Friday, October 15, 2021

Captain America: The First Avenger (a movie review post)

 

MCU #5

Sometimes, things don't change and, looking back at my review of Captain America back when it first came out, I can see that my opinion hasn't changed much. Actually, my opinion on how strong a movie Captain America: The First Avenger is has only gotten stronger. I don't know what that means, yet, in a practical sense, because it's still in the top three best Marvel origin story movies. I will need to re-watch Spider-Man again to see if it has ousted Spidey as my favorite. I don't know, the top three -- Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man -- are all so great, capturing the essence of the characters and putting them in a modern context, it's hard to see which is better, but I'm certain, as far as personal feelings go, that Cap has bumped Iron Man to at least the #2 spot.

So let's talk about Chris Evans. I don't think there exists a better choice for Steve Rogers than Chris Evans. I could be wrong about that, but I don't think so. I talk about Marvel's ability to cast their characters a lot, probably too much, but this choice is probably the most perfect choice they made. The character of Steve Rogers would have been diminished by any other actor. It's even more impressive considering that Evans had already been Johnny Storm in Fox's failed FF movies. Like Harrison Ford getting the role of Indiana Jones after being Han Solo, because Lucas did not want him (not because he didn't think he was right for the role, obviously, but because he didn't want to just keep using Ford over and over again (it's about barriers, man)). Now, I'm not saying that Evans himself could live up to the character of Captain America -- after all, I don't know him -- but he seems like a pretty good guy. And he likes dogs. And he was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Which leads me to Stanley Tucci... I think the relationship between Rogers and Erskine is the foundation the whole movie rests on, and it is played so perfectly by both of them. The few scenes between the two of them are so touching and heartfelt. Tucci is wonderful. Again, the movie would have been diminished with anyone else in that role.

I was less impressed this time with Hugo Weaving. It's clear why he got the part, and he plays the role as an Elrond variation of Agent Smith. He's fine. There's nothing wrong with his performance; I just don't think he... really put anything into it. What I'm saying is that Weaving did not make this a role that would have suffered if they had put someone else in it.

On the other hand, Tommy Lee Jones is perfect in his role as Colonel Phillips because he is Tommy Lee Jones. Anyone else would have been trying to play Tommy Lee Jones as Phillips, so it's great they were able to get Jones to play himself. You can't beat that.

I like Hayley Atwell and the character of Agent Carter. I think Atwell is better here than in her TV show, but I think Carter is better in the TV show. If you don't understand what I'm saying, I can't explain it. Dominic Cooper and Stark are both better in the TV show, not that Cooper is bad here; there's just not a lot for him to do.

I still love the Howling Commandos, especially Neal McDonough. It's his weird, freaky smile; what can I say? But it works great with Dum Dum's huge moustache. I wish, kind of, that they would do a Howling Commando movie or TV show. Clearly, that group of guys was tight before Cap came along, so it would be a lot of fun to see what kind of mischief they had before Captain America.

The big surprise for me on this watching was discovering that Bucky is... kind of a dick. Well, not kind of. I think when the movie first came out, I was taken in by Sebastian Stan's charisma, which is, I suppose, the point, kind of like Tony Stark. You have to be around him awhile before you realize he's a bit of an asshole. Bucky, not Stan. Where, before, I just thought it was amusing how upset he got when Carter won't give him any attention, this time it was, like, wow...! He's really getting pissy about that. So good on Sebastian for pulling that off...?

The one thing I would say is a negative for me on this viewing is that some of the scenes fighting Hydra, especially the escape scene, feel like watching the 80s GI Joe cartoon. Hydra is all in dark colors with face masks and in big dark vehicles, all shooting blue "lasers." I wasn't struck that way by it before but, this time, that scene in particular, with all of the soldiers running around fighting Hydra, made me think of GI Joe. It would not have surprised me at all if someone had yelled "Yo, Joe!" and thrown a fist in the air. It's a small thing overall.

