Movies

Marvel Phase 4’s New Chinese Super Hero Shang-Chi

Movie Review:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Warning! Spoilers below!

Overview

Pros

  • Amazing CGI
  • Likeable characters
  • The fight scenes are fun to watch
  • The movie was amusing at times
  • Interesting music

Cons

  • Predictable plot
  • Not very convincing love story between Wenwu and Li
  • Slattery understanding the hundun with such precision was unrealistic
  • Wenwu sends assassins with orders to try to kill Shang-Chi and Xialing, when he really just wants to capture them

Observations

  • Aren’t they technically bracelets, not rings?

Review

The movie begins with the story of how Wenwu finding the magical Ten Rings and obtaining the powers of a god as well as immortality (which, I must say, does not help him much against soulsuckers. He should have read the fine print.)

Wenwu then founded an organization which he called the Ten Rings, probably because it sounds better than the Ten Bracelets. But I mean really–what would you call a large circular piece of jewelry that fits on your arm–a bracelet, right? But I have to admit, ring does sound cooler. You could even say it has more of a ring to it.

I know, that was bad.

Then we fast forward to 1996, when Wenwu tries to conquer Ta Lo and is stopped by Ying Li, who uses really dramatic and flowy martial arts–in other words, fancy dancing–to turn Wenwu’s own power against him. If their battle scene is 2x slower than most of the movie, then their falling in love was 10x faster. It’s more of a tell don’t show sort of scenario, where we don’t get much evidence of the love they share until the lady is dead.

Wenwu and Ying Li

The music at first I thought was okay, but later in the movie I felt like it fit the vibe more.

Then we go even more forward to modern times, where we meet parking valet “Shaun” and his best friend Katy, who are surprisingly not forced into a romantic relationship by the director despite this movie being both Disney and Marvel.

Katy and Shaun

We get a scene in a bar where Shaun and Katy explain how Katy prevented Shawn from getting beaten up by this big xenophobic dude by singing Hotel California. I love Katy. She is funny and relatable and does what she wants to do without worrying what others will think.

We get to see the main characters rock out in a karaoke night, which in my opinion was a smart move because it says a lot about their personalities. What is more personable than karaoke? It just made them even more likeable.

The bus scene though–that was amazing. Shaun was attacked by several assassins including one with a blade for an arm. I don’t know how he manages to retract and store that inside his arm when he is not using it. And what if it malfunctioned and slid out at the wrong moment? He could accidentally skewer someone.

Shaun using his martial arts ability while working with instead of against the environment of a moving bus was ingenious. The brakes getting cut and the bus breaking in half were a bit out there, but hey, this is Marvel we’re talking about. Katy needed a role and steering the bus without brakes made her pretty damn important.

The MVP of this scene was definitely a civilian (pictured above) who was recording the whole fight and grading it based on his limited experience with martial arts. His complete disregard for his own safety and complete confidence in Shaun did not seem realistic but was funny.

There is a moment when the bus flattens a ton of parked vehicles and all I can think of are dollar signs and a feeling of gratitude that they were empty parked cars because seeing people flattened by a bus would have been nauseating.

The man with the blade for an arm who attacked Shaun on the bus managed to steal the special necklace Shaun had been given by his deceased mother, and that, along with a postcard Shaun received in the mail, makes Shaun think his little sister is in trouble.

As a result, even though Shaun has been remarkably unconcerned with his sister’s whereabouts while he recovered from trauma of his own, he now seeks her out. Probably feeling guilty about promising to return to her years ago. But I don’t blame him much because he had to deal with his trauma, which is significant.

Katy demands to come along, because we need comic relief. I mean, because the martial arts master Shaun obviously needs civilian help. Ok ok, it’s because she is a great friend.

Shaun tells Katy his life story on the plane. She finds it hilarious that he tried to go into hiding by changing his name from Shang-Chi to Shaun–since they both sound very similar. He tells her that when his father sent him to kill the leader of the Iron Gang, the man who had been responsible for Shang-Chi’s mother’s death, he didn’t go through with it. That is a lie; in actuality, he killed the man and then ran away from home.

After that, the movie is pretty predictable. Shang-Chi fights his sister Xialing in a fight club, which most people would see coming from a mile away. She wins, which is also to be expected because Marvel always wants to establish a strong female figure, at least in their more modern films. That’s a good thing; it’s just predictable that she will win against Shang-Chi because of it.

