Shang-Chi (2021) Movie Review: My 5 Disappointments

I just came back from 2 hours and 12 minutes of beautiful cinematics and aesthetically choreographed fight sequences that is called Shang-Chi & The Legend of The 10 Rings.

And although I overall loved the movie and the social breakthrough this film was for the Asian American community (I’m Asian), I do want to air out a few quibbles.

SPOILER ALERT

  1. Too Predictable, No Plot Twists

The entire movie was setup after setup of predictable plot. He gets a pendant from his mom related to finding out about Ta Lo; of course, they’ll be using it to find Ta Lo. He gets an address in the mail; of course he’s going there. He looks for his sister at a fight club and he has to fight too; of course he fights his sister.

And it keeps going. The most annoying is that once the dark gate is introduced, we immediately can predict that an hour later, the gate is going to be opened and then Shang-Chi will get the rings and save the day. Didn’t even need to watch the movie to know that’ll happen.

Where’s the plot subversion!? Where are the twists!?

Sure, this formula works, and people feel safe watching something they can anticipate, but we need more richness of plot. RICHNESS OF PLOT!

2. Katie’s Unexplained Friend-zoning

Yes, guys and girls can be just friends, but it was just never explained how they’re in their 20s (another issue I have, keep reading), and they never had a DTR — define the relationship. Yet, somehow they were both just happy being friends only with nobody catching feels.

In real life, this hardly works out painlessly, and I thought the movie was setting things up for some heartbreak, unrequited love, or generic love story.

But then, no romance.

I admit, I love that they didn’t fall in love, but I think we need some clarity on what kind of discussion they had to both be good with just being friends.

3. The Jester Mandarin Character (Trevor Slattery)

What a useless character. We already had Awkwafina for comic relief. No need for this guy who came in with flat jokes and meaningless, irrelevant dialogue. His only purpose is to fix issues with the Mandarin character in Iron Man 3.

But Shang-Chi and Katy could’ve easily found the faceless Ta Lo magic creature themselves and gotten to Ta Lo without Trevor. I see how he was helpful since the creature didn’t talk, but it just felt really useless.

4. Shang-Chi’s Sister — No Character Development

The sister Xialing was such a static character. She was just a former helpless girl turned strong woman from the failings of weak men. Sure, we stan strong female characters, of which this movie was full of — to our collective audience’s liking — but she didn’t really grow. She was just.. there.

5. Simu Liu Does Not Look 24

No offense Simu Liu, you looked great, but you just don’t look Asian-24. You and Awkwafina look your actual real life ages: in your 30s. So WHY NOT just make these characters in their 30s!?

I guess it’s even more awkward being valet parkers in your 30s, but c’mon, it just did not feel like an in-your-20s buddies situation at all.

Not to mention Meng’er Zhang, the actress for Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing is older than Simu in real life. Picture above clearly shows that she does not look 22 or whatever her character’s age is.

I guess we as the audience have become forgiving of this, but seriously, just make the characters in their 30's!

~Conclusion~

At the end of the day, a big budget film like Shang-Chi is business. And business is all about risk management.

Why an all-Asian cast? Because it was proven to be popular with Crazy Rich Asians, Bling Empire, Parasite, etc.

Why predictable plots, strong female characters, and a non-generic love story? They are safe. They are in. And they are less risky for the business.

All the characters and dialogue were up to modern code — nothing offensive with general underlying understanding of social climate. And I actually am used to that and prefer that. The other day, I watched The 4400, a 2004 series, and boy were some things just way too 2000s vibe.

But yeah, loved the movie still. Great comic relief from Awkwafina, and fun witty synergy between her and Simu. Just wish there was more risk-taking.

But what do you think? Any misgivings of your own for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings?

Quirky, curious, and philosophical Asian American gay Ivy League grad living in Southern California.