And I wonder if Joe Johnston, the director, did that on purpose or if it was accident or what. I don't know if it matters. I think Johnston has been an underused talent in Hollywood. It's not like he created Boba Fett or anything. Oh, wait, he did. But, maybe, Johnston has worked as much as he has chosen to. I wouldn't know.

My final word is that Captain America: The First Avenger is a great movie. The best of the Marvel movies, as Cap is the best of the Marvel heroes. You know, in the sense that you would say, "He was the best of us." Spider-Man is still my favorite and the best super hero ever. 'nuff said


Current MCU rankings:
1. Captain America: The First Avemger
2. Iron Man
3. Thor
4. Iron Man 2
5. Incredible Hulk (Hulk smash Norton!)

Friday, October 8, 2021

Thor (a movie review post)

 

MCU #4

I believe Thor may have been the first of the MCU movies I reviewed on here, back when my movie reviews were less movie reviews and more... I don't know. Commentary on experiences? You can go back and read it here if you're so inclined. It seems even then that I had some kind of beef against the Hulk movies.

Of the trio of Avengers origin stories, I think Thor is the weakest. I say this based purely on the fact that both Iron Man and Captain America present origins that are very close to their comic book origins. Thor, however, diverges from his. I am much more easy with that, now, than I was a decade ago. Thor's actual comic book origin is too... I think it's a bit of a wish fulfilment. Too Arthurian. But I'm not going to get into that right now. [But I think it must be related to how many Boomers I've known for whom Thor was... not just their favorite super hero, their only super hero: "Do you read comics?" "No, but I read Thor." It's fucking weird, man.] The movie origin is... I'll just say it: better. It makes more sense and certainly fits into the context of the MCU in a way that the comic origin would not have.

I hadn't heard of Chris Hemsworth before this movie, but he was a great choice. I don't know of anyone who would have been a better choice, in fact, so, you know, just pointing out Marvel's excellent casting choices again. And Anthony Hopkins... well, I think there were probably other choices for Odin, other actors who could have done it with just as much... authority?... as Hopkins but, if you can get Hopkins, get Hopkins.

Then there's Tom Hiddleston... You know, he's rather understated in this movie. I don't know if he just hadn't worked himself into the skin of Loki yet or if the writers just hadn't realized his full potential. At any rate, it's a little weird looking back and seeing him so much in the background. But still fully a manipulator. Hiddleston is good in this movie. Maybe very good? Later, he becomes great, and I can't imagine anyone else in the role, now, but, at the time... Look, clearly, he didn't make much of an impression on me when the movie came out. I didn't mention him at all in my original review.

I love that the Warriors Three and Sif have such a big role in the movie. Other than Josh Dallas, as Fandral, the casting is good. Dallas was popular at the time, but that role should have gone to Cary Elwes; I don't care how old he is. I'm not really an Elwes fan; I don't think he's a good actor, but he has particular roles he can play, and this one should have been his. 

Also, Kat Dennings is awesome as Darcy. She was certainly a surprise, and I'm glad Marvel has kept her around.

Then there is Natalie Portman... She is my point of ambivalence in this movie. I think she is a really good actress, but... I don't know. There's nothing wrong with her performance, and she has good chemistry with Hemsworth. It's just... her. 

Anyway...

As a character in the MCU, Hemsworth as Thor is one of my favorites. His range is one of the broadest of the various characters, called on to be both goofy and deadly serious. And a wide range in between. Thor was an excellent start to that.


Current MCU rankings:
1. Iron Man
2. Thor
3. Iron Man 2
4. Incredible Hulk (Hulk is seriously just going to visit a new number every week. Thanks Norton.)

Friday, October 1, 2021

Iron Man 2 (a movie review post)

 

MCU #3

It's interesting looking back at the earlier Marvel movies now that we've reached the stage of "saving the world." The early movies were much "smaller" and personal. Iron Man is, ultimately, about the envy of a man and the repercussions caused from trying to kill the man he is envious of. Sure, there is a battle between the two men in mech armor, but, ultimately, it is a personal movie.

Incredible Hulk is the same. Basically, a dude doesn't like the guy her daughter is dating. His daughter is dating the Hulk, so there's a lot of smashing, but, at its heart, it's a personal rivalry. Maybe two, because there's also Tim Roth's character and his, again, envy.

Iron Man 2 is also "small" in that same way. It's a battle between the sons of two men, one who rose to greatness, the other who didn't even go on to live in infamy, just obscurity. I mean, Tony had never even heard of the other man. All of that with a side of man vs man as Tony battles with "addiction." Of course, it's not really addiction in the movie; it's his looming death from palladium poisoning, but that's a stand-in for the arc in the comics when Tony was battling his alcoholism, a groundbreaking story in its day. I think they did a decent job of reflecting that in the movie as he gets more and more out of control.

I think Iron Man 2 is a quite good sequel. Narratively, I don't find it quite as strong as Iron Man. It actually has a little too much going on in it. But, as a movie about characters, which Marvel movies ultimately are, it really shines. It introduces Black Widow, which is so much fun. We really get to encounter Nick Fury, and that's awesome. Pepper gets promoted and freaks out. Rhodey steps into his own, at least a bit. We start to get to know Coulson... Oh, and Justin Hammer!

Okay, let me just say that I love Sam Rockwell. He is completely underrated as an actor. At least, he must be due to his lack of big profile roles. I don't know; maybe he stays away from them, but he's an incredible actor, and he was so much fun in this role. His little dance across the stage at the expo is gold. Also, I just found out, he was considered for the role of Tony Stark, and that would not have been a bad choice. A different choice, because I think Rockwell would have, well, rocked in the role, though I do think Downey was the correct decision. Not that Downey is the better actor; they are different actors, and Downey is able to have a particular smugness about him that I have never seen Rockwell do, and I think that particular quality is what really sells Stark.

Anyway... It's tough to pick between two actors you think are awesome.

And, I think, that's all I have to say about this one. Oh, wait, no it's not.
I have always been ambivalent about Mickey Rourke as the villain in this movie. Or, maybe, I'm ambivalent about the villain. I don't know. I don't know if it's the character or the actor. I hoped re-watching it would help me come to some sort of decision, but it didn't. Maybe it's both. This is part of the narrative weakness of the plot. Whiplash feels retconned in because he kind of comes from nowhere and nothing. Clearly, this guy is a genius but was fine with, what, living in squalor? And we're supposed to just accept Fury's word that the guy's father was a bad guy.

And we are supposed to accept that because Fury, in the MCU, is the ultimate reliable narrator, which makes everything a bit too easy for me to be comfortable with, I guess. It's the thing that pulls this movie down a bit for me.
Still a great and fun movie.

Oh, here's an idea! My ranking of the MCU movies as I re-watch them.
Current rank:

1. Iron Man
2. Iron Man 2
3. (and it's a very, very distant third, watch for this one to just keep dropping until it hits 25) The Incredible Hulk

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Incredible Hulk (a movie review post)

 

Marvel Movie #2

I have long been a Hulk supporter. That started with Ang Lee's Hulk, which I felt was unfairly maligned. [I intend to re-watch that one, too, now, because I realized when watching the MCU Hulk that I had rolled bits and pieces of that one into this one.] One reason is that a lot of the shade being thrown at both movies had to do with the animation. Generally speaking, people making movies are making them as technically proficiently as they can, and I am willing to overlook poor tech, especially when you're dealing with companies on the cutting edge. I mean, have you seen movies made before Star Wars? And no one then was complaining about things looking fake or not.