Finally, after sending assassins to attack his children twice, Wenwu himself shows up. Now since his whole point was to capture his children, I have no idea why he sent assassins who tried to kill his children. I know, he said that he knew the assassins wouldn’t be able to kill them, but why do that rather than try to just capture them in the first place? Other than to create a series of entertaining fight scenes. Overall, he’s not winning any dad points.

When they arrive at their old home, Wenwu tells his children that he has been hearing the voice of his wife asking him to rescue her. Only problem is, she was murdered by the Iron Gang over ten years ago. Shang-Chi, Xialing and Katy don’t believe him, and are horrified when they find out that if Wenwu cannot find his wife in her hometown in Ta Lo, he plans on destroying the town and everyone in it.

Because what better way to honor someone’s memory than to deny their death and massacre everyone in their hometown?

Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy are locked up for disbelieving Wenwu, and while in prison they meet Trevor Slattery, the man who impersonated the Mandarin in an Iron Man movie. He admits how ridiculous the whole Mandarin story and impersonation was, which was apparently a way to apologize for the racial stereotypes associated with that character. Since he has no other good reason to show up in the movie, he seems out of place.

Slattery has a companion hundun, a weird creature with no head or mouth, just four wings and plenty of fur. He can understand it perfectly for reasons that are never explained.

Shang-Chi and the gang find it pretty easy to escape the prison, and to reach the forest protecting Ta Lo. When there, they take remarkably precise instructions from the hundun, translated by Slattery. I don’t think they should have made that such a huge plot point, because Slattery understanding the hundun is unexplained and makes no sense in the first place.

Shang-Chi and Xialing meet their Auntie Nan, who has the same abilities as her sister Ying Li and has the potential to stop Wenwu. However, for whatever reason she trains Shang-Chi to do it instead of fighting Wenwu herself.

We learn that the voice Wenwu is hearing is coming from the soulsuckers behind a walled-in portal. Wenwu does not believe that, and despite Shang-Chi’s efforts to stop him, Wenwu opens the portal. He is subsequently killed by a soulsucker, despite being “immortal”.

The CGI in Ta Lo is amazing in general, but the soulsucker and the dragon are probably the best. The dragon awakens from underwater, I guess to provide another beautiful instance of over-the-top CGI.

The major soulsucker tries to suck the soul out of the dragon, and is only stopped by Katy’s well-placed arrow. Despite having only several hours of training, she managed a perfect shot. Unrealistic but impressive. Shang-Chi takes the opportunity to kill the soulsucker, thus ending the battle between good and evil.

Having saved the world, Shang-Chi and Katy go back to the United States and tell their disbelieving friends. In a mid-credits scene, Wong invites them to meet Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers, and they find out that the rings are some sort of beacon. Rather than getting a good night’s rest, Wong, Katy, and Shang-Chi spend the night doing karaoke. That has to be one of the greatest parts of the movie.

In a post-credits scene, it is revealed that Xialing has taken over the Ten Rings organization rather than disbanding it like she had told her brother she would.

In conclusion, while this movie was unrealistic at times, it was enjoyable and fun to watch. It was funny at times, serious at the right moments, and altogether interesting. I would recommend it for anyone ages 13 and up.

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Shows

Loki’s Self-Love Has Gone Too Far (Spoilers!)

Show Analysis:

Loki Season 1

Intro

If you want a spoiler-free review of Loki Season 1, check out this article. If you are looking for my promised spoiler analysis and thoughts on Season 1, you’re in the right place.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Loki Season 1, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok. Continue at your own peril.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Analysis

First off, I want to say that I rated this show a 10 out of 10, so I am not going to bash it. I will, however, poke fun at parts that deserve it. That is not to say these parts are cons or mistakes. They actually add a lot to the oddness and intrigue that makes up Loki Season 1.

This season opens in New York in 2012, where Loki manages to procure the tesseract and escape the Avengers. My immediate reaction is, oh great. This is the Loki without all the character development of Avengers: Infinity War and all that happened after 2012. This is the undoing of Loki’s poignant death scene in Infinity War.

Loki Dying in Infinity War

And for a moment, I was frustrated. Having an audience feel strongly about a character and then killing them off is not a bad choice for a writer most of the time. Bringing them back is almost always a bad choice becomes it leads the audience to believe future character deaths are reversible.

