Marvel movies have always been about spectacle, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is no exception. After twenty-five movies, three and a half television shows, and at least nine more movies on the way, one could not be blamed for feeling like these origin stories are beginning to get a little formulaic. A young man down on his luck and hurting for a family finds himself roped into a vast new world of strange abilities, creatures and technology, and ends up facing a villain wielding a dark reflection of his own abilities. Is that a description of Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Iron Man or Shang-Chi? The answer, of course, is all of the above.
This is not to say, however, that the film is not enjoyable. Flashy special effects, firm character beats and most of all beautifully choreographed martial arts duels make Shang-Chi plenty of fun to watch, especially in theaters. Still, aside from the excellent fights and the appreciation for Chinese culture (however surface level), there is not much that makes this movie distinct. The villain is rather uninteresting, failing both to be convincingly evil and to be sympathetic, the polar opposite of Thanos; the romantic subplot lacks development and chemistry; the final battle is a flashy but ultimately boring clash of CGI powers and creatures; and the conclusion is safe and predictable.
All things considered, if you are looking for a movie night out with a few friends, Shang-Chi is certainly an entertaining watch. However, if you’re looking for something more substantial in terms of plot, acting, and characters, you may want to try a Marvel classic instead.