“Is this what you wanted?”

NOTE: This review was written mostly before the stunning and unprecedented events in Ukraine. If you wish to donate to one of a number of vetted charities to help those suffering due to the criminal actions of the Putin regime, you can do so HERE.

Here’s a challenge for you. Try to find a book, article or blog post about the phenomenon of “Yellow Peril” that does not include a reference to Sax Rohmer’s fictional creation Doctor Fu Manchu.

One of the earliest fictional supervillains, Fu Manchu was a brilliant, devious Chinese scientist and master criminal who sought world domination and was basically the entire concept of the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man. And if you think I’m being unfair to Sax Rohmer, please be aware that the phrase “Yellow Peril incarnate in one man” is a direct quote describing Fu Manchu from the first novel he appears in. He is a hugely controversial creation, and no, not just in these more enlightened times. Fu Manchu has never been uncontroversial and every fresh wave of popularity for the character has prompted massive backlash and accusations of racism which are pretty damn hard to refute as, by his own admission, Rohmer basically just monetized anti-Asian xenophobia and based the character on Bayard Taylor’s notoriously racist descriptions of the Chinese.

But, here’s the thing…Fu Manchu also kinda rules? I mean, he is like Asian Dracula. He is badass. He is cool. He has menace and charisma to burn. He has a moustache named after him. He is a fantastic villain and pretty much codified the whole archetype of the brilliant, dastardly criminal mastermind, even more so than (I would argue) Professor Moriarty. And he has been incredibly influential in film too, having been played by such notable Asian actors as Christopher Lee, Boris Carloff and Nicholas Cage (oh shit, I think we took a wrong turn and ended back in Racism Town).

So on the one hand you have an extremely compelling villain with ninety years of rich history, but on the other hand you have the incredibly uncomfortable creation of the character. It’s a very thorny problem. How do you extricate Fu Manchu from Rohmer and Taylor? Could you do a non-racist Fu Manchu? Is it worth trying? Who would even want to take that on? And how would you go about it?

Well, Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin took a crack at it in 1973.

Results were…mixed.

The comic that would eventually become Shang-Chi was initially pitched to DC as an adaptation of the hugely popular TV series Kung Fu starring noted Asian actor David Carradine. DC passed and Englehart and Starlin took the idea to Marvel who agreed to the basic premise of a kung fu themed comic with the following stipulations:

  1. That the main character be the son of Fu Manchu, who Marvel had just acquired the rights to.
  2. That the main character be half-white.

Why 2? Well, Marvel had recently tried to cash in on the blaxploitation craze with their character Luke Cage but had been burned when some Southern retailers had refused to display a comic with a black main character. By making Shang-Chi half white, they hoped to avoid a repeat. Which…how does that work exactly?

“Hello, my good sir! Would you be interested in stocking our new comic, “Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu” in your fine establishment?
“Whut? I ain’t stockin no rassin frassin comicky book with no Chinee!”
“Fret not, my fine racist, you see, Shang-Chi’s mother is white for he is the product of racial mixing.”
“Oh that’s fine, I’ll take your whole durn stock.”

Despite that deeply compromised beginning, Shang-Chi went on to become Marvel’s first Asian superstar character, carrying his own book for a very respectable 125 issues (which was only cancelled when Marvel declined to renew their rights to Fu Manchu). While he’s never recaptured the same prominence in the comics that he did during the Kung Fu craze of the seventies and eighties, he’s always been a well respected and popular mainstay of the Marvel universe. So when the time came for Disney/Marvel to turn their all-seeing rapacious eye to the martial arts genre, naturally they first thought of…

Ha ha, be honest. You’d totally forgotten, hadn’t you?

But when the time came for Disney/Marvel to make their second attempt at the martial arts genre, this time with an eye to Asian representation (and absolutely nothing to do with cracking the obscenely lucrative Chinese market they’re perennially eyeing like a dragon’s horde to the point that they will desecrate their own properties and literally collaborate with a genocidal regime just for a chance of making some cold hard yuan and I think need to wrangle this sentence back into shape) they chose Shang-Chi.

Alright, something I need to get off my chest. Rings are cool. Bracelets are not.

I don’t know if I can explain why but it’s just a fact. It’a the same principal that swords are cooler than clubs. They just are.