But Loki in this series is not the same Loki. Sure, it’s the same actor. Sure, he even has the same obsession with his glorious purpose. But this Loki is just another variant in a universe filled with different Lokis. The other Loki truly died, this one is a different (but similar) character with a different path.

What I appreciate from the 2012 New York scene is that the whole series was caused by Hulk being forced to take the stairs. Think about it. If Hulk hadn’t gotten frustrated about taking the stairs, Loki never would have gotten the Tesseract and teleported.

Which brings us to the next scene, where Loki is lying in the sand of the Gobi desert in Mongolia. Everyone keeps talking about how this scene is remarkably similar to another one in the Iron Man movie.

The TVA (Time Variance Authority) find Loki there and proceed to hit him, but also slow him to 1/16th time. So we get to see the strike’s effects in super slow motion and it looks super painful and weird. This would actually be a pretty effective form of torture since even quick strikes would have their effect stretched out much longer. No doubt the TVA uses those tactics for sketchy stuff, because even from the beginning they give off weird vibes.

At the TVA headquarters, Loki is treated like a product in an assembly line. A bot destroys Loki’s clothing, showing how carelessly and intrusively the TVA treats people. The bot even twitches, so it probably isn’t well-maintained and safe. It kind of reminds me of that scene from Thor: Ragnarok where Thor gets his haircut.

He’s next told to “Please sign to verify if this is everything you have ever said.” There is a compilation of papers that definitely could not be everything he ever said, because we all know Loki likes to talk. He even has to confirm he is an organic being, which confuses him to the point where he even wonders if people could not realize they were robots.

This does establish the business-like and cold atmosphere of the TVA. He even has to take a ticket even though he is the only one there.

Then we get an introduction to the kind of annoying yet unique and interesting Miss Minutes.

Even though I find her kind of creepy, I do think her character is well done. At times, she even seems sentient and shows emotions such as concern.

The cartoon where she is first introduced is old-fashioned and reminds me of the sort of thing Mystery Science Theater 3000 would make fun of.

We learn that the motto of the TVA is “For All Time. Always.” That doesn’t really make sense because the cartoon flat-out admitted that the TVA has not been around for all time. There used to be multiple timelines until they were merged and became one “sacred” timeline. The TVA only began its existence when the Time Keepers acted to create the single timeline.

Loki is then put on trial and asked how he pleads. To that he responds, “Madame, a god doesn’t plead.” This definitely isn’t true, since he “pleads” with Sif in a later scene to stop attacking him when he is caught in a time loop.

We get an explanation for why the Avengers’ journey through time was not punished in the same way Loki was. Apparently that was all went to be. The sacred timeline sure is convoluted.

Loki tries to use his powers, but they don’t work in the TVA. Lucky for them, because Loki is a pretty formidable foe to vanquish.

Mobius stops Loki from being pruned from existence because he has this odd obsession with Lokis in general and seems to enjoy playing therapist/mentor to narcissists. He asks Loki to trust him. Now that’s pretty ridiculous. I wouldn’t even trust Mobius, so why would the backstabber Loki be inclined to do so?

Trust is for children. And dogs.”

Loki

Loki is then questioned extensively by the wanna-be therapist Mobius, who proceeds to show him a montage of some of his worst moments, including future moments he would have experienced. He gets to see that his choices got his mother murdered, which had to be more disturbing than the robot stripping him naked or existential concerns about the potential of being a robot.

Poor Mobius trying to squish a couple movies of character development into one presentation. Which, ironically, is similar to what my English professors had to do for the poor novels that only got one or two classes worth of discussion. (I feel like a good novel deserves at least a week.) I don’t know if Mobius thought it would convince Loki, but again, that wouldn’t have convinced me, since they could have used their high tech to create fake footage.

Loki is only really convinced to behave when he realizes that the TVA uses Infinity Stones as paperweights and that even the Tesseract is useless here. The revelation that the TVA is stronger even then the Tesseract is like a slap in the face to Loki, whose desire for world domination is damaged somewhat.

Loki is convinced to use his skills to hunt down another Loki. The first time they try to rely on Loki is at a medieval festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he mostly just wastes their time. Once again, the only team Loki is truly on is his own.