That said, there is a problem with the animation in The Incredible Hulk that has nothing to do with capability; it has to do with choice and design. Those things are fair game for slammingy. So here's the problem with Incredible: Every time Hulk was onscreen for any kind of "closeup" I felt like I was watching Lego Hulk. Of course, Lego Hulk is based on this Hulk, but Lego is intentionally cartoony, and this movie was trying to not, which I will get more into in a moment. Effectively, whoever was doing the animation for Hulk's face went with a poor design that made him look like a cartoon dog when they showed his expressions, and it just does not work.

It especially doesn't work with Edward Norton. Oh, god, he is so pretentious. No, I am not a Norton fan. As I said in my Iron Man review, casting is something that Marvel has proven to be very adept at, but this movie was a colossal fumble. I really have never been able to figure out what they were thinking with this whole deal because, to get Norton, they had to give him script control, and he re-wrote the initial script. What I will say here is that Incredible does not feel like a Marvel movie. At all. That was the thing that struck me most, the feel of the movie. Now, I don't know what the original script was like and whether it had the correct feel or not, but, in the end, that doesn't matter, because it was the Norton script that they used. And Norton who blocked the end-credits scene and made it into a pre-credits scene, also very un-Marvel-like.

The result of all of that is that Incredible feels like an ode to King Kong rather than a Marvel movie. There are two problems with that:
1. Peter Jackson had just made his horrible adaptation of Kong. Maybe Norton thought this would be better? I don't know. It was unnecessary, though, to do this so close on the heels of Jackson's.
2. Hulk is a Jekyll and Hyde story, not a King Kong story so, well, wrong movie Norton. Come on, man, you really could have dealt with the horror of turning into a monster you don't want to be -- and the opening of the movie looked in that direction with the whole "days since last incident" thing -- rather than the romantic Kong angle. The cave scene is so painful to watch.

Of course, all of this was being done vaguely in conjunction with Universal, so maybe they are the reason for all of the King Kong stuff? That, I do not know.

All of that, and I never buy Norton as being tortured by his predicament. Maybe frantic, but not tortured.

Speaking of Peter Jackson, though he has nothing to do with this, I like Liv Tyler. I do. She was great as Arwen. But she is not good as Betty Ross. She's too soft spoken. I think Jennifer Connelly was much better as Betty. Maybe I'll change my mind when I watch Lee's Hulk, but I don't think so. I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and say that Eric Bana was better as banner, too.
Of course, Ruffalo has turned out to be the correct choice, because Ruffalo has that tortured look that makes Hulk work.

And I'm not even going to start on the Abomination. Tim Roth was fine, but, again, whoever made the animation decision made the Abomination an abomination. His cameo in Shang-chi is so awesome, especially in comparison to this monstrosity. Pun clearly intended.

William Hurt is the best part of this movie. Or, maybe, the cameo by Lou Ferrigno. And the one by Martin Star. None of the things that should have been the best parts are the best parts. They are the worst.

Oh, and what's the deal with Stark going to Ross at the end of the movie? I don't think that is ever dealt with. Maybe I'm wrong or maybe Marvel was hoping we'd forget, which we probably did, considering I had forgotten all about that until I re-watched it.

Here's the final word:
The Incredible Hulk is the lowest grossing of the Marvel movies, and there is a reason for that. It's not a movie I will ever go back and watch again "just for fun."

Friday, September 17, 2021

Iron Man (a movie review post)


Marvel is on the verge of being the largest movie franchise ever. James Bond is still one movie ahead but, by the end of the year, they will be tied. Of course, it's taken James Bond 60-ish years to get there and Marvel only 13. Still, after watching the latest release, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, my family decided it was time that we should re-visit the movies and refresh our memories as we go into this next phase of the MCU. Ironically, this decision had nothing to do with the connection between Iron Man and the Ten Rings but, rather, to do with what appears to be Marvel's foray into mysticism in this next phase. Doctor Strange seems as if he is going to be the next character to make the rounds of the Marvel movies as Iron Man did in the last phase.

