Shang-chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Review

So I’m starting to realise it’s me.

When Black Widow came out I was like “eh”. I liked the movie but I wasn’t excited like I had been before with the MCU. When the trailer for Shang-chi dropped I was like “okay…”. Yet again not excited. Then the release of Shang-chi came and went and, unlike other movies I’ve been locked down for, my FOMO was really lacking.

After having seen the film I can really see that the problem isn’t totally Marvel, the problem is mostly me. Because Shang-chi is good. Really, it’s as good as any other Marvel movie. It’s coherent (or as coherent as the leaps in logic and reality allow) and it was executed incredibly well.

Sitting in the cinema, though, for the first time since August 5th I just wasn’t as excited as I was last year when I finally got to see Tenet. I wasn’t jittery and there was a depressing lack of butterflies in the old stomach.

I think I’m old. I just turned 30, I keep waking up really early, my bodily movements have become like clockwork, and now I’m just not as excited by blockbuster filmmaking. At least to a point.

I am incredibly excited for Dune. Can’t ever wait for the next Nolan or Snyder film. I’m also fairly excited for the upcoming DC slate. But when it comes to Disney’s, by extension Marvel’s, slate I’m just not as pumped up.

I used to really appreciate mindless entertainment. If I was engaged enough and having fun then the movie was a success. Now though, I want to see a director’s voice in the piece. I still like being entertained but I also want just a little bit more.

Shang-chi is perfectly serviceable but it has no edge. It doesn’t feel unique in terms of presentation. Though in terms of story and casting it’s very forward thinking. A mainstream movie with an Asian cast and story. Credit right there.

And at least if that’s the only thing Shang-chi delivers that’s unique then that’s enough. A generation of kids seeing heroes that look like them is a very good thing. I can certainly appreciate that even if Marvel feels stale they’re definitely diversifying.

It should also be said that this film kicks some big goals when it comes to female characters. Shang-chi avoids damsels and helpless women. Instead it has female characters that are either highly competent or willing to put in the hard work to make themselves useful in the crazy situations.

Marvel is tweaking all the things they’ve gotten wrong in the past. They’re looking to other cultures and genders. Fantastic. Unfortunately the storytelling remains the same and it’s going from serialised ‘art’ to a seriealised ‘product’ in my eyes.

I know many people have felt that the MCU was always this way. I disagree wholly with that though. Getting to The Avengers was a battle. That success lead to Endgame which was more than anyone thought possible. Endgame felt like a conclusion but now the MCU is still going.

Marvel is going to have to justify the existence of the MCU soon or more people will grow cold. Diversifying is a great way to grow the brand. But what brought people in the first place was how unique the MCU was. They need to recapture that.

A serviceable entry into the MCU:

★★★

Also why the hell was DP Bill Pope credited as William Pope? Weird.

By Benjamin Boekelaar