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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

2021 superhero film produced by Marvel Studios

Shang-Chi and the Legend
of the Ten Rings
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDestin Daniel Cretton
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Dave Callaham
  • Destin Daniel Cretton
Based onMarvel Comics
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyWilliam Pope
Edited by
Music byJoel P. West
Production
company
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
  • August 16, 2021 (2021-08-16) (Los Angeles)
  • September 3, 2021 (2021-09-03) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$150 million[2]
Box office$127.6 million[3][4]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a 2021 American superhero film based on Marvel Comics featuring the character Shang-Chi. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a screenplay he wrote with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, from a story by Cretton and Callaham. It stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi alongside Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, and Tony Leung. In the film, Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past after he is drawn into his father's Ten Rings organization.

A film based on Shang-Chi entered development in 2001, but work did not begin in earnest until December 2018 when Callaham was hired. Cretton joined in March 2019, with the project fast-tracked as Marvel's first film with an Asian lead. The film's title and primary cast were announced that July, revealing the film's connection to the Ten Rings organization, which previously appeared throughout the MCU, and its leader, Wenwu, portrayed by Leung. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Marvel Studios film with an Asian director and a predominantly Asian cast. Filming began in February 2020 but was put on hold in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed in August before completing in October, with additional shooting occurring in Sydney and San Francisco.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings premiered in Los Angeles on August 16, 2021, and was released in the United States on September 3, as part of Phase Four of the MCU. The film broke many box office records, and has grossed over $127 million worldwide. It received positive reviews from critics, praising the choreography of the action scenes, exploration and representation of Asian culture, and the performances from Liu and Leung.

Plot

Thousands of years ago, Xu Wenwu finds the ten rings, mystical weapons that grant their user immortality and great power. Wenwu amasses an army called the Ten Rings, conquering many kingdoms and toppling governments throughout history. In 1996, Wenwu begins searching for Ta Lo, a village said to harbor mythical beasts, to expand his power. He travels through a magical forest to the village entrance but is stopped from entering by village guardian Ying Li. The two fall in love, but the village rejects Wenwu, so Li leaves with him. They have two children, Shang-Chi and Xialing. Wenwu abandons the rings and his organization to be with his family. When Shang-Chi is 7, Li is murdered by Wenwu's enemies, the Iron Gang. Wenwu once again takes up the rings to massacre the Iron Gang, resumes leadership of his organization, and has Shang-Chi undergo brutal training in martial arts. When Shang-Chi is 14, Wenwu sends him to assassinate the Iron Gang's leader. After fulfilling his mission, a traumatized Shang-Chi escapes to San Francisco, adopting the name "Shaun".

In the present day, Shang-Chi works as a valet with his best friend, Katy. They are attacked by men from the Ten Rings, including Razor Fist, who steals a pendant that Li had given to Shang-Chi. Wenwu anonymously provides Shang-Chi with the location of his sister, Xialing. Fearing that the Ten Rings will go after Xialing's pendant, Shang-Chi decides to meet her. He reveals his past to Katy, who insists on helping him. They find Xialing at an underground fight club in Macau, which she founded after escaping from Wenwu. The Ten Rings attack the fight club, with Wenwu unexpectedly arriving to capture Shang-Chi, Katy, Xialing, and her pendant.

They are taken to the Ten Rings' compound, where Wenwu uses the pendants to create a map to return to Ta Lo. Wenwu reveals he has heard Li calling to him, saying that she has been held captive in Ta Lo behind a sealed gate. He declares that he will destroy the village if they do not free her. When his children and Katy object, he imprisons them. The three meet former actor Trevor Slattery, whom the Ten Rings imprisoned for impersonating Wenwu,[N 1] and his hundun companion Morris, who proposes to guide them to Ta Lo.

The group breaks out of the compound and drives to Ta Lo, which has various Chinese mythological creatures. They warn the village of the Ten Rings and meet Ying Nan, Li's sister. She reveals to the group the history of Ta Lo: thousands of years ago, it was attacked by the soul-consuming Dweller-in-Darkness and its minions. However, the village was saved by a dragon called the Great Protector, who helped seal off the gate to the Dweller's world. According to Nan, the Dweller-in-Darkness has been influencing Wenwu into believing Li is still alive so that he will open the gate. Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy train and prepare for Wenwu's arrival and are given outfits and weapons crafted from dragon scales.

