Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie posterSynopsis
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is heir to the villainous Ten Rings organization, an inheritance he does not want. After escaping and hiding for several years, Shang-Chi faces the Ten Rings again to stop his father (Tony Leung), the leader of the ancient organization, from unleashing an evil that could destroy the world.

Review
After the epic scale of Avengers: Endgame, it is a nice change of pace to come back to stories that are smaller and more personal. Black Widow might have been the first film released in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but chronologically, it was before Avengers: Infinity War. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first film in the future proper of the MCU. And in the same vein of Phase One’s Iron Man, it takes place on a small scale and very personal level but opens the door for a much larger future.

Not too long ago, I went through the entire series of Kim’s Convenience, where Simu Liu plays the character of Jung Kim. It’s jarring to see him transition from a comedy role to an action role; I imagine it is the same feeling fans of The Office felt when they saw John Krasinski first play Jack Ryan. Anyway, Liu performed the action parts just as well as he did the comedy parts. His star power is quickly on the rise and I can’t wait to see more of him in the MCU.

As much as I like comedy, one thing that MCU films have had difficulty with is finding a good balance between humor and seriousness. Thor: Ragnarok is one example of an offender of this. However, Shang-Chi was able to balance these aspects much better than many of its predecessors. It helped that rather than have every character be the comedy relief, that role mostly fell on the shoulders of Awkwafina. Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend (not love interest) Katy helped balance the film well. She had her comedic moments but they weren’t overbearing and never took away from the more sincere or somber moments. I hope future MCU films take note of this character and how to handle comedy in superhero films going forward.

Many comic fans did not like the Mandarin’s portrayl in Iron Man 3. I’m not a die-hard fan of the character of Iron Man so I enjoyed the character twist in that film. I especially like the follow up one-shot, Long Live the King, which follows Trevor Slattery after the events of Iron Man 3, which teased the appearance of the real Mandarin. Slattery, played by Ben Kingsley, is an entertaining character that Kingsley completely morphs into and always gets a laugh out of me. I was ecstatic to see him incorporated into the story in this film, especially after the previously mentioned tease at the end of Long Live the King. Kingsley once again plays the character to perfection and created some of the best laughs of the movie.

Way back in my State of the MCU Address, I stated that I wanted Shang-Chi to embrace its character’s roots and fully embrace the martial arts action side of things. And in that regard, this film did not disappoint. Every set piece was exciting and packed with exhilarating action sequences. It really channeled the Kung Fu roots of the character and let loose.

Like I said before, I’m not overly attached to the Mandarin character, and that also applies to his iconic ten rings. However, one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the way the titular objects were portrayed in this movie. In the comics, I like to equate the rings to the infinity stones, albeit much less powerful, where each ring grants the wearer a unique ability. When combined and used together, the user is granted enormous power. But in this film, they became more physical in nature, not granting any special powers, other than not aging and physical power. I can understand the change, it might have taken up too much extra time explaining the rings’ powers or trying to find ways to incorporate the rings’ powers into the story, so the change might be benefial to the story, but it is disappointing to see the potential of the rings overlooked.

I thought Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was GOOD πŸ™‚ Phase 4 of the MCU has provided a fresh start while building inside what came before and this film has taken full advantage of that. It’s self-contained but offers a path into something greater going forward. The action is top-notch and the comedy is one of the best in the franchise in a long time. While it doesn’t quite make it to the top echelons of the MCU, it is an adventure that is well worth the time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Destin Daniel Cretton – Director / Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay / Story
Andrew Lanham – Screenplay

Simu Liu – Shaun / Shang-Chi
Awkwafina – Katy
Tony Leung – Xu Wenwu
Meng’er Zhang – Xialing
Ben Kingsley – Trevor Slattery
Fala Chen – Li
Michelle Yeoh – Ying Nan
Yuen Wah – Master Guang Bo
Florian Munteanu – Razor Fist
Jayden Zhang – Young Shang-Chi
Elodie Fong – Young Xialing
Arnold Sun – Teen Shang-Chi

Ender’s Game Review

Ender's Game movie posterSynopsis
In order to find the next battle commander to lead Earth’s forces against the alien Formics, the International Fleet recruits promising children into Battle School. Andrew β€œEnder” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), their most hopeful student yet, must go through grueling challenges to prove he has what it takes to lead the fleet to victory.

Review
I only recently read Ender’s Game, written by Orson Scott Card. Some of my friends told me it was a fun read, and with the movie coming out, I decided now was as good a time as any to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so I was excited to see Ender’s world unfold on the big screen. Ender’s Game hits all the major story beats of the book, but lacks the characterization that made it so enjoyable.

Going into the differences between the book and the movie is going into spoiler territory and is a whole other article itself. But if that’s what you are interested in, here is an article from Cinema Blend explaining some of the major differences. What is good to know, though, is the movie does feature all the important scenes from the book.

One of the first things I noticed was how gorgeous the special effects looked. Visually, Ender’s Game stunning, I could actually imagine being in battle school right next to Ender, or in the cockpit with Mazer Rackham when he’s fighting the Formics. Definitely on of the best looking films this fall.

For a cast consisting of mainly inexperienced actors, the acting was pretty good. Asa Butterfield embodied the character of Ender perfectly. Moises Arias was intimidating as Bonzo and Hailee Steinfeld easily makes you feel Petra’s sympathy. The other children, such as Abigail Breslin as Valentine, Suraj Parthasarathy as Alai, and Aramis Knight as Bean, didn’t get much time on screen but they did well with what time they did have.

