Film Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Also known as: Steamboat (working title)
Release Date: August 16th, 2021 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Written by: Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
Based on: Marvel Comics
Music by: Joel P. West
Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, Tony Leung, Tim Roth (voice, uncredited), Mark Ruffalo, Brie Larson

Fox Studios Australia, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“I was hired to play a terrorist. And then turns out they were actually terrorists, the producer got blown up by Iron Man, and I was arrested!” – Trevor Slattery

So this is now the third Marvel movie that I haven’t seen in the theater following Captain Marvel and Black Widow. And like with those other two, I’m glad I didn’t waste money on this because it’s a so far below where the MCU was at its peak that it’s almost sad to see where it’s all going now.

To start, I thought Simu Liu was fine as the title character and I like Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung and Ben Kingsley in pretty much everything but I’ve never seen someone suck the fucking air out of the room like awkward ass Awkwafina.

Christ, man… she’s the worst actress I’ve seen sine Rob Zombie’s wife. I also heard she’s a comedian but every joke this “Asian Jeff Gordon” threw at us, landed flatter than steamrolled pancake. She just wrecks nearly every scene she is in and she is in most of them. The fact that she sounds like an 82 year-old woman is also really distracting. But let me not just single her out because she’s not the only negative thing in this picture.

To start, I get that this story centers around China but the use of subtitles to open the film with all the fantastical backstory, wasn’t necessary. This is an American movie and Marvel shit is heavily geared towards kids. Five year-old Timmy ain’t reading that shit and no one in the theater wants to listen to his mom trying to audibly read it out loud to him and the dozen other kids. But Disney obviously did this to pander to China, who didn’t even want this movie because it was “offensive”, starred an “ugly” lead from their perspective, and was obvious pandering. It nearly wasn’t released but once it was, it didn’t do well there and Disney, as is becoming the norm lately, were left with egg on their face.

The film also suffers from trying way too hard to be cool. It starts with the shitty rap music used to introduce the main character, which just plays as a cheap attempt at old Disney execs trying to come off as hip. Then there is the friends hanging out in San Francisco sequence, which comes off as cringe CW teen drama bullshit. Then it just continues to try and double down on modern urban music over a traditional score… well, at least for the first half because the second half is almost a different movie altogether.

Getting back to pandering, the film tries to do it with the woke crowd but also fails in that regard. One thing that really sticks out is when Shang-Chi’s sister talks about how her dad wouldn’t let her train with the men, so she watched them and taught herself better. Then, in the next scene, she grabs her dad’s shoulder and gets taken down in one fucking move. It was embarrassing (see for yourself).

So then we meet Ben Kingsley, the fake Mandarin from Iron Man 3, and the second half of the movie starts, which goes from urban kung fu flick to fantastical, mythological kung fu flick. I like the second half better and thought that the film started to pull something worthwhile together before it decided to shit all over itself, again.

To get to fantasy China, though, they had to take an ancient passageway through a magical forest. However, they had to use a BMW, in what felt like a blatant advert, to move fast enough to “stay in the pocket” of trees opening a rapidly moving, little clearing. If they didn’t stay in the pocket, the trees would’ve apparently ate them. What’s really baffling about this and, as we’ve seen with The Rise of Skywalker, Disney doesn’t expect its audience to think about the details. But we’re not all as fucktarded as the “creatives” at Disney. If we were, we might not think that this is really stupid because BMWs didn’t exist in ancient China and horses wouldn’t have moved fast enough to “stay in the pocket”. But whatever, just watch the movie like a brainless consumer.

Once we get to fantasy China, we get lots of fancy CGI creatures that look cool but also make the film kind of overly fantastical and cartoony, after we just spent an hour watching a generic Iron Fist episode set in a realistic, urban atmosphere. It’s kind of jarring to the senses but it’s also where this story begins to find its own unique space within the larger MCU.

We meet Shang-Chi’s aunt, Awkwafina makes more bad jokes, Ben Kingsley is just there, and they all start training for the big showdown with Shang’s evil dad, who should’ve just been the real Mandarin operating in the shadows but he’s instead just a generic Asian crime lord with fancy bracelets called the “Ten Rings” but unlike the comic, aren’t actually rings, they’re bracelets.

Anyway, Shang-Chi’s official superhero costume looks like some club shirt he bought on Etsy for $65 that will fall apart after one rave. His sister’s outfit is about the same, and everything just sort of looks generic and like a Canadian television production.

The fight breaks out, it’s alright but eventually we get a big battle between two large ass dragons. So the movie has two dragons in it but neither of them are Fin Fang Foom?! Fuck you, Disney. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

So one dragon is basically Falcor from The NeverEnding Story with red streaks down its body and the other is just some generic, multi-armed abomination of a dragon that looks like it was designed by my nephew Max, who is repeating third grade this year.

The good guys win and Wong from Doctor Strange shows up to introduce them to Captain Marvel and Hulk, who is back to being Banner with no explanation, and they discover that the Ten Rings, now in Shang’s possession, are sending out some beacon. Whatever. I don’t care about the future of the MCU anymore.

All in all, I thought this was okay. It’s better than Black Widow and Captain Marvel but it’s definitely a bottom five MCU movie. It probably would’ve been better if Awkwafina was nowhere near this thing and if the writers actually read a comic book before “adapting” this character and this pocket of the Marvel universe.

Rating: 5.5/10