The movie begins with a flashback to Ancient China where a narrator tells us the story of Xu Wenwu who discovered ten magical rings which granted him immortality and all kinds of awesome super powers which he used to found the Ten Rings, a secretive criminal organisation that’s been active throughout history. They are also bracelets, and not finger-rings like in the comics. And that’s lame.

So I touched on the character of the Mandarin in my Iron Man 3 review but for a quick recap; the Mandarin was an Iron Man adversary from the sixties who was basically Fu Manchu with the added gimmick of having ten magical rings. The Mandarin (sort of) appeared in Iron Man 3 played by noted Asian actors Guy Pearse and Sir Ben Kinglsey as the creators decided to steer hard away from the character’s whole “Yellow Peril” schtick. But, after some backlash, the short film All Hail the King revealed that the Mandarin was a real dude who Aldritch Killian had basically ripped off to create his bogeyman. That’s this guy. To put it simply, Trevor Slattery was playing the Mandarin at the behest of Aldritch Killian who was a rip-off of the Mandarin who was actually Xu Wenu who is based on the Mandarin who is a rip-off of Fu Manchu and Fu Manchu.

“Thank God you were here, I almost got confused.”

In the nineties, Wenwu discovered the legend of Ta Lo, a mysterious lost village full of mysterious people with mysterious powers.

So he sets out to discover it for himself and is stopped by Ying Li, a guardian of the village. They have a beautiful, wuxia-esque fight and they fall in love.

Fast forward to the present and Wenwu and Ying Li’s son, “Shaun” (Simu Liu) is living in San Francisco and working as a valet with his best friend, Katie (Awkwafina). Shaun met Kate in high school when she interceded on his behalf with a bully who called him “Gangnam Style” and wait what? That makes no sense! This dude is like in his mid-twenties and Gangnam Style only came out…

Oh.

Oh Jesus Christ.

How am I even still alive if I’m this old?

Anyway, Shaun and Katie are having dinner with their old school friend Soo who is now a lawyer and passive-aggressively chides them for not doing more with their lives. They decide to show how responsible they can be by staying out all night getting drunk and singing karaoke. The next morning Shaun swings by Katie’s house to pick her up and her mother likewise chides her for not living up to her potential.

So I am now going to give my review of this movie. What do I mean by that? Well, Shang-Chi isn’t one movie, it’s three. And we’ve just about reached the demarcation point where movie one ends and movie two begins. Movie 1 is…nice. I like it. It’s not fantastically written, the dialogue is a little artificial sounding but it’s a nice, engaging little piece about two goof off friends who are happy where they are and don’t see why they should have to change. Awkwafina is great, honestly and Simu Liu gives a nice, likeable understated performance. I also like little details like the faded posters for Blip support groups in the background and the scenes with Katie’s family. They don’t particularly go anywhere but there’s a nice low-key vibe to them. I dig it.

Now we get to the bus scene. The bus scene is what cinema scholars commonly refer to as “dude, dope as fuck.” It’s honestly one of the best fight scenes we’ve seen in the MCU, right up there with the elevator scene in Winter Solider or the corridor fight in Daredevil. Anyway Shaun gets attacked by a bunch of dudes on the bus who want a pendant that was given to him by his mother. Shaun then reveals that he’s no mere valet and busts out a near-Ukranian level of kickass on his assailants. The scene isn’t perfect, some of the CGI is a little weightless (there’s one particularly egreious moment where Shaun punches a guy out a window like he’s made of aeroboard) but it’s a ridiculously fun Jenga tower of escalating violence and peril, culminating in Katie trying to steer the out of control bus through the streets of San Francisco while Shaun battles like six dudes and a Romanian with a sword for a hand. Said Romanian tells Shaun that they’re coming for his sister so, after the fight has been one, he decides to jet to Macau to see her. And Katie decides to tag along because she’s the comedy relief and what else is she gonna do?

On the flight over Shaun explains that his real name is Shang-Chi and that he was raised by his father, Wenwu, to be the perfect assassin. But Shang-Chi refused to carry out his first kill and has been hiding from his father ever since.