Wenwu and the Ten Rings arrive; a battle ensues. Wenwu and Shang-Chi fight, which ends with Wenwu casting Shang-Chi into the nearby lake. Wenwu begins breaking the seal with the rings, which unbeknownst to him, causes many of the Dweller's minions to escape and attack the humans. The villagers and the Ten Rings join forces to fight the minions. Shang-Chi is revived by the Great Protector, which leaves the lake to battle the minions. Wenwu and Shang-Chi fight once more, with Shang-Chi emerging victorious. The Dweller-in-Darkness escapes the weakened seal and attacks Shang-Chi. Wenwu saves Shang-Chi, passing him the rings before being killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness. Shang-Chi, the Great Protector, Xialing, and Katy battle the Dweller-in-Darkness, which Shang-Chi ultimately kills. Shang-Chi and Katy return to San Francisco, where they are summoned by the sorcerer Wong to accompany him to the Sanctum Sanctorum.

In a mid-credits scene, the trio speak with Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers, and discover that the ten rings are emitting a mysterious signal. In a post-credits scene, Xialing becomes the new leader of the Ten Rings.

Cast

Simu Liu at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con
  • Simu Liu as Xu Shang-Chi / Shaun:
    A skilled martial artist who was trained at a young age to be an assassin by his father Wenwu. Shang-Chi left the Ten Rings organization for a normal life in San Francisco,[5][6] with director Destin Daniel Cretton characterizing Shang-Chi as a fish out of water in the U.S. who attempts to hide that with his charisma,[6] and does not know "who he really is".[7] Shang-Chi changes his name to "Shaun" while living in San Francisco.[8][9] Cretton also compared Shang-Chi to the character Will from Good Will Hunting (1997), who is a "mixture of masculinity and vulnerability", noting both characters had secrets and superpowers they do not understand,[10] describing the film as "a journey of stepping into who [Shang-Chi] is and what he's meant to be in this world".[11] Liu believed that Shang-Chi's struggles with identity were the core of the character, rather than his martial arts skills.[12] Since the character does not wear a mask, Liu performed many of his own stunts,[6] having to work on his flexibility ahead of filming to do so. Liu also put on 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of muscle for the role.[12] Liu was knowledgable in taekwondo, gymnastics, and Wing Chun,[13] and learned and trained in tai chi,[14] wushu, Muay Thai, silat, Krav Maga, jiu-jitsu, boxing, and street fighting for the film.[15] Jayden Zhang and Arnold Sun portray Shang-Chi as a child and as a teenager, respectively.[16]
  • Awkwafina as Katy:
    A hotel valet and Shang-Chi's best friend who is unaware of his past.[6][17] Awkwafina described Katy as relatable,[18] with a "real heart" and dedication to Shang-Chi,[6] who is "thrust into a world where she doesn't really know what to do [... and is] discovering things about herself".[18] Katy has difficulty "committing to a path" in her life, something Awkwafina felt was "a conundrum that a lot of Asian Americans find themselves going through", taking into account their own expectations, their parent's, and society's.[9]
  • Meng'er Zhang as Xu Xialing:
    Shang-Chi's estranged sister and Wenwu's daughter.[19] Zhang called Xialing a "complex character" with a "tough and cold exterior" while still being "sensitive and vulnerable". Xialing originally had a red streak in her hair that was removed per Zhang's request after she discovered the appearance's association with the "rebellious Asian girl" stereotype.[20] Xialing is an amalgamation of several comics characters, particularly inspired by Zheng Bao Yu.[21] For the role, Zhang trained in MMA, tai chi and rope dart.[22] Elodie Fong and Harmonie He portray Xialing as a child and as a teenager, respectively.[16][23]
  • Fala Chen as Ying Li: Wenwu's wife and the mother of Shang-Chi and Xialing who was a guardian of Ta Lo.[24][25] Chen studied tai chi for the role.[24]
  • Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist: A member of the Ten Rings who has a machete blade for his right hand.[16]
  • Benedict Wong as Wong: A Master of the Mystic Arts participating in a cage fighting tournament.[26]
  • Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan:
    A guardian of Ta Lo and Shang-Chi and Xialing's aunt.[27][16] Yeoh previously portrayed Aleta Ogord in the MCU film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).[28] Yeoh explained that the other characters in the film come to her to "learn how to protect history" and how to protect the world and "the worlds that are around us from the demons that are locked away".[27]
  • Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery:
    An actor who previously took on the guise of the Mandarin and was abducted by the Ten Rings, becoming a "court jester" for Wenwu. He has a close relationship with the mythical hundun Morris, and journeys to Ta Lo with Shang-Chi.[29] Cretton felt it was "essential to hear [Slattery] admit how ridiculous that whole [Mandarin impersonation] situation was", as seen in Iron Man 3 (2013) and the Marvel One-Shot short film All Hail the King (2014), feeling the inclusion of Slattery's storyline in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was "really fun",[30] and having Slattery apologize for impersonating Wenwu was "the perfect way to say sorry" for the racial stereotypes surrounding the Mandarin. Cretton said Kingsley enjoyed revisiting the character, as he was able to portray "a Trevor who has actually benefited from being in prison and has come out a clean and sober version of himself".[31]
  • Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu:
    Shang-Chi and Xialing's father and the leader of the Ten Rings.[16] Wenwu is an original character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who replaces Shang-Chi's original comic book father Fu Manchu, a "problematic character" associated with racist stereotypes whom Marvel Studios does not hold the film rights to.[5][6] In the film, Wenwu has taken on many different names, including "The Mandarin", which producer Jonathan Schwartz noted comes with audience expectations due to the comic book history of that name. He said Wenwu was a more complex and layered character than the comic book version,[6] with Cretton adding that there were problematic aspects of the Mandarin's comic book portrayal that he wanted to change. He felt Leung avoided Asian stereotypes and a one-dimensional portrayal by bringing humanity and love to the role,[6][32][11] describing Wenwu as "a fully realized human who may not make decisions that you agree with", but with relatable reasons for those decisions.[11] Leung did not want to approach the character as a villain, instead hoping to explore the reasons behind why he is "a man with history, who craves to be loved", describing him as "a sociopath, a narcissist, [and] a bigot".[33]

