‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ review

Sarah Wandor
Movie Critic Columnist

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a 2021 movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, was surprisingly not as poor as I had anticipated it being. It was very visually appealing with its colors, costumes and captivating scenery. I’ll be referring to the film as “The Legend of the Ten Rings” throughout so as to not cause confusion.

The martial arts demonstrations were very detailed and beautifully done. They gave attention to the specifics and spent much time choreographing them, and it showed. To have fight scenes look that good and be believable takes time and skill to do.

However, that is where my compliments end. “The Legend of the Ten Rings” is lacking in many areas, but the most noticeable is the lack of character the film has. The martial arts are very stunning but they were given too much attention, more than they were due, and it came at the cost of poor writing and character development.

Throughout the movie, multiple characters are introduced but mainly by name only. Very few of them are given any depth of character besides the fact that they are masters in martial arts. No further depth or characterization is given to them which causes them to be dull.

The audience doesn’t get to know them on a deeper level nor connect with them at all. They simply go through a martial arts battle every 10 minutes instead of building the characters and forwarding the plot.

The film sacrificed the characters and the plot for flashy, long, and unnecessary fight sequences which led it to be bland overall. They spent more time fighting and performing extravagant, slow-motion moves than actually moving forward with the movie and the plot.

There is supposed to be a lot of family tension going on between the father, son and daughter but none of that is expanded upon nor explored. It is simply mentioned, at best. There is no emotional reaction or dialogue to go with it, only straight faces and twirly, flying kicks and punches.

One could mistake this movie for one about martial art ways of fighting instead of following a young man confronting his father and his past. It had so much potential. With the number of inner and relationship conflicts involved, they could have expanded on those feelings to develop the characters and keep the plot moving.

Yet in overlooking the characters, “The Legend of the Ten Rings” was devoid of all emotion. There was no energy, no depth, no momentum to carry the film. It flatlined through the entire movie because of the lack of emotion from all of the characters, and as a result, you never had the chance to connect with them.

Ultimately, the focus of “The Legend of the Ten Rings” was way off as it was clear they focused on the martial arts instead of making a movie with an actually well-developed plot. I love martial arts and watching cool fights with both people being masters, but if you ignore the people fighting, all you have are body movements, dead weight for a film.

If the creators thought flashy fighting would make up for the lack of character development and plot, they would be wrong. They wasted the potential the film had by misdirecting their attention on that which helps a film look good but does not make it. As a result, they created a showy yet bland film.


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