The pair arrive in Macau and find that Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing, is running an underground fight ring and we get two cameos, Wong fighting the Abomination. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the impression I got from Doctor Strange was that the Masters of the Mystic Arts are supposed to be a secret, mysterious order protecting the Earth from the shadows. And yet, here’s the frickin’ Sorcerer Supreme using his magic in full view in cage fights being broadcast on the internet, apparently just to make a few bucks.

This is like if the Pope became an MMA fighter.

Actually it’s worse. We see him afterwards talking to Abomination and it’s clear the fight was rigged. Wong is cheating the honest paying customers of this underground Dark-Web snuff factory!

Anyway, Shang-Chi is now famous because the video of the fight on the bus has gone viral and he gets duped into participating in a fight. And…somehow the crowd is excited to see a perfectly normal human fight after seeing a literal wizard battle an actual monster. But whatever. Shang-Chi’s mysterious opponent turns out to be, of course, as we all expected, Betty White.

Personally, I thought the part where she ripped out Shang-Chi’s still beating heart and showed it to him was a tad gratuitous.

No, OBVIOUSLY, it’s his sister. She kicks his ass and then after the fight he tells her that their father is coming for her pendant. Xialing reveals to Katie that Shang-Chi abandoned her when she was still a child and that she had to escape from their father on her own. Suddenly the Ten Rings attack the building and Shang-Chi and Xialing have to fight hordes of assassins while hanging off the side of the building from bamboo scaffolding. It is, as the old Irish saying goes, dope as fuck.

Wenwu shows up and takes them all prisoner and brings them to his secret fortress of villainy. Over dinner, he tells Shang-Chi that it is time for him to take his place as his heir. He has a conversation with Katie where they discuss the importance of names, and he reveals that over the centuries he was known by many names, including “Master Khan”. Ohhhh boy. So, Master Khan is a minor Iron Fist and Doctor Strange villain. So that’s three villains this guy is an amalgamation of. Any others you want to throw on the pile?

“I have been known by many names. Galactus. Annihilus. Paste Pot Pete.”

Wenwu tells Katie how he fell in love with Shang-Chi and Xialing’s mother and convinced her to leave Ta Lo and return with him to Earth. For a while they were blissfully happy and he renounced his criminal empire. But then she died and he went back to his old life. nd it’s right around here that Movie 3 begins and more’s the pity. Because Movie 3 fucking sucks. And it makes up like two thirds of the total run time. Wenwu tells his children that Ying Li has begun appearing to him in visions and that she is waiting for them in Ta Lo. Obviously his kids think that’s crazy so he takes their two pendants, puts them in a wooden dragon statue, which starts sweating profusely, and then the sweat freezes and forms an ice sculpture of the bamboo maze that surrounds Ta Lo, revealing the way in.

Yeah, this movie takes a HARD turn into magical fantasy and it really doesn’t work. The tonal shift is jarring as all hell and worse, the movie just completely loses its sense of fun. The plot becomes this overly complicated slog of maguffins and new characters and just more and more…stuff. Not individual parts making up a greater whole, just…stuff, piled on top of itself.

Wenwu tells his kids that the Ten Rings are going to storm Ta Lo and force them to return his (dead, I remind you) wife to him or he’ll destroy the village. Before Shang-Chi and Xialing can have a hushed conversation in the next room about nursing homes, he imprisons them. There, we get a little a ray of sunshine.

Ah Trevor. Always a pleasure.

Yes, T. Slatts is in the house. Turns out that the Ten Rings were so impressed with his Shakespearean monologues that Wenwu spared his life and he’s now his court jester.

He also has a hundun named Morris (a hundun being a legendary Chinese creature with four wings, two asses and no face) and he’s very relieved to learn that Shang-Chi and Katie can see Morris too (as he believed he was simply a hallucination brought on by too many lovely, lovely drugs).

Anyway, he helps them escape and they go to Ta Lo to warn the village that their father’s coming.

There they meet a shit ton of new characters, including Shang-Chi and Xialing’s aunt Ying Nan (played by a thoroughly wasted Michelle Yeoh) and she tells them that thousands of years ago Ta Lo was attacked by a demon named the Dweller in Darkness but they were saved by a dragon called the Great Protector who sealed the Dweller…

Stop. No. No. You cannot dump that much lore on us this late in the game. Either get Cate Blanchett to recite this over the opening credits or trim this shit.

