Early Shang-Chi Reviews Welcome Simu Liu’s Kung Fu Hero To the MCU

After sitting out 2020, the MCU came back in full force this year with new films and TV shows. But now, it’s time to see how a new class of heroes will shape Marvel’s post-Avengers: Endgame world. The review embargo for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has finally been lifted. And so far, it sounds like the MCU is in more than capable hands.

Marvel’s first movie to feature an Asian lead is currently sitting at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus seems to be that the film deftly balances thrilling action sequences with a handful of important character themes. But beyond that, it also signals a crucial step forward for diversity. Check out a few highlights below.

In her review for EW, Leah Greenblatt outlined how the film sets itself apart from earlier MCU adventures. She gave Shang-Chi a B+, and said “the general lack of major artillery means the action is mostly fought with fists or ropes or arrows, which makes its obligatory stream of mortal combat feel almost balletically brutal (if oddly Disney-bloodless), and far more elegant than the genre usually allows.” Greenblatt also singled out Meng’er Zhang’s performance as Xialing, suggesting that she could even carry her own spinoff.

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Bleeding Cool’s Kaitlyn Booth confessed that the movie occasionally stumbles (“there are long moments of exposition that can be a little much and really slows down the pacing”). Regardless, that’s an expected side effect of telling an origin story. And it sounds like the movie makes up for any pratfalls with its kinetic fight scenes. According to Booth, “director Destin Daniel Cretton makes sure that we always know where our characters are relative to each other, and we don’t lose our heroes in massive fight scenes. Whether it is a close-quarters fight in a bus or a massive battle with a bunch of characters, we always understand the scene.”

Writing for USA Today, Brian Truitt gave top marks to Shang-Chi star Simu Liu. In his view, Liu is “the MCU’s most significant and infectious rookie since the late Chadwick Boseman with the same face-of-the-franchise appeal as Chris Evans.” Truitt also praised Cretton for “owning some of the franchise’s larger character themes, including family legacy, reluctant heroism and embracing one’s destiny.”

The AV Club’s Katie Rife offered similar praise to Shang-Chi’s script, which “retcons some of Marvel’s more insensitive depictions of Asian culture, while crafting an inspirational message about creating your own destiny and embracing the things that make you you.” Rife also recognized how the film pays homage to classic staples of martial arts cinema. However, she lamented that it occasionally “insists on either interrupting or burying the stunt work […] with mountains of blatant CGI.”

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On the contrary, The Hollywood Reporter’s Angie Han claims that Shang-Chi “emphasizes precision and agility over brute-force strength or weightless CG trickery.” And if that weren’t enough to distinguish it from the typical Marvel formula, Han also took note of several scenes that cause the film to veer “closer to the wistful grandeur of Disney’s live-action fairy tale adaptations” than the average superhero movie.

Nancy Wang Yuen of io9 also observed how the film attempts to atone for Marvel’s history of “whitewashing” certain characters. A lot of this seems to be reflected in the film’s presentation of Asian culture. For example, the characters “speak a natural mixture of Mandarin Chinese and English dialogue depending on the speaker and context.” Additionally, “the costumes seem to be a blend of eastern and western influences, reflecting the culture of the Chinese American heroes.” Yuen also appreciated how “the fantasy elements appear to be inspired by Chinese wuxia films, not exotic Asian stereotypes.”

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In a review that skewed more to the negative side, Paste’s Jacob Oller dismissed Shang-Chi’s “bland” origin story. He was also unimpressed by Liu’s performance as the title character. Apparently, “every character is more interesting than the actor’s Shang-Chi, who’s a straight man foil to the world around him.” Oller argued that the film’s true star is Tony Leung’s Wenwu/Mandarin, who acts as the “essential force of the unwieldy story.”

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters on September 3.

What do you make of these latest reviews for the film? Also, are you looking forward to seeing Shang-Chi in theaters? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

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