News

Shang-Chi First Reviews: One of the MCU's Most Spectacular Origin Stories

Critics say the film's grounded themes, peerless action, and particularly fantastic villain – thank you, Tony Leung – make it a stellar introduction to a new hero.

by | August 23, 2021 | Comments

How many film franchises go for as long and for as many installments as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has and still keep delivering critical favorites? The first reviews of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are calling it one of the best MCU entries yet. And those most qualified to speak on such elements offer particular praise toward the Asian representation and martial arts action as being exceptional for Hollywood blockbuster cinema in general.

Here’s what critics are saying about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:


Will Marvel fans love it?

“The movie full on delivers the Marvel theatrical experience you’ve been jonesing for.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

Shang-Chi joins the ranks for me [with] Winter Soldier, Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War as some of the best that Marvel has to offer… This is the best solo film in years.” – Jon Nguyen, Flickering Myth

“One of the best origin stories in the MCU.” – Rachel Labonte, ScreenRant

“Would rank it pretty high when it comes to Marvel origin stories. I’d say maybe only the first Iron Man and Black Panther movies do it better.” – Brian Frederick, Pop Culture Leftovers

“As Marvel remixes go, Shang-Chi is one of the more successful ones. Maybe not as stylistically strong as Black Widow and certainly not as much of a watershed moment as Black Panther.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“[It] puts to bed any concern fans might have had about a drop off in Phase IV of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe.” – Brandon Katz, Observer


Does it feel unique in the franchise?

“Marvel breaks its own mold on multiple fronts… Shang-Chi is the most energized the MCU has been in years.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is most enjoyable when it shakes off the tedious franchise imperatives and forges its own path.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“As familiar of a superhero origin story as Shang-Chi is, the film blessedly feels like the least Marvel of the solo films we’ve had lately.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Shang-Chi barely feels like a superhero movie at all. If anything, it veers closer to the wistful grandeur of Disney’s live-action fairy tale adaptations.” – Angie Han, Hollywood Reporter

“At its most basic level this is very much another MCU affair. From a critical point of view, there is no reinvention of the wheel.” – Therese Lacson, The Beat


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Ryan Fujitani

How well does it handle the Asian representation?

“Getting to see myself reflected in a Marvel blockbuster flick, despite its flaws, makes me excited for what more we might see from Shang-Chi.” – Therese Lacson, The Beat

“Cultural authenticity abounds in Shang-Chi.” – Nancy Wang Yuen, io9

Shang-Chi makes major strides in representation; more than just plastering Asian faces on a screen, the film dives particularly deep into the Asian American experience.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors

“This film often feels like an actual reflection of the Asian American experience versus an uninspired Hollywood imitation.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

“It’s a bit tiring to see another dragon trope involved in an Asian-led film. Which is a shame as there are subtle nods for the Asian diaspora to relish.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine


How are the fight scenes?

“You’ll be happy to hear the best parts of Shang-Chi are its elevated fight scenes.” – Nancy Wang Yuen, io9

“The action is fantastic… The choreography is the best yet in the MCU.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine

Shang-Chi’s action conveys the one thing so many superhero films are missing: flavor… [It’s] the studio’s best action to date by a country mile.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors

“The best action I’ve seen in the MCU.” – Jon Nguyen, Flickering Myth

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings doesn’t just boast the best action of the MCU, it manages to do it with two (two!) eye-popping action sequences that unspool before the film’s first act is over.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“I’m no fan of fighting sequences but I enjoyed most of the ballet-like style Cretton devised for his movie.” – Patricia Puentes, Ask


Mandarin - Shang-Chi

(Photo by © Marvel Studios, © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Does it live up to its influences?

“The movie may not live up to [its influences and] ambitions — the action is still too aesthetically anonymous, too CG-polished — but it’s nice that it has them to begin with.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“It still only manages pale imitations of its influences: the wuxia-inspired sequences feeling more weightless than anything out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the Jackie Chan-inspired fight scenes feel more like the Hollywood takes on Chan’s work.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm


How is Destin Daniel Cretton as director?

“He directs the film with such an infectious energy, always putting his characters first, and making you so invested in their individual journeys.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

At last, here is a director who knows martial arts is the core of the material, so Cretton ensures Shang-Chi’s action department will get full credit.” – Nguyen Le, JumpCut Online


How does the movie look?