One thing I do love about this show is the settings–whether it’s a festival, the TVA, New York 2012…everything.

We get to see the variety of Loki variants that have been pruned soon afterwards, some of which look very different from our Loki.

Loki is the one who realizes how the other variant problematic Loki has been surviving and hiding–staying in areas where apocalyptic events are occurring does not upset the timeline.

It’s not until they track the alternate Loki down to a disaster in Haven Hills, Alabama in 2050, that Loki realizes that alternate Loki is a woman. (Big surprise. I mean, this was pretty obvious, very Disneyish move.) Not only that, she goes by the name Sylvie. No doubt to make it easier for people to understand who the heck is being talked about when the season is discussed. Not complaining. It makes it easier to review to have different names or nicknames for each character.

Loki follows Sylvie when she tries to escape and they hide in another cataclysm. They get a little bonding time where we get to see that not only are they both full of themselves, they also are highly skilled and possibly ship-able. Which is uncomfortable because they are basically the same person.

It gets even more obvious Disney is setting this up to be romantic when Loki shows off his dumb fireworks illusion and they talk about all they have in common, like being adopted, bisexual, and woefully misunderstood. (He was confirmed to be bisexual and genderfluid by Disney, so that’s cool. That makes a lot of sense considering the inspiration of Loki from Norse mythology, which he came off as genderfluid even though they didn’t have that terminology at the time.) Also, we get to see Loki dance and sing, which is hilarious and definitely deserved to be on the Marvel to-do list.

When Loki gets drunk and falls off a train, their one way home is destroyed and they have to come up with another idea on the spot, which also happens to not work because giant freakin’ chunks of rock are smashing into the earth and blasts apart their ride.

Luckily, their combined presence, and perhaps the uncomfortable fact that Loki is falling in love with another version of himself, alerts the TVA to their location, and they don’t die. Surprise, surprise.

Loki is banished to a time loop for awhile to think about what he done–time out for Loki, I suppose. In it, we see Sif, which is awesome, because it has certainly been a long time. He cut off her hair in the past because he thought it would be funny, which kind of explains why she has always hated his guts.

When Mobius finally takes him out and tells him that Sylvie is dead, you can see the shock register before he plasters it over with an apathetic look. But Mobius is a very good wanna-be therapist and understands Loki’s true emotions. Loki’s self-love has truly gone too far, because he has fallen in love with another Loki. I don’t think I’ll ever feel super comfortable with them being in any sort of relationship, but hey…it’s not really a con. It’s just another aspect of weirdness in an odd but brilliant show.

Mobius’s reaction is priceless, abashed at Loki’s incredible narcissism. That may be the funniest part in the whole season, honestly.

Loki tries to convince Mobius that all the TVA agents are variants, which is surprisingly not a lie. Mobius doesn’t believe him until he did some digging for himself, and then he tragically gets pruned by the order of Ravonna Renslayer. I found this death unconvincing.

What’s even more unconvincing? When Loki gets pruned himself after they find out the Time Keepers are fake. Yeah, Loki has “died” plenty of times already and I mean, at least we would still have Sylvie, right?

When Loki is pruned and meets the other variant Lokis, all I can think is alligator Loki? Alligator Loki? How could they even tell it was a Loki? How the heck did it start a nexus event? Are all animals variants of people, and if so should vegetarianism be the norm in the Marvel universe?

He’s oversensitive like the rest of us.”

A Loki Variant

Also, the fact that Kid Loki’s nexus event was killing Thor–holy crap. Loki didn’t even manage that. In the end, he probably didn’t even want that. And this little kid murdered his brother? Yikes!

Sylvie prunes herself, because obviously the two uncomfortably similar lovers can’t be apart.

And the Lokis basically all backstab each other in a futile attempt at ruling a junk pile. The alligator eats President Loki’s (another Loki variant) hand, which is disgusting, but also gave the alligator Loki some vague purpose.

Sylvie, Mobius, and Loki all meet up to take down Alioth. Mobius gets the heck out of there and who could blame him? But first Loki hugs him, which shows how much the god of mischief has fallen, but is also kind of sweet.

Then Classic Loki (yet another Loki variant) sacrifices himself, and at this point the broadness and variety of Loki’s own personality is just insane, but okay.

