Sheng-Chi is escapism at its finest. Even though the story is fascinatingly familiar, it sucks you in immediately with its lore, complex villain, and endearingly likeable main characters. It’s as if art has come to life, thanks to the brilliant fight choreography, which compliments the dazzling cinematography. While it likely won’t achieve the impact that Black Panther had, it certainly packs a punch, leaves a lasting impression, and does the Asian community justice. 

Sheng-Chi (Simu Liu), went from being a master of unarmed kung-fu, capable of just about anything that you can imagine. To being a valet based out of San Francisco, parking fancy people’s cars, while occasionally going for mini-test drives with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). After putting in a considerable effort to leave the past behind, a surprise encounter happens while he is riding the bus. Now, Sheng-Chi is forced to confront his dark, yet exciting past he hoped would remain a faded memory, after being drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. 

Awful trailer, amazing movie

I am going to be honest with all of you, the first time I saw the trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, I wasn’t impressed. Yet another person had these incredible skills and secret life that they weren’t aware of. I rolled my eyes at this because I simply cannot fathom forgetting all of these fight skills that were instilled in you at a young age, or even your past life, which clearly has an impression on you. I can understand if you self medicate to help you forget. However, Sahng-Chi clearly wasn’t about that, so I wasn’t really buying into what I initially saw. This was the impression I got when I watched the trailer for the first time. Fast-forward to the movie’s premiere. The early reactions were very positive and mentioned the trailer not doing the movie justice. After reading this, I decided to try the new VIP cinema that just opened up where I live and go see Sheng-Chi on opening weekend. After scarfing down some surprisingly incredible food, I reclined my comfy chair and watched the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the second post-credit scene wrapped up, I had the biggest smile on my face. Sheng-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings exceeded my expectations and was an absolutely delightful experience to watch in the cinema. 

Valet by day, kung-Fu karaoke master by night

Sheng-Chi wanted to blend in with his American friends, so he creatively changed his name to wait for it…Shawn. This hilariously horrible name change is an excellent example of the humour that is showcased in this film. Awkwafina’s comedic timing is on point and she is hilarious as usual. However, a surprise character from another MCU movie shows up and actually steals the show when it comes to comedy. I wasn’t expecting an appearance from this character and after the initial greeting, I was glad they were included in the movie. One thing a lot of movies in the MCU fail at is owning up to their more dramatic moments. Whenever something serious happens, they immediately lighten the mood with a job, which undercuts the drama drastically. I am pleased to say that Sheng-Chi didn’t sacrifice drama for humour. They found a way to balance that pretty well, giving both Simu Liu and Awkwafina the chance to show off their dramatic chops. Especially since they are more well known for their previous funny roles. 

Shawn and Katy are instantly relatable because they are 2 best friends who possess enormous potential and intelligence, but, like so many of us, they just don’t know what they want to do in life. Rather than chase a career, they would rather park cars and instead of turning in early, hit up a karaoke club and sing the night away. The characterization of Katy and Shawn was something special and showcased the infectious chemistry between them. Simu Liu has never had a role of this calibur before and his performance was amazing both from a mental and physical perspective. 

Crouching Sheng-Chi, hidden Mandarin

Simu Liu immediately impressed me in the first major action set-piece in Sheng-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It takes place on a bus and it seamlessly blends special effects with some stunning fight choreography. Growing up, Jackie Chan was one of my favorite actors. Movies like Rumble in the Bronx, The Drunken Master, Who Am I, and even Rush Hour perfectly represent just how talented he is and how much work went into those fight scenes. Sheng-Chi’s epic battle sequences reminded me of Jackie Chan movies, along with other classics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The House of Flying Daggers, and Seven Samurai. I especially love the scene between Tony Leung and Fala Chen, which resembled dancing and was paired with a gorgeous nature backdrop. Besides that stunning love/fight, every other battle was a feat for the senses, complemented by neon lights and beautiful pastel colours. A movie like this needed a strong story to match it and thankfully, it delivers that in spades. 

The backstory of Sheng-Chi and his family is something to behold. I don’t want to spoil anything because even though there are elements of the story you could see coming a mile away and have been done before, it’s still one of the most sensational experiences I have experienced watching a movie this year. The movie does a wonderful job of helping you understand every main character. Just like with the villain Killmonger Black Panther, I found myself sympathizing with Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), who is revealed to be the real Mandarin. Once again, I find myself both hating him and at times, wishing I could give him a hug. Having known nothing about these characters prior to seeing the film, I am amazed that they held my attention and made me become a fan of everyone. All this to say, there is only one element that prevents the film from being a perfect origin story. You see, Marvel, without fail, always follows a similar structure to all of their films. They inevitably end in a huge CGI battle, which is always fun to watch, don’t get me wrong. But, I would love to see them try something new. I’m not saying they should end it in a less spectacular fashion. But, something different like how they ended season 1 of Loki, or perhaps doing a clever story shift would be a nice warm welcome to me, as well as the fans. 

Final thoughts

Sheng-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings did exactly what I wanted it to do for me. It provided me with the escapism that I crave from these movies and entertained me throughout its entire runtime. Engaging characters, spectacular action, and an engrossing story means that I will definitely be revisiting it multiple times in years to come. I cannot wait to see what Disney and Marvel have up their sleeves and if you’re looking for a reason to support your local theatre. Give Sheng-Chi a try, I promise it will be worth your time. 


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