Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings -B+
Rated PG-13, 133 minutes
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is its latest Marvel superhero entry in its next tier of films, and while a bit over-the-top, is probably the most fun since Iron Man was still alive. It's essentially "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" meets Captain America with some flashes of "The Lord of the Rings." In other words, this crowd-pleasing film is also highly entertaining, easily accessible and should provide Marvel with another big hit.
Shang-Chi ("Kim's Convenience's" Simu Liu, great here), a young assassin who started his life over, along with friend Katy ("The Farewell's" Awkafina, charming as ever) must confront the past and his mysterious father Wenwu (Tony Leung) he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
The likable "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is considerable fun, though it occasionally gets bogged down in its own backstory and an overly busy finale. It's directed by "Just Mercy's" Destin Daniel Cretton and co-written by Cretton and "Wonder Woman 1984's" Dave Callaham, yet most benefits from its strong cast: newcomer Liu in the lead as Shang-Chi, and unsurprisingly, comedian Awkafina, who comes close to stealing the film with her one-liners and deadpan delivery ("You go into hiding and changed your named from Shang to Shawn? No wonder your Dad found you," she quips) in a star-making part that solidifies her talent seen in "The Farewell."
Add in Leung as the good-bad father, an original character known as The Mandarin and not found in the comics, and veteran Michelle Yeoh, who was indeed in the aforementioned "Crouching Tiger" and it becomes a highly watchable fantasy tale, which is both a strength and weakness here. The script leans heavily, probably a little too much so, especially in the last act, into Chinese fantasy and folklore, some of which seems a little silly even for a superhero story; it also occasionally stumbles with an excess of jumpy flashbacks.
Even with its flaws, there's still a lot to enjoy about "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:” its charming cast, its first-rate visuals, expertly choreographed fight scenes and some moments of genuine, heartfelt humor. It should fit nicely into the Marvel narrative going forward, evidenced by the two brief stinger scenes over the credits - yes you'll have to endure all of the credits to see them both - but for Marvel fans it may be worth it. Add this fun, late summer entry to your list to see.