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23rd Aug 2021

Shang-Chi review: The best action scenes in a Marvel movie to date

Rory Cashin

Marvel’s next big blockbuster arrives in Irish cinemas next week.

After the mild disappointment of Black Widow, which absolutely felt like the first disposable and inconsequential entry within the MCU to date, it brings us great pleasure that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings definitely feels like a course correction.

Sure, some of the same Marvel issues raise their head throughout – particularly during the CGI onslaught of the finale – but before that point, we cover what feels like a lot of new ground, with new characters we actually like spending time with.

It is definitely a better introduction movie than Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and Ant-Man, while some other MCU new additions actually arrived in other people’s movies (Black Panther and Spider-Man both first appeared in Captain America: Civil War), which by default makes this Marvel’s best getting-to-know-you movie since 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

We’re introduced to Shang-Chi (Simu Liu, very likeable) and discover he is the runaway son of immortal warlord, Wenwu (Tony Leung), who is the actual leader of the Ten Rings organisation, as well as possessing the magical ten rings, giving him access to untold power.

After a decade of living a quiet life in San Francisco with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina, doubling as the audience surrogate for the impending madness), he is drawn out of hiding by a letter from his long lost sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and together they head back to their father’s compound for a long overdue family reunion.

The further into the weeds we get into the plot, it somehow manages to get both more complicated and less interesting, dealing with long lost mothers, secret portals to monster-filled worlds, and the sudden appearance of an Iron Man alumni. Yes, we know it all sounds very interesting, and while none of it is bad, it never really lives up to the potential of its own description.

Instead, thanks to the charming nature of the actors, we’re won over during the movie’s dips, and then properly thrilled during the movie’s peaks. And oh boy, those peaks. There is a scene – already alluded to in the trailer – where Shang-Chi is fighting a group of henchmen on a speeding bus, and it is arguably the single greatest action sequence in Marvel’s movie history.

Another big set-piece, involving a construction site on the outside of a huge skyscraper, runs a close second. The action calls to mind some great Asian cinema like Jackie Chan, John Woo (the single-takes!) and Dragonball Z, not to mention closer-to-home influences like Skyfall, Speed and The Matrix.

It is a shame that the climax can’t match it; while it doesn’t devolve into the usual superhero cliche of big blue space lasers, or our hero basically fighting a bigger, more-evil version of himself, it is a never-ending tsunami of CGI that pales next to the very-real-feeling fight scenes earlier in the movie.

But now that we’ve got the introduction out of the way, we’re 100% on board for whatever Marvel decides to do with Shang-Chi next. They’ve learned some lessons and broken some bad habits along the way, so fingers crossed his next adventure will continue on that same path.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday, 3 September.

Clips via Disney Ireland

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