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'Shang-Chi' reviews say MCU's first Asian-led superhero movie 'has all the right moves'

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Aug 23, 2021, 12:30 PM EDT

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has already enjoyed its world premiere, and now critics have also had a chance to see Marvel's latest, and most everyone is raving about the Phase 4 outing in reviews and on social media. ComicBook.com's Brandon Davis declared that director Destin Daniel Cretton "brought something so fresh to the MCU. So much style and heart. The action is just absurdly epic."

In addition, Davis tweeted that Shang-Chi is "darker than expected. Loads of fun. Integral to MCU Phase 4!"

Variety's review (written by Peter Debruge) praises Cretton and his team who "are smart enough to recognize the minefield of stereotypes the movie must navigate, finding clever and amusing tactics to deal with missteps in Marvel’s pulp past (spoiler alert: the company even brings back Ben Kingsley for some self-ribbing comic relief, addressing unresolved problems with the Mandarin character in the process). But in distancing itself from the Fu Manchu trap, the film unwittingly squanders Leung’s involvement. Here, he’s an incredibly evil world terrorist turned softie, who loses his way again after his wife’s death."

Justin Chang of The Lost Angeles Times writes that "Leung’s presence gives the movie an extra-cinematic kick, a winking but resonant connection to an inexhaustible Asian canon of romantic dramas, underworld thrillers and martial-arts epics. It also provides an arresting entry point into a hero’s origin story that tries, with some success, to rise above Marvel business-as-usual."

"Shang-Chi‘s core ideas feel most fully realized," adds Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter. "Strip away all that glossy superhero magic, and the film reveals itself to be the achingly familiar tale of a child figuring out how to bridge the gap between his parents’ values and expectations and his own — in the same way that Shang-Chi itself tries to remix old tropes with new perspectives. It doesn’t always succeed with flying colors. But as with a young hero still finding his footing, its valiant efforts feel worth cheering all the same."

Scott Mendelson of Forbes proclaims that "Marvel’s Shang-Chi Has All The Right Moves." He also calls it "a thrilling start to Phase 4 of the MCU," failing to mention that Black Widow already kickstarted Phase 4 back in early July. "With fun performances, varied action, plausible stakes, a sense of specificity, and quite a few 'not in the trailers' surprises, Shang-Chi is one of the better 'part one' MCU solo origin story flicks thus far."

Drew Taylor called the film "an absolute triumph" that is "unexpectedly spiritual and emotionally complex, with some of the very best action in the MCU." The Collider and SYFY WIRE writer also teased that the movie tips its hat to a number of beloved cultural influences — "everything from Jackie Chan to Hayao Miyazaki."

With deep ties to Phase 1 of the MCU, Shang-Chi follows a deadly assassin (Simu Liu) attempting to live a peaceful life far away from the influence of his domineering father, the true Mandarin (played by Tony Leung), and the global terror organization known as the Ten Rings. When his dad comes calling, however, the titular hero is forced to face the demons of his past and tap into a dangerous power source that's been a part of his family for generations.

Liu is a blockbuster star in the making, writes Brian Truit of USA Today: "[He] is simply a joy to watch. He's the MCU's most significant and infectious rookie since the late Chadwick Boseman with the same face-of-the-franchise appeal as Chris Evans."

Collider's Matt Goldberg, on the other hand, disagrees: "I haven’t seen Liu in any other work beyond this, so perhaps he’s a great actor given middling material here, but that’s still a problem because if Shang-Chi does anything, it has to make you care about its protagonist. This is a hero that will keep coming back in the MCU, and it’s an issue that he doesn’t make much of an impact in his own movie."

"Shang-Chi is a blast!" exclaimed film critic Aaron Neuwirth. "Marvel delivers a wuxia/fantasy/superhero movie mash-up that’s a lot more fun than how the trailers have been selling it. Exciting action, great cast (Tony Leung rules, of course). This is the MCU back doing its thing on a high level again."

Collider's Steven Weintraub wrote that it's "like no Marvel movie you’ve seen. Love that it opens the door to a new world that I can’t wait to see more of. @SimuLiu literally kicks so much ass and he is perfectly cast. Got to see it in @imax tonight and this is how you want to see it. Looked and sounded perfect."

Scott Menzel, founder of We Live Entertainment, went so far as to give it "the title of the best superhero film of 2021 so far." He continued: "The action scenes are simply spectacular, especially the train & skyscraper scene. Best martial arts I’ve seen in a long time. Simu Liu & Awkwafina are terrific."

Insider's Kristen Acuna praised the "badass women" of the cast (such as Awkwafina and Michelle Yeoh), as well as some "INCREDIBLE, beautifully choreographed fight scenes." She added: "Get ready to know Simu Liu's name if you don't already. Marvel has another hit on its hands."

Empire gave the movie four out of five stars: "Featuring funny and endearing moments amid beautifully choreographed action sequences, Shang-Chi excels as a story about family and how it can be twisted by grief. Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Leung bring multi-faceted characters to life and, despite pacing issues, it delivers a hugely entertaining step in the right direction for Asian representation."

In his three-star review for The Guardian, critic Peter Bradshaw calls Shang-Chi "an entertaining romp, although the formulaic quality is becoming a little obvious." He adds: "It’s an entertaining, if generically pretty familiar MCU movie with incidental funny roles and ironic quirks to provide approachability and relatability and leaven the seriousness."

Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt awarded the film a B+ grade, writing: "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings marks a major step forward for Asian representation on screen. It also feels important to note that it is fun: a Technicolor whirlwind of a film whose explosive fight choreography and dense mythology are leavened by a sweet and surprisingly nimble script."

The Marvel Studios premiere also packed in a few surprises, including the news that Trevor Slattery (Sir Ben Kinglsey) will appear in the film after he made the rather grievous error of posing as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. He joins a growing list of familiar faces like Doctor Strange's Wong (Benedict Wong) and The Incredible Hulk's Abomination (Tim Roth).

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters Labor Day Weekend.

This story was originally published Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 9:26 a.m. EST and updated Monday, Aug. 23 at 12:30 p.m. EST.