“Wait until you see the gorgeous design of Ta-Lo in this film. Tons of eye candy and amazing creature designs.” – Brian Frederick, Pop Culture Leftovers

“There are stunning wuxia-inspired sequences that are as gorgeous as they are impressive.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

“[Cretton] manages to at least keep the film visually coherent (and in many of the wuxia-inspired moments, quite beautiful) even as it descends into CGI bombast.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm


How is Simu Liu as Shang-Chi?

“Liu knocks it out of the park as Shang-Chi, adding a tad of levity to the known-to-be-serious comic book character.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine

“Simu Liu gives a charismatic, nicely understated performance, which helps mitigate the muddled storytelling.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“He’s responsible, respectful, charming, and carefree, making him instantly relatable to Asian-Americans across the country.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

“As magnetic as Liu is in action, he struggles in quieter moments with a script that gives the character more backstory than personality.” – Angie Han, Hollywood Reporter

“Shang-Chi seems to have inherited much of his father’s martial-arts prowess but not nearly enough of his charisma.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times


Awkwafina and Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

(Photo by Jasin Boland/©Marvel Studios)

What about Awkwafina?

“Awkwafina in particular becomes a vital source of levity for the script, and a welcoming audience surrogate as the film ramps up to a large battle.” – Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com

“Awkwafina, who has proven to be effortless in a layered role with The Farewell… isn’t allowed to go beyond ‘funnywoman’ here.” – Nguyen Le, JumpCut Online

“Awkwafina is, well, Awkwafina, for both better and worse… A few scenes allow her shtick to go on a beat or two too many.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects


And Tony Leung as the villain?

“The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best ‘villain’ yet… Leung effortlessly proves he’s one of our greatest screen actors of the past 40 years.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“One of the MCU’s best villains… Perhaps the best MCU villain to-date.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors

“Tony Leung delivers one of the finest performances we’ve ever seen in the MCU and should go down as one of the franchise’s greatest antagonists.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

“It’s the best performance from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because the passion and grief it expresses is appropriately Leung-sized.” – Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com

“His performance anchors the film and expands the potential of the comic-book villain.” – Shirley Li, The Atlantic

“Leung as Wenwu provides depths of character in what could be a one-dimensional bad guy. However, the film’s real villain is grief.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

Are there any other standouts?

“The dark horse is Meng’er Zhang’s Xialing… In a lesser film, she would be discarded to the sidelines, but there’s remarkable shading to her character that gives her some of the film’s best moments.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors

“Michelle Yeoh also plays a pivotal role, and is absolutely wonderful.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com


How is the film’s representation of women?

“The strongest fighters depicted are the women…[but] even as Shang-Chi presents more badass women than most Marvel films, they exist to support a man’s journey.” – Nancy Wang Yuen, io9

“In drawing attention to Xialing’s personal history of neglect, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings insistently telegraphs its awareness of its own shortcomings.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“Zhang’s Xialing has the most compelling backstory, but at times, it feels she is just there as set dressing for the main hero. It’s unfortunate she isn’t given more to do.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine


Does the screenplay do the rest of the movie justice?

“The script, by Cretton, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham, charts a familiar enough origin story and journey of self-discovery, but there’s fun and heart in the details.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Shang-Chi does have some pacing issues where the story, at times, becomes convoluted with so much information to set up the world of Ta Lo and how it relates to the MCU as a whole.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine

“The film’s middle sags with exposition and backstory, as its screenwriters attempt to maneuver around a few finicky problems.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Ryan Fujitani

Is the movie funny?

“The funny in Shang-Chi seems to reflect a millennial sensibility, making the mixture of action and comedy feel fresh for the MCU.” – Nancy Wang Yuen, io9

Shang-Chi’s brand of humor almost reminded me of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.” – Patricia Puentes, Ask

“The cast manages to carry a strong sense of tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the film, with one later surprise character hailing straight from the Taika Waititi school of comedy.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“The jokes keep Shang-Chi from tipping over into self-importance, but they also rob it of some of its wonder.” – Angie Han, Hollywood Reporter


What about its themes of family?

“They’ve never quite been handled with the nuance and emotion granted the relationship between Shang-Chi and his father.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

“Liu infuses these struggles with a real believability and charm.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Black Widow is like the MCU worst family vacation scenario for superheroes, while Shang-Chi is a family reunion and a long-lost relative revelation.” – Jana Monji, Age of the Geek


Is Shang-Chi… sexier than your typical Marvel movie?

“This might be Marvel at its steamiest.” – Nguyen Le, JumpCut Online

“In a swerve uncharacteristic of superhero films… Shang-Chi’s prologue cranks up the sexiness and romance [with] one of the most passionate and distinct set-pieces Marvel has ever placed on film.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors

“Leung, one of our best cinematic romantic leads and devastatingly handsome to boot, manages to inject sex appeal into a Marvel film with merely a look.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

Does it stick the landing?

“The finale of Shang-Chi is truly unlike anything that’s come before. It’s pure unadulterated spectacle, and so fantastical, it’s very much like watching a comic splash page come to life.” – Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

“Though it falls victim to the dreaded Marvel third-act CGI muddle, Shang-Chi‘s is one of the more forgivable ones, if only because it verges on full fantasia.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“One of my biggest complaints is the heavy use of CGI in the final third of the film, which often felt clunky and ended up overshadowing the emotional scenes.” – Therese Lacson, The Beat

Shang-Chi employs its muddled third act with reckless, disappointing abandon…[the] final act demolition derby is an MCU weakness writ large.” – Jeffrey Zhang, Strange Harbors


Will it make us excited for the MCU’s future?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings presents a bright future for Marvel Studios and the expanded cinematic universe.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“Given what’s on show here, the future for Shang-Chi and Asian representation in the MCU looks bright.” – Laura Sirikul, Empire Magazine

Shang-Chi is a step in the right direction, but we’ll have to see how Phase Four plays out to see if the MCU is really embracing diversity in a way that includes people of Asian descent.” – Jana Monji, Age of the Geek


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters on September 3, 2021.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