Anyway, it turns out that Wenwu is being lured to Ta Lo not by his (very dead) wife but by the Dweller in Darkness. The Ten Rings attack and Ta Lo mounts a spirited defence, including Katie who is now lethal with a bow and arrow after a few days training.

And it was around here that I realised I’d completely checked out of the movie and couldn’t even remember why anyone was doing anything. I couldn’t even remember how I’d gotten here from that fun little martial arts flick I remembered watching so long ago. Ultimately, the movie’s biggest sin is failing to understand the appeal of its genre. This is supposed to be a combination wuxia/chopsocky flick, Crouching Tiger, Enter the Dragon if you like. And the main appeal of both those genres is a reliance on practical stunts and effects. No one wants to see Bruce Lee fight CGI opponents, and no one wants to see a martial arts film that devolves into airless, weightless computer generated sludge.

And my GOD but the CGI looks phoney.

Anyway, Wenwu succeeds in freeing the Dweller in Darkness and realises that his wife was not in fact an eighty foot long dragon and that he’s been played. Before the Dweller kills him, he gifts the ten rings to Shang-Chi who uses them to slay the beast and save the world.

Back in San Francisco, Shang-Chi and Katie relate this tale to Soo and her husband and are aghast when they don’t believe that these two valets were kidnapped by the one thousand year old immortal warlord and then saved the world by defeating a soul-eating dragon in an alternate dimension.

The soul sucking dragons were bad. But the brain sucking dragons were the worst of all.

This scene just left me agog. Why? Why do Katie and Shang-Chi think anyone would believe them? Why do they not realise how batshit insane they sound? Do they just not care.

Well, speaking of characters with no fucks left to give, Wong just straight up portals into the restaurant in full view of everyone (my, these jade post-Blip millenials) and whisks Katie and Shang-Chi away.

***

Well dang. That was…quite bad. There have been Marvel movies before that I found to be lacklustre or dull but never less than competent. Shang-Chi is not a good film. It starts out…”strong” is a strong word (obviously) but “pleasant”. Good martial arts action, fairly likeable characters. But I did not make the Frozen 2 comparison lightly and it really does suffer the same problems; character bloat and a mythology that is at once overly complicated and kinda samey and generic at the same time.

“This half billion gross says different.”
“Well everyone’s WRONG! AGAIN!”

Scoring

Adaptation: n/a

In the interests of fairness I have to abstain from giving a score. I haven’t read the original Shang-Chi run, or indeed anything featuring the character apart from a few guest appearances in other books.

Our Heroic Hero: 08/25

It’s truly maddening watching Shang-Chi morphing from a likeable, laid-back everyman protagonist to a weightless void at the centre of his own film.

Our Nefarious Villain: 09/25

I don’t get it. I don’t get the “greatest villain”/”greatest performance in the MCU” accolades. I just don’t get it.

Our Plucky Sidekicks: 14/25

Awkwafina carrying this whole damn thing right here.

The Stinger

Shang-Chi and Katie get taken to the Sanctum Santorum where Wong shows the Ten Rings to Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel. And then Shang-Chi, Katie and Wong go sing karaoke.

And the audience went…

The Second Stinger

We discover that Xialing has taken over her father’s murderous criminal empire, but that it’s fine because now it has women and it’s an equal opportunities murderous criminal empire.

And the audience went:

Are there X-Men yet?

Nope.

FINAL SCORE: 36%

NEXT UPDATE: 17 March 2022

NEXT TIME: For Saint Patrick’s Day, we’re going green…

21 comments

  1. Counterpoint: Nah, twas dope. I definitely have not been bewitched by Tony Leung’s smoulder. Probably.
    To be fair to Wong, who in this world gonna look at him and be like “this magic man is clearly the leader of an ancient of dimension protecting sorcerors, this changes my understanding of the known universe” and not just “YES GLOWY ORANGE CIRCLES MAN PUNCH THE GIANT FISH MAN WITH HIS OWN FIST. STOP HITTING YOURSELF GIANT FISH MAN.”
    Also, i like to think he’s Abomination’s Avenger-appointed sponsor, mostly because i picture Lionel Huttz calling David Crosby.
    “Hello, Wong? Banner is here and I’m really tempted to step on him.”
    “Just take it one day at a time, Emil. And know that I love you.”
    “I love you too, man.”

