we just got the entire cast of Rich Crazy Asians, huh? This definitely needs to be addressed. 😩🤦🏾‍♂️😅

5. I enjoyed Awkwafina in Acts Two and Three more than I enjoyed her in Act One. It just felt like Katy was difficult to utilize in Act One. 🤷🏾‍♂️

6. Pacing was strong in support of the action sequences many of us come to enjoy with Marvel—I mean the film doesn’t waste any time with our first fight sequence. 

Additionally, the pacing of Acts Two and Three were solid in both action and story—story more in Act Three. 👍🏾

My issue with the pacing comes with Act One moving too fast to support the development of the main character which ultimately caused a subtle interruption of my ability to really follow and make sense of Shang’s pacing throughout the film. 🤦🏾‍♂️

7. That water map scene was really beautiful. 👍🏾

8. Um… Simu Liu is bae! 😍

9. Although I loved the fight choreography, I did feel that the choreography between the mom and dad was a few minutes too long. 🤷🏾‍♂️

10. We have a story about a son in hiding who is forced to expose himself and his talents due to a threat to his family; and while on this journey to protect those he loves, he learns much more about himself and gains much more in the process. 

Acts Two and Three do a good job with executing this story. There is more cohesion with Shang leading and owning the story than in Act One. 👍🏾

Act One unfortunately feels like the start to a different film. It is truly a stand alone exposition for a different lead character, and it annoyed me that it didn’t really tie together the trauma that eventually impacted Shang. Personally, I think the choice that the father made due to “love” wasn’t the best decision. 🥴

Instead, I wonder what this film could’ve looked like if that “decision” was never made, and the father instead still had the same motivation that led him to run into “love” that later resulted in how he raised his children compared to the wishes of his wife.  🤔

11. However, to point #9, the film did a great job spiraling back to a key moment from that choreography to represent the shifting of power. Very well done. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

12. I don’t know which fight scene is my favorite, but the direction and choreography of the bus scene… yes! 🙌🏾🙌🏾

13. I think my favorite culture moments were the conversation about his name on the plane, as well as the conversation at the dinner table about “names.” 👍🏾👍🏾

14. Because of the lack of development focus on Shang’s character, messaging isn’t as clear as it could’ve been for me. 

What the messaging seemed to focus on was “Embracing, and learning to master, one’s Self”, but this isn’t really made apparent and followed through until we get deeper into Act Two onward—so Acts One and the beginning to Act Two can feel like a filler. For some reason I feel that another aspect to the theme could possibly focus on the ways we can confront our traumas, and repurpose that energy in a useful manner. 🤷🏾‍♂️

15. I really like the sister! She was a true badass!   🙌🏾

16. The dialogue, specifically in Act One, is pretty bad. 🥴

17. Chile… what the hell was that creature? I mean, it was cute, but it felt too Disney for me. 🥴🤷🏾‍♂️

* * *

Overall, #ShangChi gives Raya and the Last Dragon – meets Avatar the Last Airbender – meets Pokémon – meets Wakanda – meets Guardians of the Galaxy – meets Wonder Woman 1984. 

I am still on eggshells when watching these new Marvel installments now that Disney is behind it because I always feel that I can notice that “family-friendly / family-centered” component which ultimately provides this watered down vibe to certain scenes and/or Acts. And even though this happened with this film too, it didn’t take away from the film still being a fun time, and visually stunning. 

Now the bulk of this is in Act Two, and heavily in Act Three, but there are strategic placements of fight sequences in Act One to maintain attentiveness. I do think more could’ve been done to strengthen the story, though. 

Also—Stay back for the 2 post credit scenes.

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