Also appearing in the film are Ronny Chieng as Jon Jon, Xialing's right-hand man and announcer at her underground fighting club; Yuen Wah as Guang Bo, one of the leaders of Ta Lo; Jodi Long as Mrs. Chen, Katy's mother; Dallas Liu as Ruihua, Katy's brother; Paul He as Chancellor Hui; Tsai Chin as Katy's grandmother;[16] Andy Le as Death Dealer, one of Wenwu's assassins;[34] Stephanie Hsu and Kunal Dudhekar as Soo and John, friends of Shang-Chi and Katy;[16] Zach Cherry as Klev, a bus rider who livestreams one of Shang-Chi's fights, after previously portraying a street vendor in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017);[35][16] and Dee Baker voicing the hundun Morris, who befriends Slattery.[36] Jade Xu reprises her role from Black Widow (2021) as a Black Widow named Helen.[37] Tim Roth provides uncredited vocals for Emil Blonsky / Abomination, reprising the role from The Incredible Hulk (2008),[38][39] while Mark Ruffalo and Brie Larson appear uncredited in the mid-credits scene as Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers, respectively, reprising their MCU roles.[40]

Production

Development

According to Margaret Loesch, former president and CEO of Marvel Productions, Stan Lee discussed a potential film or television series based on the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi with actor Brandon Lee and his mother Linda Lee during the 1980s, with the intention of having Brandon Lee star as the character.[41] Brandon's father, martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was the visual inspiration for artist Paul Gulacy when drawing Shang-Chi during his tenure on the Master of Kung Fu comic book series in the 1970s.[42] In 2001, Stephen Norrington signed a deal to direct a Shang-Chi film entitled The Hands of Shang-Chi.[43][44] By 2003, the film was in development at DreamWorks Pictures with Yuen Woo-Ping replacing Norrington as director and Bruce C. McKenna hired to write the screenplay.[45] Ang Lee joined the project as a producer in 2004, but the film did not materialize after that point and the rights to the character reverted to Marvel.[44] In September 2005, Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad announced Shang-Chi as one of ten properties being developed as films by the newly formed Marvel Studios,[46] after the company received financing to produce the slate of ten films which were to be distributed by Paramount Pictures.[47] Shang-Chi was put on a list of characters that Marvel thought could make great films despite being relatively unknown, since he had a "very Disney story" in the comic books.[12]

