Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | In Other Waters
Lost loved ones and weird water wildlife abound.
MOVIE REVIEW /// Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Movie summary: Shang-Chi, the master of unarmed weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization. (IMDb)
Now this is how you debut a hero unlike any you've featured before, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings proving to be the best solo MCU movie since Black Panther and the best debut movie since Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014. Yes, this movie really is that good and I want Simu Liu's Shang-Chi to return as soon as possible.
Liu is a big part of that, making his character so likeable that it's amazing to think that this is his first appearance. I'd argue that a big selling point of the MCU is that most of the heroes feel like people you'd be okay hanging out with and Shang-Chi has shot right near the top of that list immediately, if not topping it - even if he (and his friend Katy, played by Awkwafina) appear to like karaoke more than I ever will.
Another reason for wanting Shang-Chi to return as soon as possible are the action sequences, which are so well choreographed that you have to hope future scenes can match up with what we get here. The extended fights on the bus (heavily featured in the trailers, despite showing very little of how incredible it is) and the bamboo scaffolding are amazing to watch in a Hollywood-made movie.
Those aren't the only sequences that stand out, with fights between Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Li (Fala Chen), and Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) training Shang-Chi resembling something closer to dancing than fighting and proving all the better for it. Did I say yet that this has the best action seen in an MCU movie so far? No, well it has. Sorry, Captain America: The Winter Soldier - you've been dethroned.
It's not just the action though, even if it is a pretty important highlight. The movie looks gorgeous, especially the time spent in Macau which looks so beautiful lit up that it feels like something out of a future-set sci-fi story rather than real life. The score and soundtrack are both up there too, really adding to the visuals and making Shang-Chi an audio-visual treat.
If there is a weakness, it's the third act, which threatened to get away from the story and its focus on the character of Shang-Chi a little too much for me - it didn't turn out that way, but it was still distracting enough to make what was happening feel a little disappointing. Also, I do get wanting to have all the 'major' characters play a part, but the movie I think pushes just a little too far for me.
And then there's the previously-mentioned Tony Leung as Wenwu, who adds yet another great villain to the MCU, although it's hard to genuinely say that he's a villain when his motivation is love and grief rather than anything evil. While he does plenty of bad things to get to the final showdown and is shown as having done plenty of terrible acts in his lifetime, his drive in this story doesn't really fit that mould and Leung plays the part perfectly.
As an aside, it's weird that Marvel movies are still criticised for having weak villains when it's very much not been the case for quite some time now. I'm not going to list all of the antagonists I think defy this belief as it's pretty lengthy now, but I will say that Wenwu is right up there due to being sympathetic in his misguided goals and Leung's performance of a pained, but determined man.
All in all, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a few tweaks in the final showdown away from challenging for best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - and I haven't even mentioned Meng'er Zhang as Xialing, who is astonishingly good in what is her first non-theatre acting role(!), or a certain British actor returning to the MCU for the first time in years and who provides possibly the biggest laughs in the movie.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a great debut for a new hero, supporting cast, power set and more, with it all combining into a pretty great package that feels pretty distinct from anything seen before in the MCU. It does wobble a little in the third act, but has already built up so much goodwill from the excellence before then that it remains highly entertaining all the way to the post-credits scene.
[9/10 - Great]
GAME REVIEW /// In Other Waters
Game summary: A non-violent sci-fi story, enter a world of wonder, fear and vulnerability, unravelling the history and ecology of an impossible planet. What will you discover together? (Steam)
First off, a tip for how to play In Other Waters: concentrate on the story and only the story until it's done. There are side objectives to collect samples in your role as a deep-sea aquatic suit AI, but these remain accessible after the main story is complete and it honestly makes more sense to do them after the story is finished anyway.
These optional tasks only really exist to flesh out more of the ecology of the alien ocean the game takes place in and aren't particularly interesting - I started to do some mid-story, but they almost completely wiped out my interest in the game entirely. I was maybe one more game session away from installing the title and that choice to push on with the story is what saved the game.
The central story is pretty good, although quite limited as there's only one other character, Ellery, who only communicates with you through dialogue and they aren't particularly interesting either. I can't help but think of Bithell Games titles that are similarly small in scope, but feel much larger due to how well-written and the characters are.
In Other Waters really does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity in this regard, with the chance to create a truly memorable character to add some life to the game, instead relying on rather dry scientific exposition that relies on plot fragments for the player to piece together in order to be interesting - which they are, to be fair. I think making Ellery even just a little more exaggerated in their reactions would've helped enormously.
As for how the game looks and sounds, it's actually pretty good, with soothing pieces of music as you explore the ocean floor and a simple display that gives the player just enough information to be comfortable in moving around and interacting with the environment, while leaving plenty to the player's imagination. It's interesting that the game succeeds here where it fails in characterisation.
In Other Waters isn't disappointing, but it does feel like less than it could've been with a few tweaks. The slow pace is great for getting used to the surroundings and letting your imagination run rampant when something interesting crops up - it's just that this happens a little too infrequently for my tastes. There's just enough quality in the story to stick with it until the end, but I doubt it's a game I'll ever play again despite its short length.
In Other Waters is enjoyable enough, but is quite limited and suffers from not having an engaging enough plot to really keep you interested all of the time. Considering how limited, if expertly implemented, the gameplay is, it's odd that more effort wasn't put into finding ways to expand the story naturally and make exploring this world a 'must do'.