A prodigal son is pulled back into his powerful father's world.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring Simu Liu, Tony Leung, and Awkwafina
Review by Jon Kissel
The first Phase 4 Marvel Cinematic Universe film or television series to omit Thanos’ universe-halving snap, Shang Chi and the Ten Rings is as close as the giant franchise is likely to get to a standalone film. No one from any of the earlier MCU films drops in for an important cameo, and the plot is siloed off in a corner of the world that isn’t hanging on the antics of a Tony Stark or a Peter Parker. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, a filmmaker whose previous works put together wouldn’t have cost a tenth of Shang Chi’s budget, the film gets tantalizingly close to being a unique entry before the gray-filtered mess of ones and zeroes that is the standard MCU finale horns in and disrupts the balance. Cretton was so close to putting a distinctive stamp on an entire MCU entry, but he’ll have to be satisfied with two-thirds.
The idea that filmmaking is the condensed vision of a single person is probably only true some of the time, if ever. Anyone who’s sat through a credits scroll understands that hundreds of people work on any given film, and those numbers can only classify it as a collaborative medium. However, sometimes a movie gets made that is the perfect distillation of the director’s ego. The version of Dune that had Alejandro Jodorowsky at the helm might have been one of those unfiltered looks into the director’s mind. Jodorowsky strikes me as either a delusional egomaniac or a visionary that could've changed the future of film. In Frank Pavich's documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, the latter is assumed to be true and the former is only implied. While it's impossible to judge something that never happened, Pavich leaves the viewer wishing they could have seen which version of Jodorowsky won out.
When I was playing a lot of World of Warcraft in the mid to late 2000’s, talking about it to anyone, even if they too played the game, made me extremely self-conscious. I’d have to preface it all with concepts and proper nouns that were specific to this one thing, and it could only sound insular and stupid. My mind’s eye would hear me talking about instanced dungeons and farming thorium and I’d start to shrivel up with embarrassment. It’s hard to imagine those involved with David Lynch’s Dune feeling any different when they have to say sentences like ‘Take the kieswa maker hook of our sietch.’ Any fantasy or sci-fi work has to balance its world-building with its storytelling. How weird is too weird, communicating concepts in ways other than dialogue and exposition, making some kernel of the world relatable to present-day earthbound relations, etc. Lynch’s Dune does no balancing at all, vomiting out the terminology of Frank Herbert’s novel plus some other invented-for-the-movie ideas in a stream of made-up words delivered in the most banal way possible. Lynch has disowned this film in the decades since its release and what’s on the screen justifies his decision.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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