Shang-Chi Shines Despite Typical Marvel Shortcomings


Now to start off, I have been to the movie theaters multiple times since the pandemic started. Just like always, I got my drink and my popcorn and then went into the theater. One thing that was noticeably different: the vibe of the screening. I did see this movie on opening night which is typically packed with people eager to get an advance screening of the movie. In the screening of the movie I would say that it was maybe half full. Typically in a Marvel movie, you can feel the hype from the crowd as you go to your seat, but with this movie the excitement just wasn’t there. Now this is no fault of the movie as it’s an incredibly fun action packed adventure, but COVID-19 in general sets a tone of misery in a large crowd and it almost feels illegal to have fun. Did I miss the large cheers and applause from the audience when something exciting happened or a fan favorite character comes on screen? Sure, but at the same time it allowed me to experience the movie as a separate entity and a more self-contained story from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Shang-Chi feels disconnected from the larger Marvel picture, which is not a bad thing. Outside of a few cameo appearances and a few throw away lines mentioning previous events in the Marvel Universe it stands on its own. In Shang-Chi, director Destin Daniel Cretton explores a side of  this universe that has never been explored before. Cretton goes into detail about the mythologies of two different nations, the Ten Ring Organization and the mythical village of Ta Lo. Shang-Chi, played brilliantly here by Simu Liu, is born to both of these cultures, and is torn between the two. Shang Chi ultimately decides to leave both of them behind, including leaving his sister, and heads to San Francisco to start a new life. Shang-Chi, who now goes by Shaun, lives a normal life with Katy, played here by Awkwafina, until his father, played by Tony Leung, uproots his life and forces him to confront his tragic past. 

Tony Leung particularly shines here and joins the very short list of good Marvel villains. This movie is also carried by its fight scenes. One of the many criticisms Marvel movies face is the over reliance on CGI, but Shang-Chi fixes this problem for the most part by having more hand-to-hand combat instead of two CGI creatures bashing into each other like a Transformers movie. The best and most impressive fight sequence happened early on in the movie, which took the crew over a month to coordinate. However, the final fight in the movie involves two CGI creatures fighting each other which on a visual level looks impressive, but on an emotional level falls flat. 

Another trap that most other Marvel movies fall into is having lackluster humour. Shang-Chi fits right into this one as well. I found most of Awkwafina’s attempts at humor to fall flat. She reminded me of Darcy Lewis in the first two Thor movies, where she would interrupt the pace of the movie to tell lame jokes. She also seemed largely useless in that movie, Awkwafina on the other hand does serve a point, she’s just not very funny.

Outside of the few road bumps towards the end, this movie is overall really solid and an enjoyable ride throughout. Since this movie is pretty self-contained and you don’t need to see all 24 Marvel movies before this, I recommend this movie to both non Marvel fans and Marvel fans alike. Overall if I had to give this movie a rating I would give it a very solid seven out of ten.