Shang-Chi: generic but enjoyable superhero flick

Simu Liu as Shang Chi
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Shang-Chi has some good moments, but could have been more interesting if it had given the director more room to be creative. Review by Taran Pannu.
Shang-Chi: generic but enjoyable superhero flick

Marvel continues to pursue their current trend of recruiting indie filmmakers by placing Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle) at the helm of its recent addition to the universe, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Sadly, the movie suffers from an abundance of all too familiar tropes, removing any possibility of injecting the franchise with the director’s unique style.

Shang-Chi follows the titular character, martial arts master Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), as he confronts the past he thought he had left behind. Having been brought up with connections to the mysterious Ten Rings organisation, Shang-Chi must confront his father and the group to prevent them from unleashing a being that had been trapped behind a seal for centuries. 

Liu perfectly suits the role of Shang-Chi, but the film fails to balance the development of his character with that of the villain.

Legendary Chinese actor Tony Leung makes his English language debut as Wenwu, a far more compelling and intriguing character than his son. Leung provides a refreshing performance as a man acting from a place of love rather than a desire to destroy the world.

Shang-Chi: generic but enjoyable superhero flick
Tony Leung as Wenwu.

The supporting cast do the best they can with what they are given, but a lacklustre script and minimal screen time limit what they can add to the film.

Awkwafina stars as Shang Chi’s friend Katy, but is given little to do during the movie until a rushed attempt at an arc during the third act. Shang Chi’s sister Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), has a far more interesting storyline than the main character, but lacks the screen time to properly be explored.

The film is a stereotypical origin tale, setting up the character without giving him a compelling arc. Shang-Chi’s strongest scenes are intimate ones between Wenwu and his wife Leiko, but these are too far and few as the movie soon trades these scenes for large scale battle sequences.

Shang-Chi does set up some intriguing questions for the future of the universe, but it is a shame that the film itself is a simple and average origin tale. Overall, it could have reached greater heights if Cretton had been allowed to have more creative input to steer Marvel in a new direction. 

Regardless, it is great to see that Marvel is seeking out and recognising talent from abroad, allowing great actors to make their English feature film debuts in lead roles.