Haunted Mansion Review

 Ready for a little spookiness in August? I'll be honest the desire to throw on a jumper, buy pumpkins and embrace all things spooky has hit me early this year, mainly due to the depressing summer weather here in the UK. But something still feels slightly off about releasing a ghost movie in the middle of summer but that is exactly what Disney have done with Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion is the second film of its name release by Disney, The Haunted Mansion (Rob Minkoff, 2003) was my go-to childhood scary movie, although there is no link between the two films. It is also the second film to be based on a Disney ride, the first being the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The ride features at five Disney Parks, under three names: The Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor and Mystic Manor, and the film makes numerous nods to the dark ride. So, join me foolish mortals on a journey to the Haunted Mansion.  Haunted Mansion's opening act is perfect, scary and full of mystery. As we open

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is here! The film is the second of four MCU cinema releases scheduled for 2021, unlike Black Widow, Shang-Chi is exclusively at cinemas and won't be available on Disney+ Premier Access. Although the pandemic means that not everyone can freely go to the cinema currently, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings would be wasted on TV. The scale of the film, particularly the visuals in the second half require a cinema viewing. Just like Black Widow deserved a cinematic release so did Shang-Chi, representation matters. So, is Shang-Chi a classic MCU origin story hit? Yes, it is! This is the first origin story since Captain Marvel in 2019, and this film is clearly the first step to forging a refreshed Avengers team. I am so excited about this film and its characters, I already cannot wait for what's next. Read on for my full review: there will be spoilers beyond this point!
Where does Shang-Chi fit in the MCU timeline? The main events of the movie take place after Avengers: Endgame, although it's unclear how long after. Whether the characters survived the snap or disappeared for five years is also unclear. Narrative wise Shang-Chi is a movie of two parts, the first an engaging, perfectly written and executed introduction to a new superhero and supporting characters. The second half feels over-stuffed, which makes some of the character development feel rushed and a little undeserved. Our newest Avenger is Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the son of Wenwu (Tony Leung) aka The Mandarin, the leader of the Ten Rings. After the death of his mother Ying Li (Fala Chen) Shang-Chi is trained by his father, the goal; to create an unbeatable killer who would eventually take over the Ten Rings and the power his father had gained over thousands of years. Shang-Chi rejects his father's wishes and runs, eventually becoming a valet with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) a kooky sidekick that refuses to leave Shang-Chi's side no matter how crazy everything gets. After ten years of freedom Shang-Chi and his sister Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhang) who also escaped her father's crime ring (to create her own) are brought home by their father. Shang-Chi's development throughout the film takes him on a journey from a loved son in a happy family, to a trained teenage assassin, a valet in hiding, a son with an identity crisis to finally a hero ready to become an Avenger. A lot happens in this film of self-discovery, full of family dynamics and mystical beings. The dragon is 100% awesome and majestic! Another new layer is added to the MCU with the introduction of a dimension world, which opens up possibilities. 
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a unique film, that forges its own identity in the MCU, it is truly unlike any of the other movies. It's exciting to meet a new superhero, in a way that's reminiscent of the early MCU origin films at least in the first half. The second half is bolder than the early days of the MCU ever dared to be, perhaps it's bolder than any MCU movie. The movie is ambitious, it spans thousands of years, uses multiple locations and does so with ease and style.  The witty humour that breaks tension also seems less frequent, the narrative not needing it to be entertaining. Actually, anymore joke breaks would have pulled you from the dynamics and the power of the narrative. It's almost as if a new direction was taken with Shang-Chi and it's a welcome one. The cast offer brilliant, refreshing performances without stereotypes holding them back. In fact, the characters in general are three-dimensional, with believable emotions and connections to one another. The relationships between, Shang-Chi, Wenwu, Ying Li and Xu Xialing are full of depth, pain and memories. The death of Ying Li the catalyst for the majority of the trauma. Wenwu's backstory is rich, and begs to be explored further, his motivations and power only hinted at. His meeting with Ying Li is mesmerising, in a scene that uses no dialogue, we see two characters fall in love. I found myself disappointed by Wenwu's death at least until the after credits scene, where it would seem his daughter is replacing him as the new head of the Ten Rings. The female characters really brought it in this film, none of them love interests or irrelevant to the narrative, each offering something to the film in unique ways. 
Visually this film is captivating, the use of CGI on full display. However, the climatic CGI battle felt unnecessary, the narrative pushed back. A smaller fight or perhaps no major fight at all would have had a larger impact. That's not to say all the fight scenes felt this way, sprinkled throughout the film are action sequences that are perfectly time, stunningly choregraphed and shot in a mesmerising way. The two cameos: Wong (Benedict Wong) and Abomination feel a little out of place, Wong having a larger role in the after credits scene, Abomination clearly showing up to remind audiences of his character before a future appearance. Ben Kingsley returns as Trevor Slattery, his performance hilarious and likely his last as it would seem his journey is completed in the MCU. Brie Larson and Mark Ruffalo also reprise their roles as Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner, when questions are raised over the origin of the Ten Rings - my bet is they have something to do with the Eternals. Shang-Chi is a bridge between the story of the very first Avenger: Iron Man and the future, there is so much potential here, its impressive. 
Overall, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a unique, powerful MCU origin movie, that rejects harmful stereotypes and creates a hero that will surely have a long and central future in the MCU. I have to admit I am super excited about this movie and these characters; I cannot wait to see where the timeline takes them next because its sure to be bold and exciting! As always, it's a Marvel film so make sure you stay till the very end of the credits as there are two fantastic scenes you do not want to miss. Until next time Shang-Chi!

Let me know what you thought in the comments. 

Thank you for reading.