      1. “This scene just left me agog. Why? Why do Katie and Shang-Chi think anyone would believe them? Why do they not realise how batshit insane they sound? Do they just not care.”

        This is the marvel cinematic universe. The norse gods have been proven to be real. Sorcerers are fighting in the open. A billionaire made a robot capable of carrying human relationships. An alien erased half of all life in the universe for five years.

        It would be crazy not to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  2. Some points of disagreement, Mouse:

    1. Those aren’t bracelets, those are Hung Gar Rings. Designed to strengthen the arms and teach you not to overextend your reach.

    2. You don’t think Wong vs Abomination is fair? Well maybe you can come up with a better weight division for a veteran member of the mystic arts and gamma-mutated Russian/British soldier.

    3. Mysticism is 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘭𝘺 involved in Chinese culture and mythology. And it’s a prominent part of the Wuxia genre, from comedies like Kung Fu Hustle and Big Trouble in Little China, to period dramas like Crouching Tiger and House of Flying Daggers.

    4. By extension, CGI has been used to varying degrees by Wuxia in order to enhance the artistic experience and capture the fantastic influences that showed up even in the early novels.

    5. How dare you not talk about Tony Leung’s facial dialogue. Because the subtlety of that is why he’s such a compelling villain. When Shang Chi tries to throw him using that same Tai Chi move Ying Li used against him and he’s basically saying, “Are you really using your mother’s move against me you cocky little punk?” And when he resigns himself to the Dweller and hands the Rings to his son the last look he gives him is just, “Be better than what I did to you.”

  3. “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” actually marks my favorite thing I’ve seen from Phase 4 so far (compared to “WandaVision”, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” S1, and “What If?” S1); I even prefer it to the last few movies of Phase 3. I’ll admit admiring the third act more for its themes than its execution, but I came in expecting the movie to fumble at the third act; my earlier disappointments with the “WandaVision” and “Falcon” S1 finales reawakened my memories of lackluster third acts from other MCU movies. Honestly, the fact I at least like the themes helped it surpass my low expectations.

    I reviewed the movie in-depth after Disney+ posted it, though I don’t know if I can directly link to that review here.

      1. At the least, you can click my handle and scroll through my list of reviews (mostly for projects from and/or featuring Asian-American entertainers) to find it.

  4. Yep, gonna disagree with you on most of that, Mouse, I flat out loved this movie, basically my favorite after (wait for it) Doctor Strange and Endgame. I just really liked, well, everything in this film, and I’m sitting here wishing Tony Leung would be in more than one MCU movie. Thankfully, your next review should be one I can agree with you on, no matter how you rate it. Looking forward to it. Also, you getting back to a 2 week rhythm again?

  5. Huh, I actually thought all three of the movies in this movie were pretty strong, though the glue holding them together is clearly straining at times.

    Movie 1: stretch it to 90 minutes and add an indie soundtrack and you’ve got a fun coming of age comedy about the eternal question plaguing all 20-somethings: now what?

    Movie 2: pure badass action, exactly what a martial arts film in the MCU should be like (and hopefully what the sequels will resemble for the most part).

    Movie 3: Asian-inspired fantasy film, which is nice because it shows some mysticism and myth in the world outside of the Western Dr. Strange, and has some nice themes about an awful parent realizing what he’s been and accepting that his children are right to go their own way.

    I’ll agree with you that movies 1 and 2 are stronger, but 3 made the MCU feel more diverse and complex, and juggled the emotional stuff with the mandatory big action climax well. And I think the stinger was important because it showed that Shang-Chi wasn’t going to go all “I’m a big important hero now, time to become serious and boring”, but basically returns to being himself, just with superpowers. Makes me look forward to more of him.

  6. So. Now we come to it. The moment when we finally disagree on something (other than Ragnarok, but I’ll keep that to m’self). I’ve been reading you for years – alllll the way back to Snow White – while our kids grew up at about the same ages. Your take on these films has been a pleasure and a guide… but here, sir, here you have placed your whiskers in the wrong pie. You may be an excellent writer (and published, too – gratz) but I have a computer and an internet connection, so we’re obviously… something… anyway, nah bro Shang Chi was great.