travel posters Lifetime Christmas movies Pacific Islander YouTube Red Superheroe Drama Trailer documentary Fall TV cats 93rd Oscars spy thriller sequels nature cooking Sci-Fi spider-man WGN Funimation razzies richard e. Grant TCA Awards spanish language crime 99% werewolf suspense Logo Discovery Channel Pixar international jurassic park Superheroes dark 2020 Extras VOD worst movies PlayStation Universal Trivia HBO Elton John young adult Martial Arts CMT movie Star Trek screenings technology Holiday The Walt Disney Company Mary poppins fast and furious Mary Tyler Moore reviews emmy awards zombies archives Comics on TV streaming movies Video Games french Alien Hulu Travel Channel indiana jones Spring TV casting what to watch E! Disney streaming service batman hispanic heritage month japanese Ovation NYCC Esquire Animation superhero police drama VICE Year in Review rt labs critics edition SDCC aapi Netflix Avengers royal family First Look true crime Polls and Games CBS Winners The Academy festival sports joker HBO Go Musicals blockbusters X-Men comic Disney Awards Emmys Rom-Com Country Amazon Schedule indie LGBTQ animated 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards CNN documentaries Toys Valentine's Day TV One venice medical drama ITV 73rd Emmy Awards Trophy Talk Thanksgiving Christmas National Geographic Warner Bros. Paramount docuseries CBS All Access facebook cults slashers Binge Guide festivals comic book movies streaming Summer award winner cancelled TV series Film supernatural Family Rocky spinoff fresh VH1 stop motion Action Adult Swim TV movies breaking bad biography El Rey game of thrones DC Comics Awards Tour worst movies vampires stoner BET king kong Calendar FX harry potter halloween Writers Guild of America scene in color cancelled HBO Max ViacomCBS 2015 Star Wars Reality romance LGBT psycho Tumblr 2021 Television Critics Association black SXSW south america Cannes Western rotten game show die hard golden globes FXX TIFF tv talk A&E doctor who book The Walking Dead YA Lucasfilm women Infographic composers Paramount Plus justice league crime thriller rt archives Neflix Endgame First Reviews Paramount Network gangster Hallmark Mystery kids TV sopranos Ellie Kemper spanish sitcom Fox Searchlight Amazon Prime Video San Diego Comic-Con Shondaland basketball Spectrum Originals Stephen King witnail Horror TV Land space discovery nbcuniversal Creative Arts Emmys Podcast political drama dramedy Peacock art house Women's History Month Image Comics science fiction TCA theme song 2016 action-comedy Set visit ID scary cinemax miniseries scorecard Disney Plus OneApp Red Carpet Sneak Peek new zealand dexter Broadway E3 Acorn TV cops golden globe awards asian-american telelvision 72 Emmy Awards Wes Anderson Pop TV GIFs mission: impossible Pop binge wonder woman christmas movies obituary elevated horror CW Seed biopic revenge Cartoon Network Interview Countdown thriller robots Freeform Apple TV Plus adventure godzilla unscripted toy story pirates of the caribbean adaptation classics 1990s Disney+ Disney Plus Apple saw MSNBC TCA Winter 2020 sequel laika monster movies Brie Larson zombie television Kids & Family Captain marvel Musical Shudder dceu Amazon Prime versus cancelled television BET Awards period drama Black Mirror war Classic Film Anna Paquin Nat Geo Pet Sematary Hallmark Christmas movies Heroines canceled Song of Ice and Fire GoT anthology critics comics cartoon Marvel vs. renewed TV shows hispanic Film Festival singing competition boxoffice Turner Classic Movies Vudu YouTube Crunchyroll remakes Walt Disney Pictures Universal Pictures TNT 21st Century Fox scary movies hist Masterpiece BBC America BBC One jamie lee curtis child's play 24 frames 4/20 finale DC Universe Tarantino twilight Exclusive Video dreamworks USA Network transformers children's TV Super Bowl rom-coms YouTube Premium target mcc video on demand Oscars black comedy diversity comiccon FX on Hulu Academy Awards Winter TV AMC Plus Sundance TV historical drama RT History BAFTA strong female leads TruTV ABC Signature news AMC Tomatazos psychological thriller comic books Marvel Television disaster football PaleyFest sag awards 2017 TLC Cosplay book adaptation IFC Films TCM Character Guide Comic-Con@Home 2021 franchise The Arrangement Quiz Music parents directors Lifetime Nominations USA 2018 Mudbound new york History Nickelodeon Photos Premiere Dates Netflix Christmas movies olympics criterion DirecTV 90s Arrowverse stand-up comedy universal monsters free movies ghosts a nightmare on elm street Chernobyl TV renewals slasher Spike Lionsgate Tubi Reality Competition The CW live event Turner foreign lord of the rings comedies Bravo Sony Pictures Legendary Britbox ratings debate aliens NBA series FOX DC streaming service 71st Emmy Awards cancelled TV shows teaser DGA dogs Election 007 canceled TV shows blockbuster chucky Black History Month australia james bond RT21 President reboot Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Mary Poppins Returns Crackle 20th Century Fox Dark Horse Comics italian crossover films Sundance Now legend ESPN natural history screen actors guild OWN mutant trailers zero dark thirty TBS high school Baby Yoda ABC Family mockumentary Teen kaiju latino green book NBC comic book movie boxing Rock A24 independent crime drama based on movie superman Tokyo Olympics BBC Sundance quibi prank 2019 nfl romantic comedy Starz critic resources IFC 45 mob WarnerMedia all-time king arthur blaxploitation hidden camera concert The Purge rt labs name the review Pirates The Witch See It Skip It video Watching Series New York Comic Con genre GLAAD marvel comics Amazon Studios know your critic Emmy Nominations APB deadpool Television Academy MCU dc Marvel Studios Ghostbusters talk show dragons Instagram Live rotten movies we love docudrama PBS Comedy Central feel good Box Office SundanceTV Comedy Best and Worst Rocketman hollywood social media IMDb TV MTV Marathons Certified Fresh politics marvel cinematic universe Opinion Comic Book halloween tv Columbia Pictures anime Pride Month Disney Channel Grammys Apple TV+ popular Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Syfy Food Network TCA 2017 Epix Fantasy japan new star wars movies live action Biopics ABC kong adenture heist movie Holidays Showtime American Society of Cinematographers Mindy Kaling satire best Fox News serial killer toronto spain cars Hear Us Out spider-verse