Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Words: Shane Ramdhany

Shane Ramdhany is the lead writer for Revamp: The Inner Screen.  

The rhythmic, authentic, and beautiful Shang Chi is Marvel’s latest glorious outing that is a juggernaut filled with both scale and emotion.  Destin Daniel Cretton’s adept direction has yielded seamless transition between feeling, wonder, and suspense.  He wields character and choreography with a sleight of hand as if he possesses the very rings of his storytelling.

The film briskly moves us through its backstory, constructing a foundation that not only serves to provide a rich mythology, but also cements themes of family and redemption.  Simu Liu is worthy of embrace almost immediately upon his on-screen portrayal of the film’s protagonist. He exudes an earnest persona that is flawed, yet determined to protect those closest to his heart.  His father, portrayed by Tony Chiu-Wai Leung is diametrically opposed to Shang but evolves beyond a superficial antagonist.  The story hones in on the internal conflict between father and son that is elicited by each of their convictions that inevitably escalates as the film progresses.  Meng’er Zhang, who portrays our lead’s sister, has also firmly placed her role in this conflict, with many moments where she depicts emotion and physical skill with great efficacy.  Her sequences offer emotional and thrilling moments that stimulate all our senses. Awkwafina’s character serves as uneven comic relief that doesn’t always feel necessary.  However, it is her sincerity brought to this role that effectively mitigates its ambiguity.  

Cinematography is provided a role in this film’s storytelling, expunging any sense of a flaccid backdrop and ultimately dazzles the viewer for the duration of its 2 hour journey.  Each set piece is designed not only to capture the beauty of Asian culture, but also serves to enhance both intimate and thrilling moments through brilliant visual auras and vibrant color.  This film’s setting epitomizes the notion of ecology playing as important a role as any of its leads.  Choreography also grips the viewer, yanking them from its intimate moments of warm dialogue and casts them into sequences infused with slick, white-knuckle style.  We are given an ample helping of action that is consistently presented with such precision that it is never unwelcome.  This is attributed to each character’s distinct visual style, resulting in action-filled moments with unique personality.  

All these pieces conceptualize a cinematic treat that has considered every demographic.  There is something for everyone here.  As a result, we are left with Marvel’s freshest film in years.  It tells a new story, depicting a new culture to the Marvel franchise, allowing diversity to thrive in its cinematic universe much like Black Panther.  While it can’t help but follow some familiar formulas including a Marvel-themed crescendo of an epic scale battle, it nonetheless achieves grandeur as a gorgeous, original film further evolving the standard of the superhero genre.

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