Saturday, October 2, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Movie Name:
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Year of Release: 2021
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Meng'er Zhang, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Fala Chen, Wah Yuen, Stephanie Hsu, Jodi Long, Kunal Dudheker
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Another Marvel films release, this time around coming from director Destin Daniel Cretton, who made a name for himself with the wonderful "Short Term 12". This time around the story focuses on a young man by the name of Shaun, who works in San Francisco, alongside his best friend Katy, as valet parkers for a luxury hotel. When they are attacked by a group of very skilled martial arts experts, Shaun successfully fights them off, and eventually reveals to Katy that his name is actually Shang-Chi. He also reveals that his father is and has been for centuries, the leader of a criminal organization, all thanks to these mystical Ten Rings, which give him enhanced powers and eternal life. They go to Macao to warn his sister that she's possibly also a target of their father's organization, but the person he finds is quite different than the one he originally left behind. They're all captured, and they soon face their father, who warns them of his intent. He wants to travel to the hidden location where their mother is originally from, and free her from a supposed lockdown, even though she has been dead for years. Shang-Chi, Katy and Xialing escape their father's grip and go in search of the magical village, in order to warn them of what and who is coming for them. 
Shang-Chi has always been an interesting character in the Marvel cannon, having made its debut in 1973, and since then has had a very colorful path and even crossovers with other characters from the Marvel Universe. This film version modernizes his adventures to the 21st century, and infuses the story with some colorful mysticism and cultural elements that make it all the more interesting and distinct. Watching the film I personally couldn't help think what someone such as Stephen Chow would have done with this property, but as it is, Destin Cretton follows a rather formulaic origin story, of introducing the background of the central character, and his journey of awakening, only this time around partnered with a female wisecrack best friend. The film keeps its momentum and rhythm going, though for the most part the supporting characters are once again barely defined, the same thing going for the villainous father figure, who isn't so villainous after all. While this heritage and cultural significance aspects could have been at the core of the story, they become more of a detail, and instead some dark (digitally created) entities emerge as the villains of the story, once again without much to speak of in terms of character existence or relevance for that matter. While these dark digital creatures once again make for a lackluster foe, the film for the most part manages to keep itself engaged and entertaining. The cast is serviceable, but highlights should go to Tony Leung and Michelle Leoh, both of whom bring a regal and tranquil aspect to their roles, whereas the always fantastic Ben Kingsley is a wonderful humorist force. The production team is impeccable, with great cinematography from Bill Pope, production design from Sue Chan and score from Joel P West. While formulaic, the film has enough humor and momentum to keep itself engaging.