If the idea of children violence does not sit well with you, this may not be a movie for you. Although it is nothing compared to The Hunger Games, there are several fight scenes between Ender and some others, and characters are fairly aggressive towards him, too. Just something to keep in mind.

Throughout the entire movie, the story felt really rushed. The story quickly moves from Ender on Earth, to Battle school, then to his final training. Outside of Ender, and maybe Petra, not much time is spent focused on the characters. We don’t learn much about them. Characters such as Graff kept saying how much of a tactical genius Ender is, but it felt like we didn’t see it too much. I know I’ve complained about movies running too long, but if there is extra time spent on characterization, that time is worth it. Ender’s Game runs just under two hours. It would have benefited greatly by even having a few extra scenes to delve into Ender’s, and his friends’, state of mind.

As I said before, all the major story beats are touched, but that also means that everything else was either compressed or missing. Some of my favorite parts from the book were Ender in Battle School, learning about tactics, training his team, and forging bonds with Bean and the rest. Instead, the story was put on the back burner to give more focus on the visuals. As beautiful as the movie was, a lot was sacrificed in terms of story. It does, however, manage to keep the core of the story intact. Which I guess is a plus considering many film adaptations get a complete overhaul compared to their source material.

Ender’s Game is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book. Much of the characterization was removed to move the story along, but the core story remains intact. The children gave excellent performances and the visuals were stunning. Fans of the Card’s book should definitely watch this film, but even if you haven’t read it, Ender’s Game is still worth checking out.

Rating
3/5

Iron Man 3 Review

This was actually the first review I had done when I started writing reviews earlier this summer.Β  I forgot about it until a few weeks ago, so I held off posting it until the the home release of the film.Β  If I had written it more recently, I would have included something about how the ending offers a potential origin for Ultron in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, but I’m posting as-is.Β  I hope you check out this film because it’s truly amazing.Β  But enough of my blabbing, onto the review!

Iron Man 3 movie posterSynopsis
After the events of Marvel’s The Avengers, Tony’s (Robert Downey Jr.) world is flipped upside-down. Realizing there is much that he does not understand, he buries himself in his workshop. Meanwhile, The Mandarin (Ben Kingley), leader of the Ten Rings, increases his reign of terror across the US. When his Malibu home is destroyed, Tony is forced to confront his demons and learn if he makes Iron Man or Iron Man makes him?

Review
Wow. Just wow. Iron Man 3 is an ingenious film crafted by Marvel and a good cap to the journey we have seen Tony make through Phase One. In Iron Man and Iron Man 2, we get to see Tony transform into Iron Man and what he can do while in the suit, but he is still a playboy throughout most of those movies with some of that changing towards the end of 2. But in The Avengers we see him make the full transformation into a hero, including self-sacrifice. All of these events have made an affect on Tony that is a central focal point for Iron Man 3. In my opinion, The Avengers was essentially Iron Man 2.5, building on Tony Stark’s character more than the other heroes.

One of my favorite aspects of Iron Man 3 is we get to see how Tony is able to operate while outside of the Iron Man armor. Sure, I would have liked to see more of the Mark 42, it was an awesome suit, but we have seen Tony in armor for three movies already. It’s a nice change of pace to see what he can do outside the armor, using just his brains and ingenuity.

There is a TON of humor laced throughout Iron Man 3 and it works. Whenever things get too serious, a joke is made to lighten the mood back up. There were a few times it felt a little forced, but for the most part it was well executed and enjoyable.

Despite not being in the suit too much, there are quite a bit of action sequences. And they are all awesome! It is obvious that a lot of time went into the special effects and it pays off. The effects are beautiful and almost worth the admission price alone. Plus, not only does Tony get a few punches in outside the suit, Rhodey and Pepper get in on the action as well. Pepper even dons the suit for a while!

It will be a sad day when RDJ hangs up the Iron Man suit for good.Β  He has become synonymous with Tony Stark and it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.Β  On the other hand, I have started to accept Don Cheadle as Rhodey, but there is a part of me (most of me, actually) that wishes Terrence Howard would not have been replaced.Β  It is still awkward to see RDJ tower of Cheadle then have them see eye-to-eye when they are in the suits.Β  And I think Howard had better chemistry with RDJ than Cheadle does, but Cheadle has definitely grown into the role.

I only really have two big gripes with Iron Man 3. My first is the portrayal of the Mandarin. I’ll admit that I was one of those comic book guys who were salivating when I saw him in the trailer. I was really excited to see Iron Man’s greatest enemy (Mandarin is to Iron Man as Green Goblin is to Spider-Man) finally hit the big screen. I won’t spoil anything, but his depiction wasn’t what I was expecting. But you know what, in the context of this film, I’ve excepted it and realized it actually made the plot that much more exciting and interesting. Had the Mandarin been exactly like his comic book counterpart, it would have changed the entire film, and it is hard to say if the product would have been better.

My other grievance is the use of extremis, although this is due more to the comic fan boy in me than the movie itself. Since extremis essentially rewrites DNA, this allows for endless possibilities for super powers. However, all we see is the ability to melt things with their bodies. The final fight at the end would have been a perfect place to showcase how versatile extremis can really be. But like I said, that is just the comic nerd inside me.

Iron Man 3 is an excellent film that blends characterization with action, while never detracting from either and forms an excellent kick-of to Marvel’s Phase Two slate of movies.

Rating
4.5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2:Β Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.