'Shang-Chi' exciting, emotionally strong

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Marvel superheroes meet Chinese martial arts mastery in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” yet another feather in the cap of a movie
studio that can seemingly do no wrong.

The coronavirus may be surging again, but Disney and Marvel have a handful of movies in the hopper and need to put them in theaters. “Shang-Chi” has been on Marvel’s dashboard for a long time now, and the film is worth the wait. It might even be worth risking a trip to the theater, like many people and families did at Rome Cinemas 8 last weekend.

“Shang-Chi” is only playing in theaters so that Disney can decide how best to release the next Marvel superhero movies they have coming out — theaters, streaming or both? “Shang-Chi” is an exciting and emotionally strong superhero movie that really pushes the envelope when it comes to martial arts movie magic.

Shaun is a seemingly ordinary guy, working as a valet in San Francisco and hanging out with his best pal Katy. But when a band of deadly assassins ambushes them on the bus one day, Shaun reveals that he is really Shang-Chi, raised by his super-villain father to be the greatest martial arts master in the world.

Now that his dangerous father has found him again, Shang-Chi heads to China to confront him once and for all.

“Shang-Chi” is a pretty awesome film. It’s already got the Marvel brand attached, and that has come to signify quality filmmaking and a good time at the theater. “Shang-Chi” is easily both of those. This is a brand new character to the movie universe, with a whole new cast, and everything works wonderfully.

Hollywood newcomer Simu Liu is very likeable as the lead character, and comedian Awkwafina is a charmer as the comedic sidekick, Katy. A real standout in the film is Chinese actor Tony Chiu as the villainous father. Chiu is a legend of Chinese cinema, and “Shang-Chi” is his Hollywood debut. He smolders on screen as the bad guy.

Where “Shang-Chi” really succeeds is in the martial arts action. Disney seems to have spared no expense in hiring the right stunt coordinators and filmmakers to bring the authenticity of Eastern martial arts filmmaking to Hollywood. The fighting is crisp and energetic, full of beautifully-choreographed melees that easily justify the price of admission.

“Shang-Chi” does get a little bloated in the climax, relying a bit too heavily on CGI. But the movie really shines when it focuses on either the family drama or the martial arts action. Those two parts of the film make it a welcome and entertaining addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It will be really fun to see Shang-Chi join up in the next Avengers film in a few years.

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