Having said that, it was good timing to go back and watch Iron Man again after seeing Shang-Chi.

Iron Man is what I would call an excellent adaptation. It takes all of the basic origin of Iron Man and brings into the 21st century. It's current while also feeling like it's the same story from Tales of Suspense. Robert Downey, Jr. captures the character of Tony Stark perfectly. If you had to choose just one thing that Marvel has done really well (there are quite a few more than one, but this is one of the most important (and a thing that DC has, frankly, sucked at)), it's their casting. Not that they haven't made a few mistakes, one of them in this movie, but their casting has been nearly perfect. And Downey is perfect in this role. As he says at the end of the movie, "I am Iron Man." And he is.

Oh, yeah, spoilers. But the movie is 13 years old and, if you haven't seen it, that's on you.

I'm going to jump movies for a moment:
Shang-Chi, as the title says, is all about the legend of the Ten Rings. The movie sets out to differentiate these rings from the Ten Rings of the Mandarin in the comics. These are those rings, and they are not those rings. As I have mentioned here and there in these various reviews, Mandarin and the rings are a big deal in the Iron Man comic books.

But we had completely forgotten that the terrorist organization that kidnaps Tony at the beginning of the movie is the Ten Rings! So we're watching and they have Tony strapped to a chair to make this "ransom" video and, back behind Tony, there is a flag with the emblem of the Ten Rings! My son went nuts. We had to rewind and watch it again. There it was, right from the beginning, the Ten Rings. I had totally forgotten about that and, probably, didn't pay much attention to it to begin with anyway. But it's pretty amazing to be this far into the MCU and find that there are still connections going all the way back to the beginning. Because this is Marvel, and Marvel knows how to tell stories and how to build a universe.

I'm not much of a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, but she's good as Pepper. She and Downey have good chemistry together, and it works.

Terrence Howard is... well, I don't know what to say about Howard. He was, really, the big-name star of this movie, in the same way that Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing were the big-name stars of Star Wars: A New Hope, which is strange to think of now but, at the time, no one knew who Harrison Ford was. Howard's pay for Iron Man was seven times more than Downey's. You have to remember that Downey was considered a washed up has-been. This was his comeback, and he was a risky move for Marvel. I'm not going to try to deconstruct what happened between Howard and Marvel after the success of the movie. Let's just say that Howard was no longer happy with the deal that he'd made, and he tried to force Marvel to change it... by threatening to walk. And Marvel let him walk, and, in my opinion, he was replaced by a better actor for the role of James Rhodes. But Howard was fine enough in this movie.

I had actually completely forgotten about Jeff Bridges being in this, so that was a surprise. Less of a surprise that he's in than that I had forgotten that he's in it. I love Jeff Bridges. Despite having some big successes, I feel like he mostly flies under the radar, especially for an actor of his talent. There aren't a lot of actors who can convincingly play both heroes and villains, but Bridges seem to fill the skin of whatever character he's in without bringing any of himself into the role. It was fun to be reminded of him and see him in this again.

And! And! This movie introduces Coulson.

So, yeah, the movie holds up. Completely. It may be better, now, even with the release of Shang-Chi. It gives the movie a bit more depth or reach or something. It was definitely worth revisiting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Distant Curve (pictures I like)

 

The curve of the Earth is painfully obvious to the camera. The only reason we can't see it with our eyes is that it makes our brains uncomfortable, so it... stomps it flat in our heads. I understand that our brains think they are doing us a favor, but we wouldn't have any flat-earthers if they could see reality.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Peace Talks (a book review post)

 

What?!?! Two reviews in the same week? What the heck is going on here?

It's been a while since I've been in Dresden-land. A long while. It's possible I should go back and re-read the series at this point but, with 17 books now (this is number 16) in the series proper and a slew of related books with short stories and things, it's highly unlikely that I'll ever do that. Fortunately, Butcher is quite talented at reminding readers of details from earlier books when they are needed. 