The Ten Rings were featured in the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, Iron Man (2008), without their leader the Mandarin. Marvel Studios then planned to feature the Mandarin in a film that could do the character "supreme justice" and showcase his complexity, which Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige felt they could not do in the Iron Man films because those focused on Tony Stark / Iron Man.[48] According to Chris Fenton, former president of the Chinese-based film production company DMG Entertainment that was in talks with Marvel Studios to co-produce their films, Marvel offered to create a teaser featuring either Shang-Chi or the Mandarin for the Chinese market that would be featured at the end of The Avengers (2012). DMG balked at the offer, since the Mandarin's negative stereotypical portrayal in the comics could potentially prevent the film from releasing in China and risk shutting down DMG as a company. The Mandarin would eventually appear in the DMG co-produced film Iron Man 3 (2013) portrayed by Ben Kingsley, but he is revealed to be imposter Trevor Slattery posing as the Mandarin;[49] Kingsley reprises the role in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.[50] Feige felt this fake Mandarin did not necessarily mean that a more faithful version of the character did not exist in the MCU.[48]

Destin Daniel Cretton promoting the film at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

By December 2018, Marvel had fast-tracked development of a Shang-Chi film with the intent of making it their first film with an Asian lead. Marvel hired Chinese-American writer Dave Callaham to write the screenplay, and began looking at Asian and Asian-American filmmakers to potentially direct the film. The studios' goal was to explore Asian and Asian-American themes presented by Asian and Asian-American filmmakers, as they had done for African and African-American culture with Black Panther earlier in 2018.[51] Development of the film also came following the success of the film Crazy Rich Asians that was likewise released earlier in 2018 and led to several other Asian-led properties being developed by Hollywood studios.[52] Callaham's script was expected to modernize elements of the character's comic book story, which was first written in the 1970s, to avoid what modern audiences would consider to be negative stereotypes.[51] When Callaham began work on the script, he became emotional realizing it was the first project where he was asked to write "from my own experience, from my own perspective".[10] Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter said the film could "break out in a way similar to Black Panther" by bringing a new perspective to the character. Newby felt Shang-Chi could have worked well as a television series, and said it "speaks volumes" that Marvel would decide to make a feature film about the character instead. Newby concluded that the film is an opportunity to avoid stereotypes about Asian martial artists and be "more than Marvel's Bruce Lee".[53]

Marvel Studios hired Japanese-American filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton to direct the film in March 2019. Deborah Chow—who previously directed episodes of Marvel Television's Iron Fist and Jessica Jones series—Justin Tipping, and Alan Yang were also considered.[54] Cretton admitted he had previously not been interested in directing a superhero film, but was drawn to the project to help create a world and character that Asian children could look up to and see themselves in.[6] In April, Marvel Studios and Australian Arts Minister Mitch Fifield announced that an upcoming Marvel film, believed to be Shang-Chi, would be filmed at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales. The production received AU$24 million (US$17 million) in one-off funding from the Australian government, as well as backing from the AU$10 million (US$7 million) "Made in NSW" state fund. The production was expected to generate AU$150 million (US$107 million) for the Australian economy as well as 4,700 new jobs, while taking advantage of around 1,200 local businesses.[55] Don Harwin, the New South Wales Arts Minister, confirmed in July that this film was Shang-Chi and that it would be produced back-to-back with Marvel Studios' Thor: Love and Thunder (2022); production on Shang-Chi was set to be completed before work began on Love and Thunder later in 2020.[56]

Pre-production

In mid-July 2019, Marvel Studios began testing actors in their 20s for the role of Shang-Chi,[57] including Lewis Tan and Simu Liu;[5][58] Tan previously portrayed Zhou Cheng in Iron Fist.[58] The studio was adamant that actors be of Chinese descent to audition for the character.[57] Liu was considered earlier in the audition process and was brought back in for a second audition when the creatives were finding it difficult to cast the role.[48] He tested again for the part on July 14 and was officially cast on July 16.[5] Awkwafina, who was the first actor cast for the film, had chemistry tests with the potential actors and said "it was apparent that [Liu] was Shang-Chi from the jump".[9] Liu and Awkwafina's castings were announced by Cretton and producer Feige at Marvel Studios' San Diego Comic-Con panel on July 20, where the film's full title was announced to be Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Feige noted that the Ten Rings organization has appeared throughout the MCU since its introduction in Iron Man, and said the Mandarin would be introduced in this film with Tony Leung in the role.[5] The Ten Rings logo in the film was changed from including Mongolian language to Chinese characters written in ancient seal script, that are inoffensive and synonyms for strength or power. This was done following the logo's appearance in Iron Man 3, which drew ire from the Mongolian government, feeling the Mongolian scripts "offensively tied the country's intangible cultural heritage to a terrorist group", though Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, Mongolia's former minister of culture, sports and tourism, believed the change was more to appease the Chinese market.[59] Filming was expected to begin in November 2019,[60] but Cretton said in October that production would begin in early 2020.[61] In December, Feige said the film would feature a predominantly Asian cast.[62] A month later, Michelle Yeoh entered talks for a role in the film. This was for a different character than Aleta Ogord who Yeoh portrayed in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).[28]

