Marvel’s newest hero arrives in theaters on September 3, and he’s “magnetic,” critics say.
Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which hits theaters this Friday exclusively, centers on Shang-Chi, a swanky hotel clerk, who goes past Shaun, an Americanized version of his name. . He is the son of Wenwu, an ancient conqueror, crime boss and bearer of the legendary 10 rings.
After the death of his mother, a teenage Shang-Chi left his childhood home and remained estranged from his father for years. Now, as an adult, he is forced to face his past and his father.
With a 91% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 105 reviews, those who’ve seen cutting edge screenings of Disney’s latest comic book movie call it a “pure crowd pleaser. Full stop.”
“At one point during one of the best chase sequences in San Francisco cinematic history, ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ makes at least one thing gloriously clear: today you get your money’s worth at the cinema,” it wrote. Peter Hartlaub in his review of the film for the San Francisco Chronicle.
In addition to action-packed fight scenes and fun one-liners that have become an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Shang-Chi” explores the clash between East and West – traditional and modern – on a large, explosive scale.
Critics largely praised the film’s cast, with Tony Leung making a standout as the mean-but-charming Wenwu. Simu Liu, the titular Shang-Chi, is “magnetic” during the action sequences, and Awkwafina stars as his quick-talking, wise-cracking best friend Katy.
“Shang-Chi” will be the first Marvel film to be released exclusively in theaters since the Covid pandemic shut down cinema operations in March 2020. Industry analysts are eager to see how the film performs over its opening weekend and whether positive reviews and word of mouth will give it lasting strength at the box office.
Here’s what critics thought of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” ahead of its September 3 debut in theaters:
Katie Rife, AV Club
Critics praised “Shang-Chi” for its elaborate stunt and fight scenes, which were taken from classic martial arts films.
“In some ways, ‘Shang-Chi’ is a mixtape of martial arts film genres: an early scene pays tribute to Zhang Yimou’s balletic graceful films, while a dramatic bus chase later reflects the folly of an early Jackie Chan vehicle,” wrote Katie Rife. in her review for AV Club.
Many have pointed to an early scene in the film of Shang-Chi fighting various enemies on a crowded bus as a prime example of these influences.
Still, Marvel seems to pack a punch, Rife wrote.
“‘Shang-Chi’ insists on interrupting or burying the stunt work — spearheaded by Chan protégé Brad Allan, who died tragically earlier this month — with mountains of blatant CGI,” she said.
Read the full AV Club review.
Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter
“It won’t be long before ‘Shang-Chi’ resigns,” Angie Han wrote in her review of the film for The Hollywood Reporter.
The film begins in China with narration and dialogue entirely in Mandarin with subtitles. It’s not until the movie jumps in time to San Francisco for a few minutes that even a single word of English is spoken.
“Even in 2021, when subtitles are hardly an exotic experience for most moviegoers, choosing to use them in the opening scenes of an American blockbuster sends a message,” she wrote.
Han noted that with its magical forests and mysterious ancient artifacts, there are times when “Shang-Chi” “barely feels like a superhero movie.” And that’s a good thing.
Still, the film is full of Marvel tropes, including funny, self-mockery, which Han says brings the characters back to Earth, but also robs the film of “some of its wonder”.
Read the full review from The Hollywood Reporter.
Shirley Li, The Atlantic Ocean
The most prominent part of almost every review on Rotten Tomatoes is Tony Leung. One of Asia’s biggest movie stars, this is Leung’s first Hollywood movie – and it steals the show.
Wenwu is the antagonist of ‘Shang-Chi’, but he is more of an antihero than a villain. The 10 rings made him immortal and love made him give up his powers. However, the loss of his wife sends him into a deep spiral of grief.
Rooting Wenwu’s motives in heartbreak rather than in domination, destruction or revenge feels unique to a Marvel film: Shang-Chi’s central conflict goes beyond the classic of good versus evil, and well beyond the ease of a son who arguing with his father,” Shirley Li wrote in her review for The Atlantic.
The film may be called ‘Shang-Chi’, but for Li this is, as other critics claim, Wenwu and Leung’s film.
“He’s not just the star of the film’s opening — in his hands, Wenwu’s destruction catalyzes the action and permeates every frame, turning the film into tragedy,” she wrote. “He becomes the character everyone else revolves around, whether he’s in the scene or not. After all, that’s how sadness works; it shines. And Leung’s performance, like so many in his career, lingers long after the credits.”
Read the full review from The Atlantic.
Brian Truitt, USA Today
However, “Shang-Chi’s” lead is not without its own charm.
Simu Liu, most famous for his portrayal of Jung in the Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience,” may be a relative unknown in America, but he “is simply a joy to watch,” wrote Brian Truitt in his review of “Shang -Chi.”
“He’s the MCU’s most important and infectious rookie since the late Chadwick Boseman with the same appeal as Chris Evans,” he wrote.
Truitt said Liu has a “subtle charm” that keeps audiences engaged with the film, even as magical creatures and supernatural artifacts take it into the realm of the fantastic.
“Robert Downey Jr. and his main man Tony Stark are no longer in the Marvel movies,” Truitt wrote. “Fortunately, they have found a suitable successor in the unfairly charismatic Simu Liu and his dragon-riding, powerful alter ego.”
Read the full USA Today review.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.