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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Destin Daniel Cretton
prd Kevin Feige, Jonathan Schwartz
scr Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
with Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Ben Kingsley, Benedict Wong, Florian Munteanu, Ronny Chieng, Arnold Sun, Jayden Zhang
release US/UK 3.Sep.21
21/Australia Marvel 2h12
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One of the most exhilarating Marvel movies yet, this adventure is packed with astonishingly choreographed action and properly thrilling effects work, plus a continual stream of character-based humour and emotion. Working on a scale far beyond his usual intimate dramas, director Destin Daniel Cretton puts each element together beautifully. And the talented cast helps keep it feeling fresh as well, crafting new characters we want to see in further adventures.
In San Francisco, parking valet Shaun (Liu) is forced to reveal his past when his best pal Katy (Awkwafina) witnesses him adeptly taking on a gang of goons. Revealing his real name as Shang-Chi, he takes her along to Macau to make sure his sister Xialing (Zhang) is safe. But she isn't happy to see him. Both are captured by their insistent father Wenwu (Leung), wielder of 10 rings of immortal power, who wants to break into the hidden homeland of their mother (Chen). And his grief may be blinding him to the truth.
The propulsive story throws the characters from one jaw-dropping battle to the next. Fights are witty and coherent, blending classic martial arts face-offs, Jackie Chan-style whizzery and some eye-catching balletic moves. An insane scaffolding scuffle is the show-stopper. And even when things get increasingly digital in the final act (including a battle in one of Marvel's usual dull-grey wastelands), the action remains massively involving, with twists that keep us gasping. It helps that the characters are so strong.
Initially, Shang-Chi is a chucklehead, which cleverly plays to Liu's sitcom skills. Then he deepens the role, as Shang-Chi struggles to find focus while dealing with serious daddy issues. His development feels engagingly authentic. And this is also true of Awkwafina's relentlessly hilarious Katy and Zhang's over-serious Xialing. Yeoh adds another fiercely complex female character into the mix as the siblings' aunt. Leung provides gravitas as a villain who's more complex than expected. And Kingsley reprises his amusing Iron Man 3 role for spurious comic relief
While the "save the world from calamity" premise is well-worn, there's so much going on in relationships that the audience is drawn in both to the action and the extended quieter sequences in between. This is an astute exploration of family dynamics and personal growth. And it recognises that becoming more mature doesn't mean that you have to abandon your childishness. You won't be thinking about this when two simply amazing dragons are going at it in the finale, but it's what lingers afterwards. tt9376612
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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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