In addition to Callaham, Cretton and Andrew Lanham also contributed to the screenplay for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings from a story by Callaham and Cretton.[63][25] The film was described as a "sweeping superhero epic that combines emotional family drama with gravity-defying martial arts action". Producer Jonathan Schwartz said much of Shang-Chi's arc within Marvel Comics is a family drama, and Cretton wanted to focus on that element for the film, exploring Shang-Chi's broken and abusive family background. Liu noted that the comic book backstory for Shang-Chi is not widely known like those for comic book characters such as Batman or Spider-Man, and that gave the film's writers freedom to take more creative liberties with the story. Cretton and Callaham were cognizant of some of the racial stereotypes surrounding the character in the comics, with Liu saying everyone involved was "very sensitive to not have it go into stereotypical territory". Cretton believed the resulting script was a "really beautiful update" to the character from what began in the comics, and was an authentic story about Asian identity.[6] Callaham added that there is "no single Asian American voice", and he and Cretton contemplated how the film could speak to "the wider Asian diaspora" and would be "exciting and entertaining, but also personal to all these people".[10] For the film's action, Cretton was inspired by a range of different fighting styles due to the character being trained in different types of martial arts. These include the "elegant, almost ethereal wushu style" from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and the "kinetic" fights of Jackie Chan's films, with supervising stunt coordinator Brad Allan tasked with making the different styles feel consistent.[6] Chinese choreographers were used to create wuxia-style fight scenes.[64] Schwartz said there was a meaning for each fighting style in the film, and they helped to tell the story visually.[6]

Filming

Principal photography began in February 2020,[65][66] shooting at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales,[55] under the working title Steamboat.[67] William Pope served as cinematographer for the film. Cretton chose Pope because he felt the cinematographer's style could be both naturalistic and heightened, and because of Pope's work on The Matrix (1999), which Cretton believed had the right tone for an MCU film focused on Asian and Asian-American characters.[61] Cretton was inspired by Jackie Chan's filmography, the Ip Man series, Tai Chi Master and Kung Fu Hustle among others in the martial arts and kung-fu genres.[11]

On March 12, after studios had started halting production on films due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cretton decided to have himself tested for coronavirus after working closely with people who had potentially been exposed to it.[66][68] This was a precaution due to Cretton having a newborn baby, and he self-isolated while awaiting these results;[68] the test later came back negative.[66] While Cretton was self-isolating, Marvel suspended first unit production for the film but intended for other aspects such as second unit to continue as normal.[68] On March 13, the rest of the film's production was paused as Disney halted filming on most of its projects.[69] Before the shut down, Ronny Chieng joined the cast in an undisclosed role.[70] In early April, Disney shifted much of their Phase Four slate of films due to the pandemic, moving Shang-Chi's release date to May 7, 2021.[71]

Work building sets for the film resumed at the end of July 2020, and by August 2, all cast and crew members had arrived to begin shooting "in the coming days".[72] Any cast and crew members returning to Australia from outside the country had to be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival before returning to work, according to Australia's guidelines.[73] Later in August, Yeoh was confirmed to appear in the film.[74] The next month, the film's release date was pushed back to July 9, 2021, after Black Widow (2021) was shifted to the May 2021 date.[75] In October, filming took place in San Francisco, also under the working title Steamboat.[76] Shooting locations included the Russian Hill, Noe Valley, and Nob Hill neighborhoods, as well as Fisherman's Wharf.[77] Filming wrapped on October 24, 2020.[78] Filming was also expected to take place in Los Angeles.[60]

The bus fight sequence was part of Cretton's pitch for the film, calling it a "what-if scenario" to help explain the fight sequences he enjoyed, "ones where the stakes just keep rising as the fight continues". Once it was planned for the film, Cretton credited the film's supervising stunt coordinator Brad Allan, who had worked with Jackie Chan, for bringing the "Buster Keaton-like physical comedy [to the fight], mixed with setups and payoffs, and stakes rising and rising to almost ridiculous levels".[39]