    I agree with your initial assessment that the film is actually three films – or maybe it’s three acts? anyway – but I disagree most vehemently with your assertion that the third act is weak, or that Tony Leung isn’t doing a yeoman’s job of carrying his part of this film. The mystical-extended-wuxia-battle-an-ancient-evil section, to me, was fairly cleverly set up throughout the film. As I saw it, the story grows more magical as Shang Chi shakes off his “Shaun” persona and accepts his heritage. In the first act, the film is fairly grounded and Shaun’s a lovable loser-type. Act two strikes as Shaun reveals himself to not be a lazy never-try, but actually a kick-ass wuxia warrior on the run. Yes, there are some shots where physics has to turn its head and cough, but there’s also a dude with a sword for an arm so we’re taking some liberties anyway.

    In the final act, the film moves completely into “magical lost realm” territory as Shang Chi accepts who he is, and by extension who his family are. Yes, having Katie become an overnight awesome archer is a bit of a stretch, but it also really fits the theme that these two (her and Shang Chi) are incredibly capable and competent people who have just preferred to not apply themselves. He becomes a wuxia warrior by finally allowing himself to grow into that role, she actually decides to give something the ol’ college try and discovers that she’s dang good at it. A shout out to all the “former gifted kids”? I hope so!

    And finally, I would strongly and respectfully disagree with your take on Tony Leung’s Wenwu. Where (too) many superhero movie villains are presented as the “dark version” of the hero (Iron Monger, Whiplash, Red Skull, Abomination, Yellowjacket, Paste-Pot Pete), Wenwu is not really “Dark Shang Chi”, though he’s somebody that Shang Chi should be worried about becoming. Leung took a character that was fairly flat on the page and gave him, dare I say it, a soul. He’s not some reason-less megalomaniac, here to destroy the world because that what the script needs so the hero can stop him; he’s a man who began as a conqueror, grew bored and dispassionate with that life, and then fell in love. When he didn’t mean to. When it was a dashed inconvenience. And he’s just as blindsided by it as anyone. Wuxia has a long tradition of staging love scenes through fight scenes, and in this one, Tony Leung and Fala Chen put on a clinic. Every glance has meaning. Every hold lasts a little too long. By the end of it, they’re not fighting, they’re communicating, and it is frankly gorgeous. Without a single line of dialogue between the two, you buy that they’ve just clicked – those two crazy kids could make it work! And that’s what sells Wenwu’s descent into madness – this wasn’t some Highlander-style “Immortal-Falls-In-Love-With-Somebody-And-They-Die-And-The-Immortal’s-Really-Sad-Now” plot, their whole relationship meant everything to Wenwu and her death breaks him. He had no love before her and he will accept no love after her. That’s why he’s willing to listen to the Dweller. That’s why he’s willing to threaten his kids – who he obviously genuinely cares for – just for a chance to get Ying Li back. And when he realizes how badly he’s been duped, he gives everything up to give his son a chance to survive.

    Does the third act fit tonally with the rest of the film? I would argue that it does, given how more magic is opened up to Shang Chi the more he accepts who he is and who he can become. The CG’s a bit much, but I wouldn’t agree that it’s bad; everything’s in motion so much that the smoky nature of the Dweller and its spawn never really bothered me. To each their own.

    Finally, I definitely saw the Wong/Abomination scene as a sponsor/addict relationship. With punching. And of course Wong’s not keeping things down-low any more! Hong Kong was destroyed and re-made! Thanos killed half of everybody, and then they came back! People’s weirdness censors are set real, real low right now in the Marvel universe. Oh you saw a wizard? Cool, I saw a dude cut a bus in half with a sword arm. Nah, not in person, a dude was live-streaming it, lemme shoot you the link. Oh, yeah, wizard-dude’s fighting not-the-hulk on the fight livestream later, you want to come over and watch? I’m just saying, Marvel’s human populace has to be getting a little blase these days.

    If anyone knows about immortal sorcerers hanging out and doing petty things… come on, Mouse, I’m a little disappointed over here. What would Walt think?