Unfortunately, it's not enough for this book to be a good place to come into Dresden if you wanted to just jump in. Some of his books are self-contained enough that anyone could pick one of those up and read it on its own. Not this one. Not any of the last few, in fact. We are solidly into the area of the series where you need to have read pretty much all of the previous books. The memory prompts for readers are not enough to get you through if you haven't been reading. And there's nothing wrong with that; that's the nature of a long series. What I'm saying is that this is not the place to come in as a new reader but, also, Butcher is very good at helping his long-time readers along, which most authors are not good at.

But how is Peace Talks, I hear you asking. Peace Talks is good. It's a solid entry into the Dresden series. It has some good moments and interesting developments. It was a fun read and a welcome change of pace for me compared to the other things I've been reading lately. If you're a Dresden fan, you will, of course, be wanting to read this as big things are afoot, and this is the book that's going to lead you into Battle Ground.

However, upon reflection after finishing it, the book has a few... issues. Well, one big issue. It has too much going on it. Too many big things going on it, and it's difficult to get invested in anything because you're constantly being distracted by the next ultra important development which is super big. 
Let me sidestep a moment...

For at least several books now, Butcher has been developing this idea of a Black Council that's in existence operating from the shadows and have a particular hate-on for Harry. He's been building it up and up as the next Big Bad showdown, kind of like with the showdown against the Red Court which took several books of building. And while the Black Council is mentioned in this book, they are sort of shoved out of the way for an even bigger menace, one which kind of appears from nowhere. And, yeah, we could argue that point, but there was nothing prior to this book to indicate a villain of this level, so she's really from out of nowhere, and I don't really approve. It's like telling me that you make the best chocolate cake ever and telling me and telling me and, then, inviting me over and making me banana pudding. There's nothing wrong with the banana pudding; I like banana pudding; but it's not what you lead me to expect.

Also, there's this whole thing with Thomas, and you want to care about Thomas, right? We like Thomas. Thomas deserved the book to deal with this, especially since it involves revealing the information about Thomas to McCoy. Instead, after introducing the thing with Thomas and expecting the book to deal with that, it also gets shoved to the side to deal with the aforementioned uber-villain.

Sure, I get that life can be like that. Things come up and distract us from other things, and we have to decide which things to focus on. But that kind of thing makes a book messy, just like it makes life messy. I can't do anything necessarily about the messy in my life, but I would prefer a little less of it in my reading material. These threads could have, probably should have, been developed into separate books.

Then there is the issue of McCoy and his extreme uncharacteristic behavior at the end of Peace Talks. And you can try to no-prize your way out of what he did all you want, Butcher himself did by stating that McCoy was "out of control," but I'm not ever going to buy that Ebenezer did what he did for any other reason than the author poking his finger in McCoy's head and making him do something outside of his character. I understand that sometimes, as an author, you want or need certain things to happen for the plot to do what you want, but, as an author, I don't personally approve having your characters do things outside of the personalities that you've written for them.

Was all of that vague enough for you?
I am trying to do this without spoilers.

Having said all of that, I want to reiterate that Peace Talks is really good. I enjoyed it. It's not the best Dresden novel, but it's certainly not the worst (that would be Turn Coat, as far as I'm concerned). I've already ordered my copy of Battle Ground and am eagerly awaiting it. But what is a review for if not for pointing out the good and the bad?

Monday, September 13, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (a movie review post)

 

I suppose I can't get into this review without at least mentioning that this is the first movie I've seen in the theater since 2019. It was a weird experience, and I think I have lost my love of "going to the movies" over the last year and a half and not just because of the pandemic, but that's a completely separate topic.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is quite possibly Marvel's most complex movie yet, not so much as far as the movie itself goes but its process for coming into being. Shang-Chi, as a Marvel character, has his own complexities, not the least of which is having nothing to do with the "Ten Rings."