Post-production

Nat Sanders and Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir serve as co-editors of the film,[79] alongside Harry Yoon.[80] In December 2020, Marvel revealed roles for several cast members, including Awkwafina as Shang-Chi's friend Katy, Yeoh as Jiang Nan, and Chieng as Jon Jon. They also announced the casting of Meng'er Zhang as Xialing, Fala Chen as Jiang Li, and Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist;[81] Munteanu was cast after Marvel Studios was impressed with his role in Creed II (2018).[82] In March 2021, the film's release date was pushed back once again to September 3, 2021, when Black Widow was shifted to the July 2021 date,[83] and Dallas Liu was revealed to be appearing.[84] The film's official trailer in June 2021 revealed that Benedict Wong would reprise his MCU role of Wong, along with the appearance of Abomination;[85][26] Abomination first appeared in The Incredible Hulk (2008), portrayed by Tim Roth,[86] with Roth providing uncredited vocals for the character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.[38][39] Feige called it "great fun" to be able to return to a character like the Abomination that has not appeared in the MCU in over a decade and for the fans to "recognize and embrace that".[26] Cretton added that, beyond being a pairing that "felt really great", the Abomination and Wong were chosen because they "made sense to what's happening in the MCU around the time of our movie" and "definite links" to future MCU projects.[39] Wong said he was "super thrilled" to be part of the film and to be "sat at a table of Asian excellence",[87] and expressed excitement for the film's Asian cast.[88]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is dedicated to Brad Allan, who died in August 2021.[89][90] The film's mid-credits scene, which features Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, was conceived late in the film's production by Cretton to address the origins of the ten rings. Callaham noted that there were many different origins created in the film for the ten rings, before it was decided to leave the origins ambiguous to be addressed in more detail in a later MCU property. Callaham said this was an intentional choice after they realized "it doesn't make any difference at all where it comes from [in this film]. That's not the story we’re telling."[40] Cretton had hoped the scene would feature Wong, as well as him going to karaoke with Shang-Chi and Katy to sing "Hotel California", but was unsure which additional Avengers characters would appear until late in post-production.[91] Banner and Danvers were both chosen for the scene since they each represent the science and space aspects of the MCU, respectively,[40] with their appearances also lining up accurately with other events in the MCU happening around the time of the scene.[91] Callaham believed Larson was added given she previously worked with Cretton on Short Term 12 (2013),[40] The Glass Castle (2017), and Just Mercy (2019). Speaking to Larson's casting, Cretton explained that Danvers' appearance made sense for the scene, while jokingly stating her appearance was to continue the streak of her appearing in his films since he enjoys including "people that I love in the movies that I'm making".[39] Ruffalo and Larson filmed their roles in early 2021 during the film's additional photography.[91] Feige said the mid-credits was meant to indicate "how vital and important" Shang-Chi was to the MCU, likening it to Nick Fury's appearance in the post-credits scene of Iron Man.[92]

Cretton felt seeing Xialing becoming the new head of the Ten Rings organization in the post-credtis scene was "really reflective of the beginning of Xialing taking control of her life, and stepping into the place that was actually denied her for most of her life. It's very empowering to me and I'm excited to imagine what is going to happen to her in the future." Callaham added that various versions of that scene had existed throughout the production, and became a post-credits scene since they thought it was "a juicy idea for where the story might go in the future".[40] Cretton also noted there was more material created regarding the ten rings that was purposely withheld to be explored in future projects.[39] The water map scene went through many iterations of how that information would be conveyed, with Cretton feeling the use of water "perfectly connected to the story of our characters" and created "a visually beautiful scene".[39]

Music

Recording for the film's score, composed by Joel P. West, began at Abbey Road Studios in London by June 2021. West scored Cretton's four previous films.[93] The film's score was released digitally by Marvel Music and Hollywood Records on September 1, 2021.[94]

Marvel Music, Hollywood Records, and Interscope Records also released four separate singles ahead of the film's release: "Lazy Susan" by 21 Savage and Rich Brian,[95] "Every Summertime" by Niki,[96] "Run It" by DJ Snake, Rick Ross, and Rich Brian,[97] and "In the Dark" by Swae Lee.[98] A soundtrack album containing these songs was released on September 3, in addition to songs by JJ Lin, Saweetie, Anderson .Paak, and other artists and was produced by Sean Miyashiro and 88rising.[99][100]