  7. I’m with you on this one, Mouse. I remember liking this movie fine enough up to when they get to the secret village, then mostly checking out afterwards. I’m very surprised that I found an big fight scene with dragons boring.

  8. One major problem I had with this was that they hid so much of the lead character in backstory that got told to us; the likeable performance really has nothing to work with, because the entire character is hiding. By the time he’s actually approaching interesting, we’re just about to start on the lame CGI final battle. We should have learned the vast majority of his backstory in act one. It’s a likeable performance in search of an actual character; I don’t think any MCU origin story has left me distinctly *uninterested* in seeing more of the character, shy of tagging along as Awkwafina’s sidekick I guess.

    This isn’t quite at the bottom of my MCU rankings – definitely better than Black Widow – but similarly, even with the issues with the main character, I was quite enoying the first 45 minutes or so a lot more than the fantasy stuff, which feels half-assed, confused, and undercooked.

  9. Between coronavirus, not having Disney Plus because Third World, and my lacking any experience whatsoever with the character, I haven’t watched this movie. Nothing about it called my attention, Crouching Dragon Flying Tiger and its ilk just bore me (I should point out that I do love ‘smaller scale’ Asian fighting flicks, the Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan and related stuff), and this review sounds like it checks with what I’d expect from it, so no interest on watching it now either.

    I mean, it’s kinda nice to find out what happened to Abomination after like half a decade, but dude, seriously, you belong to another movie ganging up on Hulk with, I don’t know, Bi-Beast and ZZazzxx, not in the middle of a martial arts movie where you’re completely superfluous.

    I kinda don’t get all the raving, that is, for all I know it’s correct but it seems so overblown to me.

    “that they will desecrate their own properties and literally collaborate with a genocidal regime just for a chance of making some cold hard yuan”

    Not a fan of Mulan 2020 either, huh. Nice. Very nice!

  10. My wife and I really liked Shang Chi. We’re admittedly a little biased because we both loved Simu Liu from Kim’s Convenience AND my wife is Chinese so this was a big deal for her. We were both pleasantly surprised at how much Mandarin was spoken in this movie. My wife’s home province of Hunan even got a shout out, Katie’s grandmother or mom says something like “We didn’t come all the way from Hunan for this” which we got a kick out of. Last third definitely did drag quite a bit though and you’re absolutely right that some of the CGI was not great. I’m certainly looking forward to where they take the character from here.

  11. Well I guess I have to say too that you didn’t get it, Wenwu is amazing and like a main character of this story. I guess from the start that what you rather wanted was Dracula/Moriarty type villain but that’s not what is here, menacing villain could have been great too but what we have here is why I liked the movie. Movie 3 (alongside the opening that’s part of it) as you put it the only one I cared about (although the final battle went on for too long and too much CGI). Loved Trevor and Awkwafina too. Although with her I really don’t know how she is going to fit to a sequel like they build up. She just shoots arrows and was the comedic relief and our eyes to the world because someone needed to be explained. She can still do comedy later on but the eyes to the world element will be gone and arrows isn’t something we need when there are now two Hawkeyes too. Also, I guess they wanted there to be male/female friendships or something but would it not just make more sense that she and Shang-Chi were a couple? And you know, a happy couple, no drama maybe a bit like Nick and Nora Charles dynamic? But I guess there can’t be couples unless the story is over!

    The problem with the movie was Shang-Chi. I guess Liu can do some action but he wasn’t very special with acting and the character and his story wasn’t that interesting. In Black Panther T’Challa was least interesting thing about the movie but since we already knew him it worked better, and Boseman made the character more work.

    Last, maybe this is not something important but I really didn’t understand the character was supposed to be mid 20s since the actor looked like a decade older than me. Well he wasn’t a decade older but not far off. Honestly you can’t have that much age difference between an actor and character without it feeling weird. It’s like Dear Even Hansen. Although I guess others only care if the character is meant to be a teen and the actor can’t pull it off?

    I liked the movie overall but it was flawed and I am worried where this can to that will work in a sequel.

  12. This movie’s interest level progresses similar to the song they use during the bus fight, “Run It;” where it starts off super cool and fresh and then just becomes generic boring Epic Orchestral pablum you hear everywhere in the final stretch.

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