It's been ten years since Shang-Chi(Liu, charming, stoic) last saw his father, and leader of the criminal empire The Ten Rings, Wenwu(Leung, charismatic enough that we feel a lot of empathy for him, even when he does terrible things that we desperately want him to stop doing). That was also when he last spent time with his sister, Xialing(Zhang, a badass who deserves more screen time. Honestly, I'd be very surprised if she didn't, in future projects). He's joined by his friend Katy(Awkwafina, quirky, providing a lot of comic relief, something I'm told she's in general adept at), for what can best be described as a tense reunion, which allows the movie to really mine the family melodrama, one of the best elements it has. I won't give away exactly what the antagonist intends to do, only that our hero has to stop him. However, he has to figure out how, maybe even if, that is even possible.
Not quite, yet almost "Black Panther for Asian audiences", this does a lot for representation(including for women. Some of the best characters in this are female. In addition to the two that I've already mentioned, there is also Ying Nan(Yeoh, wise)), it is positively drenched in Chinese culture(the third act, while in ways it feels like it belongs to a completely different film than the first two, takes an especially deep dive into that. Ultimately, it is presented through a Western lens, and clearly we need to go further in this direction, still, it is a big deal that they put so much of it in an estimated $150 to 200 million major blockbuster, which will be seen by millions of people who would never consider watching an art picture, especially one focusing on a group they don't belong to), to the point where countless times, when it makes sense, major characters in this speak Mandarin to each other, rather than English, which it is subtitled into. And "don't worry", for those who think that the following is important: there are white people on screen, and they aren't made out to be "less than".
The action(each sequence of which feels distinct, belongs with the rest, and is memorable) pays tribute to many different kinds of martial arts films, acknowledging that they are standing on the shoulders of giants. Jackie Chan, wuxia, etc. The choreography is matched in skill by the cinematography. Not only are we seeing incredible fighting, the camera is dynamic, celebrating and highlighting how incredible it is. That *is* why you hire Bill Pope, the director of photography on the Matrix trilogy, two of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man entries, Darkman and Team America. The special effects are excellent. There are some issues with pacing, and certainly a chunk of this is composed almost entirely of flashbacks.
This features relatively brief but highly concentrated, surprisingly graphic gore(you know, there was a time when the fact that it's happening to beings that clearly are not human, wasn't enough to get away with this kind of thing with a PG-13 rating. Pepperidge Farm remembers), as well as a little strong language. I recommend this to any fan of comic book movie adaptations, and people passionate about diversity hiring. 8/10.