Marketing

On April 19, 2021, Liu's birthday, he shared the first teaser poster for the film, shortly followed by Marvel releasing the first teaser trailer.[63] Adam B. Vary of Variety felt it was "gratifying to finally see Liu in action as Shang-Chi" and highlighted how the teaser provided further insight and new information for the film, such as the way it would depict the rings worn by the Mandarin.[17] Cole Delbyck at HuffPost said the "eye-popping" action was unlike anything seen in past MCU films.[101] Writing for io9, Rob Bricken felt the teaser did not disappoint with its action, but the family drama was what made the film look compelling to him.[102] Collider's Adam Chitwood called the teaser "pretty fantastic", comparing its story and tone to Black Panther, and saying Shang-Chi looked to be "an exciting, fresh, and new Marvel Cinematic Universe experience" based on the teaser.[63] Reactions to the poster and trailer in Chinese speaking regions in East Asia were more critical, with commentators believing both presented a "rather stereotyped" view of Chinese people and culture.[103]

The film's first full trailer was released on June 24, 2021, during ESPN's NBA Countdown. Sean Keane at CNET enjoyed seeing more of Leung in the trailer and called the fight sequences "super-impressive". He was surprised by the inclusion of Abomination at the end of the trailer, and noted that the character looked more like his design from the comics than when he appeared in The Incredible Hulk.[104] Digital Spy's Gabriella Geisinger felt Abomination's role in the film would just be a cameo appearance to set up the character's story in the Disney+ series She-Hulk (2022), but felt it could still have "wide-reaching implications" for the MCU.[105] Germain Lussier of io9, Susana Polo of Polygon, and Jennifer Ouellette of Ars Technica all felt the trailer was a better showcase for Shang-Chi than the teaser was,[106][107][108] with Ouellette highlighting the different narration for the trailer that expanded on Shang-Chi's family background.[108] Lussier also noted that the trailer featured a lot of new visual effects that were not in the teaser, and felt that Shang-Chi would soon become a "huge star", despite not being a well-known character, similarly to Iron Man before Iron Man.[106] Polo highlighted the martial arts and magic seen in the trailer.[107] An episode of the series Marvel Studios: Legends was released on September 1, exploring the Ten Rings organization using footage from its previous MCU appearances.[109]

On August 15, 2021, Ron Han created a GoFundMe drive to raise money for Asian American Pacific Islander (API) children at the Boys & Girls Club in San Gabriel Valley to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as the larger "Shang-Chi challenge" for other people to create similar drives for their communities; the challenge was inspired by a similar one created for Black Panther.[110][111] By the end of the month, API nonprofit organization Gold House partnered with GoFundMe to create the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Gold Open Community Fund to raise money for private screenings of the film for the API community and non-profit groups on its opening weekend to help the film earn a successful opening weekend box office gross.[111] Beginning September 3, Shang-Chi and Death Dealer began appearing in Disneyland's Avengers Campus.[112]

Promotional partners for the film included Sanzo beverages, which released releasing a limited edition version of lychee flavor; Microsoft;[113] BMW, which acted as the film's global car sponsor and had the BMW iX3 and BMW M8 appear in the film;[113][114] and international sponsors including Visa, Virgin Plus, Gruppo TIM, Mikron Group, and BGF.[113]

Release

Theatrical release

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had its world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre and TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on August 16, 2021,[115][116] and was screened at CinemaCon on August 25.[117] The film began releasing in international markets on September 1, with it releasing in 66% of its markets by the end of its first weekend.[118] In Australia, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released on September 2, with a planned release in New South Wales, Victoria, and Australian Capital Territory on September 16 because of the countries COVID-19-related lockdown.[119] It was released in the United States on September 3,[120] in over 4,200 theaters, with 400 IMAX, over 850 in premium large format, 1,500 3D, and 275 in specialty D-Box, 4DX, and ScreenX.[118]

The film will have a 45-day exclusive theatrical release, rather than being released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access like Black Widow.[120] In August 2021, with the increase of COVID-19 Delta variant cases, Disney CEO Bob Chapek explained that the film would stay theatrical-only due to "the practicality of last-minute changes" and called the 45-day exclusivity "an interesting experiment" for the company to learn more on how consumers wished to view and consume their films;[121][122] Liu took issue with Chapek calling the film an experiment, with Feige later stating Liu's response appeared to be a misunderstanding on Chapek's intention.[123] Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is part of Phase Four of the MCU.[124]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was previously scheduled to be released on February 12, 2021,[5] the first day of the Chinese New Year,[125] before it was shifted to May 7,[71] and then to July 9, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[75] The film shifted once again in March 2021 to the September 2021 date after Black Widow was moved to the July 9 release date.[83] In May 2021, a Chinese state media report excluded Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as Eternals, from its list of upcoming MCU films releasing, which Variety noted "added to rumors" that the films would not be released in China.[103]