And this is where I really want to get out into the weeds and talk about The Mandarin and things which, ultimately, have nothing to do with this movie yet which I find fascinating. Maybe some other post. Let me skip through all of that by saying this:
As an adaptation, Shang-Chi is a poor one. Other than his skill in martial arts, there is nothing to connect the character from the movie to the character in the comics. And I don't care at all.
From me, that's significant, because I am always looking at how adaptations stray from the source material. So a few things here:
1. I never followed Shang-Chi. His series had been cancelled before I seriously got into comics, and I think I probably don't own a single issue of The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, a cumbersomely long title if there ever was one.
2. Shang-Chi's origins are... problematic, at best. On the one hand, Marvel was trying to be more diverse. On the other hand, they were trying to capitalize on the Kung Fu craze of the 70s. Also, Roy Thomas, then editor-in-chief of Marvel, insisted that Shang-Chi be half white, over the objections of the character's creators. 
3. The Shang-Chi of the comics had no connection to the Ten Rings, which was supposed to refer to the Ten Rings of the Mandarin, but The Mandarin, as a character, has become problematic, despite his long history in Iron Man, and this movie became a way for Marvel to address some of those issues.

Looks like I'm getting out into the weeds anyway, so let's just get back to the movie: It was fabulous. Sure, you might say, it's Marvel; of course, it's fabulous, but they took a lot of risks with this one, and it could have flopped entirely, just failed to work, but Marvel is proving to be adept at going in new directions while holding course to their vision. Despite cameo appearances from Banner and Captain Marvel, this is an Asian movie, almost entirely. The only white actor of any consequence is a henchman.

Simu Liu is great. This is my introduction to him as an actor, as I'm sure is the case for most viewers, and he was a good choice. I can't say how good he was as an actor since I have nothing to compare the performance to, but he was engaging. Awkwafina was fun and a savvy choice by Marvel. She has such a distinctive voice and she gave resonance to another recent Disney movie she was in, Raya and the Last Dragon.

Michelle Yeoh was absolutely perfect. Have you ever left the salt out of a recipe? I think not having her in this movie would have been akin to forgetting the salt. It made me want to go back and watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again. Which, you know, was probably an intentional consequence. Not watching it again, just bringing up the feelings, the magical realism, of that movie, because Shang-Chi has its own share of that, and Yeoh just brings it back to earth. I hope her introduction in this movie is just a precursor to future Marvel involvement.

Then there is Ben Kingsley. I'm not going to try and pretend that I was much in favor of what Marvel did with Kingsley and The Mandarin back in Iron Man 3. At the time, I was very much WTF Marvel. But I don't want to get off on Iron Man 3 at the moment. That will come later. Anyway... Kingsley is such a serious actor, pretty much all the time. His role as Trevor is just not like that, and, honestly, it's really refreshing to see him playing this character. It shows he does actually have range as an actor other than being super serious or being the super serious villain. I enjoyed him immensely.

Clearly, this post-Infinity War material from Marvel is dealing with a lot of new stuff. Marvel is redefining the MCU after the loss of three of its central characters. I have hypotheses, but I'm not going to throw them out in a this review. That would be going into the weeds in a different direction.

The take away is this: Shang-Chi is excellent. If you're into martial arts, there's almost no way you can't enjoy this movie. If you're into the mystical, you should love this movie. If you love Marvel, you will love this movie. And, perhaps most importantly about Shang-Chi: It's an excellent stepping on point for the Marvel movies. Being 25 movies in, I think it can be daunting for newcomers to the franchise. That's a lot of movies, and they're being augmented, now, by the various series on Disney+. You don't need any of that to watch Shang-Chi. The story itself is self-contained. There's just enough flavor from the rest of the MCU to make you curious but not enough to be confusing or make you feel like you're missing something.

My problem right now? I want to see it again, but I don't want to go back to the theater to do it.