Getting past Alioth only cost one Loki, so no biggie. Miss Minutes shows up like a freakin’ serial killer and tries to make a shady deal with them and they are like, um–no. Miss Minutes is creepier than Thanos. No joke.

Then they meet the actual He Who Remains, the real Time Keeper. And he’s eating an apple in a way that reminds me of Moriarty from Sherlock. Sylvie tries to kill him a bunch of times. Loki is not as keen on killing him.

The little detail that killing Kang the Conqueror–I mean He Who Remains (pretty sure everyone has determined he is Kang by now though)–will lead to multidimensional war, makes Loki hesitate. Especially since it means Kang will be alive anyway and multiplied a bunch of times.

Loki is a liar and can spot one, so he knows Kang is telling the truth. Sylvie trusts no one. At this point it’s super obvious Mr. Kang’s gonna die. The kiss was also expected but it seemed early and weirdly timed. I mean, if you are going to kill someone, why would you stop for a quick, passionate smooch? Maybe I just don’t understand love.

I don’t know what the right word is to describe two people who are basically the same person kissing? Is this coming close to incest? Or just narcissism at its worst?

Anywho, after all that kissing nonsense, Loki gets sent back through a portal to the TVA and Kang is killed by Sylvie. Loki ends up in an alternate timeline where Mobius has no idea who he is. That’s frustrating, and I have no idea where the MCU is going from here. But I am kind of excited to see what happens next.

Conclusion

These Disney+ series have impressed me so far. I am curious to see where the story goes from here. Let me know what you thought of Loki Season 1 in the comments, and as always, if you have any suggestions for reviews or analyses feel free to share.

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Shows

Loki’s Back For His Own Series

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Loki Season 1

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I heard about this series, I was concerned about whether it would be any good because I was worried it would take away from the character development we saw in other movies. Instead, it provided the means for more character development and showed a different side of Loki.

Warning: This review does not contain any significant spoilers for Season 1 of Loki, but it does include some plot details from Episode 1.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Summary

Loki escapes the Avengers only to be captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and labeled a variant to the sacred timeline. To survive, he will have to use his wits and his own self-knowledge to capture an enemy of the TVA.

Pros

  • Enjoyable characters
  • Strong character development
  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting
  • The show is unpredictable and strange, which is fitting for a series centering around the god of mischief
  • Well-chosen music

Cons

  • There are no specific cons I would like to point out. This series does stretch believability, but considering the god of mischief is the main character, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Observations

  • Inspired in a lot of ways by the comics

Review

Characters

Loki wins the prize for most character development out of everyone from this series. Watching his character unfold was like watching a narcissistic caterpillar turn into an equally narcissistic butterfly. Yeah, he does remain a narcissist, but he’s forced to re-evaluate his entire worldview and come to terms with who he truly is.

Mobius is kind of patronizing at first, but once you figure out what makes him tick, he’s easier to understand and appreciate. He kind of fulfills a mentor role to Loki in that Loki does learn some things from him, but he’s not the stereotypical old dude fulfilling his duty to pass on unwanted wisdom.

Miss Minutes is the holographic mascot for the TVA, explaining its mission to maintain the sacred timeline to Loki when he first is captured. She handles looking up information in the TVA’s databases, but is more than just a tool. Often, she acts like a sentient being with her own feelings and concerns.

Acting

The acting was impeccable, especially by Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Sophia Di Martino. Hiddleston using a range of complex expressions to get across Loki’s reactions to pivotal events was especially effective.

Setting

The TVA as a setting was perfect. It combined a bunch of old-fashioned propaganda posters, dated cartoons, and futuristic devices to make a unique atmosphere. It was a perfect blend of old and new to make the setting seem timeless and immersive.

Plot

The plot throws you for a lot of loops. (And not just time loops.) Every time everything seems chill and like things are going to go one way, things escalate and the stakes become even higher.

Music

The quirky and thematic music of this season added to the atmosphere. There is currently a soundtrack out for Episodes 1-3 called “Loki Volume 1” and it can be found on Spotify.

Inspiration

The whole concept of the TVA and the Timekeepers, as wells as many of the characters were inspired by the comics. I love that Disney is taking into account previous works in the Marvel Universe rather than taking an entirely new path.

Conclusion

If you like Marvel, then you will appreciate this show focused on one of Marvel’s most enduring characters.

Rating System

If you’re interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

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