Home media

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will debut on Disney+ immediately following its 45-day exclusive theatrical release.[122]

Reception

Box office

As of September 6, 2021, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has grossed $83.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $56.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $139.7 million.[3]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earned $29.6 million on its opening day (which included $8.8 million from its Thursday night previews), which was the third-best opening day since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The Thursday night previews gross was the second-highest of the pandemic, behind Black Widow ($13.2 million). It grossed $71.4 million over its three-day opening weekend, the second-largest of the pandemic, behind Black Widow ($80.3 million). IMAX contributed $8 million, which was a record for a Labor Day weekend release. It is expected to earn $89.2 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend, with Disney expecting $83.5 million for the weekend, besting Halloween's $30.6 million as the largest Labor Day weekend opening ever.[113] Deadline Hollywood projected the film would be the top film at the box office for at least three weeks,[118] while Boxoffice Pro projected the film would earn a total domestic gross of $160–165 million.[126]

The film earned $56.2 million from 41 markets in its opening weekend, opening number one in many.[127] The film earned $13.2 million worldwide from IMAX, which was a Labor Day weekend record.[127] The United Kingdom had the largest opening day of the pandemic,[113] as well as the largest three-day opening weekend of the pandemic with $7.7 million.[127] As of September 5, 2021, the largest markets are the United Kingdom ($7.7 million), Korea ($6.5 million), and France ($4.3 million).[127]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 243 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn't entirely free of Marvel's familiar formula, but this exciting origin story expands the MCU in more ways than one."[128] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[129] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 91% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 78% saying they would definitely recommend it.[113]

Peter Debruge at Variety called the film "a flashy, Asian-led visual effects extravaganza that gives the second-tier [Shang-Chi] the same over-the-top treatment that big-timers like Hulk and Thor typically get. The result broadens [Marvel Studios'] spectrum of representation once again, offering audiences of Asian descent the kind of empowerment for which Black Panther paved the way a few years back."[25] Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter felt while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings did not "meld together" its martial-arts, fantasy elements, and exploration of Chinese and Asian-American culture "as smoothly as [it] should", it did become a superhero film that felt "fresh and fun enough to feel worth a spin". Han believed some of the less intense action sequences made the film seem less like a superhero film and more like "the wistful grandeur of Disney's live-action fairy tale adaptations" and added some of the humor keeps it from "tipping over into self-importance", but "rob[s] it of some of its wonder". She also praised the performance from Leung, whose sincerity in portraying Wenwu made him a "supervillain with a soul".[130]

Giving the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, RogerEbert.com's Nick Allen believed the film "fits into Marvel packaging in its own way, but it has an immense soulfulness that other MCU movies, superhero movies, and action movies in general should take notes from". Allen believed Leung was the film's "most brilliant" casting and enjoyed the various fight sequences since Cretton changed the height, light, reflections, and staging for each. He noted the film's final act was "such an over-the-top, giddy, rollercoaster ride that you can't help but root for it" and concluded that Shang-Chi was "not an experiment for Marvel and Disney" but rather "a promising template for how they can get it right again".[8] Writing for Empire, Laura Sirikul said the film was "a winning blend of Chinese culture mixed with the successful Marvel formula that avoids the typical Asian clichés and stereotypes of accents and bad drivers, while pointedly calling out some of the racial errors from Marvel's past. Given what's on show here, the future for Shang-Chi and Asian representation in the MCU looks bright." Sirikui also felt the choreography was the best yet in the MCU, saying the fight scenes were "truly gratifying" and praised Liu, Awkwafina, and Leung. She did feel, however, the film had some pacing issues that made the story "convoluted" and a "rushed ending [that] makes some of the character arcs feel unearned and brushed aside".[89] Jake Cole of Slant Magazine was more critical of the film, giving it a score of 1.5 out of 4 stars. He believed Shang-Chi was defined by "the same 'gifted kid' impostor syndrome as so many other self-doubting heroes in the MCU" and criticized Liu's performance as "curiously affectless", but praised Leung as "effortlessly convey[ing] the calm malice with which Wenwu asserts his absolute power as well as the anguish that the man feels over the loss of his wife". Cole felt the film's flashbacks were "superfluous" and had "emotional flatness" that brought the film "to a crawl" each time they were used, and took issue with CGI-aided action scenes and the final act that "devolves into loud and chaotic visual nonsense".[131]

Notes

  1. ^ As depicted in Iron Man 3 (2013) and the Marvel One-Shot short film All Hail the King (2014).

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