SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (12A, 132 Minutes)
Marvel fans, who seem to be everywhere these days, are in for a treat. The franchise has just entered its exciting fourth phase, with new characters to introduce and a multiversal crack just waiting to appear on the big screen.
We all know it’s coming, and one might question the point of any fillers that arrive before. But this film is far from filler. It’s a fresh, bold story with some new, and some familiar characters who explode onto the screen in a fantastical samurai superhero flick that manages to tie up loose ends from previous films whilst paving the way for the studio’s future.
Shaun is a valet living in San Francisco who enjoys hanging out with his “will they/won’t they” best mate, Katy. Their friends find them childish, but Shaun and Katy couldn’t care less. Their lives consist of work and late night karaoke – and they love it.
But the fun and games stop when assassins arrive to steal Shaun’s pendant, a gift from his late mother. Turns out Shaun is actually called Xu Shang-Chi, a martial arts pro with daddy issues.
But Shaun’s old man isn’t the type to ground him for having a cheeky smoke behind the bike sheds, he’s a terrorist warlord called Wenwu, otherwise known as ‘The Mandarin’.
Centuries old, he possesses ten mystical rings that grant him superhuman powers and now he is trying to bring his distant children back together to play their part in his obsession with power and lost love.
This is a surprisingly funny film. Serious in all the right places, and so brilliantly comical at its best. There’s a wonderful balance between perfect gags and dramatic agony hitting hard.
What a relief it is to see two leads – Simu Liu and Awkwafina – bounce off one another with such glorious comic timing (although with Nora it comes naturally). Their chemistry doesn’t need to be boldly romantic, or affectionate.
This could indeed be the first time romance in a superhero film has been delivered with such realism. It goes to show that the hero and their spouse don’t need to fall into each other’s arms or drop from the sky for a cheeky smooch. They can be mates that just eventually form a romance.
There are some great gags, incredibly well choreographed wire-work fight sequences and some surprising cameos including Dr. Strange’s pal Wong, played by Benedict Wong (heh heh), Tim Roth’s big green Abomination and the best of all…an appearance none of us expected, so funny he elicited applause during our screening…a flying dog creature that looks like a bum.
Whilst you’re anticipating three versions of Spider Man fighting CGI Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe, this may prove a nice little treat along the way.
A little long, but well worth it for the giggles.
And Michelle Yeoh, of course.