Linda Cook review: ‘Shang-Chi’ rings into theaters with action, spectacle

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There’s a lot of spectacle, amazing choreography, and nods to other MCU movies to make “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” a box-office winner.

Add to that these engaging characters and you have an end-of-summer favorite bound to stick around in theaters for weeks to come.

Tony Leung is Wenwu, aka The Mandarin. He has 10 rings that give him incredible power. He also runs a criminal group called The Ten Rings (you might remember this from “Iron Man.”)

Wenwu, who is hundreds of years old but doesn’t look a day over 35, finds a nemesis one day when he runs into Ying Li, played by Fala Chen. The two “fight” – I use that term loosely because what transpires actually is a kind of courtship dance – and fall in love. Both use their special powers, but Ying Li gives up her powers to become a mother and wife.

They have two children, Shang-Chi and Xialing, who are separated at an early age. Their father trains only his son Shang-Chi to become a strong killer.

But Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), who changes his name to Shaun, does not follow in his father’s footsteps. He leads a pretty quiet life and works as a parking valet with his best friend Katy (the wonderful Awkwafina.)

Adventurous Katy, who has a passion for fast cars, lives in the moment, and often serves as comic relief throughout the movies. She’s loyal as can be to “Shaun.”

Before too long, Wenwu comes back to collect his children, and Katy goes along on the journey that unleashes a terrible and almost indestructible force. 

This fast-paced tale doesn’t just contain Easter Eggs from a variety of other Marvel creations, but it also has nods to other films. There’s no denying the terrific bus-fight sequence is a nod to Jackie Chan, for example. The first encounter between Yeng Li and Wenwu is reminiscent of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” because of the gorgeous glow and movement of the characters. And you’ll see more than a little “Matix”-esque moments, too – probably because cinematographer Bill Pope also was the cinematographer for “The Matrix.”

It’s a beautiful film, and a welcome addition to the MCU. There are two extra scenes – one at the very end of the credits. This is just the beginning of the Shang-Chi saga.

3 ½ stars

Running time: Two hours and 12 minutes.

Rated: PG-13 for violence and foul language.

At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; Palms 10, Muscatine; and Blue Grass Drive

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