Marvel’s Shang-Chi is so fun, I hate I can’t call it a must-see

id=”article-body” class=”row” section=”article-body”>

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to be released only in theaters on Sept. 3. 


‘s  is a globe-trotting martial arts romp. Like before it,  lays its groundwork in the best elements of a movie and then elevates them with specificity all its own. Playfully blending genres, it layers action and humor on a deceptively honest story about one family’s reckoning with grief, for the best kind of summer popcorn flick. 

But I definitely didn’t eat any popcorn during this one. I kept a mask lashed tight to my face. Waiting for the theater to darken, I wondered whether any invisible coronavirus droplets from the scattered unmasked moviegoers would finally sneak past my precautions and infect me. Would this be the calculated risk that I miscalculate? Would seeing Shang-Chi be the slip-up that makes me a COVID-19 spreader to my unvaccinated kids?

Going to see a superhero movie shouldn’t be so steeped in inner conflict, but that’s where we are. Shang-Chi is set to hit theaters, and only theaters, on Sept. 3. It’s coming at a time when . The delta variant is dangerously rampant in some places (but in others, not so bad). COVID-19’s resurgence has intensified the perils of returning to normal life for many (but for others, not so much). Even though we all — including studios like Marvel’s Disney — enjoyed a few blissful months optimistic that by now we’d be able to pack into theaters like old times, we still can’t (except for all the people who are).

It’s hard to recommend Shang-Chi as a must-see when seeing it may, preposterously, be a life-or-death decision. 

Shang-Chi is also an important mainstream megafranchise movie for Asian representation look at this web-site a time when , partly because of racist rhetoric related to COVID-19. It’s frustrating that delta’s rise may prevent many people from celebrating Shang-Chi’s release the way they want to.

Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi.


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings offers a lot to celebrate. Comparisons between Shang-Chi and Black Panther will abound, and it’s a compliment to both films. Both are Marvel origin stories, both mark Hollywood milestones of representation: the first Black and first Asian Marvel cinematic superheroes, in films directed by and packed with stars drawn from those communities.

And as with Black Panther, the superpower of Shang-Chi is the authenticity of its point of view. 

Black Panther director Ryan Coogler tackled the political gravity of racism and colonialism through the prism of its African utopia, Wakanda. In Shang-Chi, the hero’s double life — a mild-mannered car valet escaping his past as a master martial arts assassin — is fertile ground for plot twists and euphoric fight scenes, but it also echoes a refrain from the lived experience of Asian (or any) diaspora.

It’s “the struggle between just constantly feeling like you’re between two worlds and like you don’t truly belong in either,” star Simu Liu . 

Shang-Chi centers its story on a family’s reckoning with grief. 


And Shang-Chi’s director Destin Daniel Cretton fastens the emotional core of the film on another question bitterly appropriate for our time: How does grief fracture us and our families?

The movie also holds plenty to delight Marvel superfans. From the audible reactions of viewers at my screening, Ben Kingsley’s return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed an unqualified triumph. True to form, Shang-Chi includes FX-heavy action set pieces, Easter eggs and revigorations of classic Marvel characters. 

Shang-Chi also excels in a Marvel weak spot: The hand-to-hand fight scenes are kinetic. Shang-Chi emulates at least two classic types of motion picture martial arts — hyperkinetic Jackie Chan-style kung fu and balletic choreography, a style perhaps best known to US audiences from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In Shang-Chi, all these combat sequences deliver. 

But even as the  about going to the movies,  said it isn’t going to change its plan for  to be available exclusively in theaters. That means it won’t be available to stream the same day through ‘ Premier Access for $30 at home, as Black Widow and other big Disney movies have been during the pandemic. 

“Certainly when we planned our schedule … we did not anticipate, nor did anybody, the resurgence of COVID with the delta variant,”  CEO Bob Chapek said earlier this month, referring to the company’s commitment to give Shang-Chi an exclusive period in theaters. “At some point you’ve got to put a stake in the ground and say ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and that’s where we ended up on Shang-Chi.” 

CNET Culture

Entertain your brain with the coolest news from streaming to superheroes, memes to video games.

Chapek indicated Shang-Chi would head to  right after its 45-day window in theaters, setting it up to be . That’s a lot shorter than anyone would have had to wait for a theatrical exclusive to start streaming before the pandemic. 

But it also sets up a scenario that may blur markers of Shang-Chi’s success. 

Shang-Chi’s fight choreography is unlike anything else in the MCU. 


Black Panther’s box office proved the mainstream appeal of a Black superhero surrounded by Black supporting characters, generating more than $1 billion worldwide. Outside the Marvel universe, Crazy Rich Asians’ creators turned down a  to ensure the film had a traditional theatrical release, knowing box-office grosses would be the strongest signal to Hollywood that it shouldn’t wait another 30 years before making another movie with an all-Asian cast.  

But streaming popularity is opaque, and divining what counts as a “hit” on streaming is a controversial art. Plus,  doesn’t specify how many people watch its titles. Black Widow, for example, was a rare instance in which Disney shared a streaming stat, saying its first weekend generated more than , roughly equating to 2 million Disney Plus accounts. That was on top of its $158 million haul at the box office worldwide. 

Black Widow’s release marked the strongest week at the US box office since the pandemic began. 


Still, even that showing was disappointing enough for star  over the release strategy. 

Black Widow marked the best week at the US box office since the pandemic began. It also marked the moment that COVID-19 numbers began creeping higher after hitting record lows. 

Maybe Shang-Chi will prove that big-screen exclusives can once again return flocks of people to theaters, even as we come to grips with the notion that COVID-19 will be a part of our lives for a much longer time to come. That’s another big expectation to mount on a movie already carrying many. 

But, if you can do it safely, Shang-Chi is a movie worth going back to a theater to see.

See also

Now playing:

Watch this:

Marvel’s Phase 4 plan explained


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *