Shang-Chi (2021) movie review: Marvel’s newest hero mixes old legends

Regular guy called Shaun, a Gen-Z San Franciscan content to park cars and hit late-night karaoke bars with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). At least until a crew of international assassins approaches him on a city bus and demands the pendant around his neck — forcing him to defend his honor and reveal that he is in fact the prodigal son of a thousand-year-old supervillain (Hong Kong legend Tony Leung) formerly known as the Mandarin.

That dated alter ego, blessedly, has been retired, but the man who now goes by Wenwu is back in business after the death of his beloved wife, Jiang Li (Fala Chen), and extremely insistent on reuniting with his estranged offspring. (There’s a daughter, too, played by the fierce Meng’er Zhang.) Somewhere behind the scrim of the mythical city where he and Li first met and fell in love, Wenwu believes, is the life he lost when she was killed; her surviving sister (Michelle Yeoh) sees that hope differently.

The dynamics of their family drama are fairly standard, as much as any millennium-old conflict can be, and the final scenes run into battle fatigue. But director Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, Short Term 12) fills the screen with fantastic beasts — dragons are the least of it — astonishing set pieces (a bustling underground fight club; the side of a Macau skyscraper; that bus!), and goofball bits of humor. There are the requisite MCU cameos, popping up like whack-a-moles: Serene Dr. Strange gatekeeper Wong (Benedict Wong) drops in for several scenes, and Iron Man’s Ben Kingsley returns as the washed-up actor Trevor Slattery, a holy fool with an impressively Shakespearian hairpiece and a faceless little CG sidekick who looks like a furry ottoman with wings.

But many of the movie’s thrills lie in the less familiar: the general lack of major artillery means the action is mostly fought with fists or ropes or arrows, which makes its obligatory stream of mortal combat feel almost balletically brutal (if oddly Disney-bloodless), and far more elegant than the genre usually allows. They’d be crazy not to give Meng’er Zhang, as Shang-Chi’s ferociously watchable sister Xialing, her own spin-off, and Awkwafina, who spends at least a third of the movie in a fanny pack and lime-green parachute pants, polishes her sardonic slacker M.O. to a high one-liner shine. Even the end credits’ inevitable tease of a sequel feels less like a threat, for once, and more like a promise.

Marvel’s Shang-Chi (2021) smashes Labor Day record at the box office

Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings smashed box office expectations over the Labor Day weekend, landing it at the top spot.

The Marvel film, which stars Simu Liu, and Awkwafina, took home a massive $71.4 million (and a four-day estimate of $83.5 million), in its theaters-only release, exceeding its first week predictions.

“[It] just absolutely obliterated that,” Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s Senior Media Analyst, told EW on Sunday.

In a non-pandemic time, Marvel films tend to open over $100 million in North America, Dergarabedian noted. But, for a film dropping in an ever-changing pandemic marketplace, Shang-Chi’s box office totals are impressive.
“This is a knock it out of the park hit,” Dergarabedian said of the film’s success in its first weekend of release, adding that globally, the film “has done extraordinarily well.”
In fact, despite the pandemic, Shang-Chi set a record for a Labor Day weekend-released films, surpassing Halloween, which has held the record since its debut in 2007. The Marvel film’s $71.4 million opening also marks it as the second highest opening for a film during the pandemic (Black Widow holds the top spot with an opening of $80M).

Worldwide, Shang-Chi took in more than $56 million, for a global total of $127 million. It’s four-day total is predicted to be $139.7M, according to Comscore.
“Clearly it is the movies themselves that people get excited about,” Dergarabedian said about what’s drawing moviegoers into theaters.
Candyman settled into second for its second week of release, earning a cool $10.5 million, while Ryan Reynold’s Free Guy remained strong, nabbing third and $8.7 million.

“Free Guy is another example of a film that shows that people mainly want to go to the movies based on the allure and appeal of the movies themselves,” Dergarabedian said. “So, as it was pre-pandemic, the movies are key. It’s really about the movies, and the experience of the movie theater makes any movie a bigger, grander event.”
Paw Patrol, which is also available on streaming service Paramount+, grabbed fourth with $4 million, while Disney’s Jungle Cruise floated into fifth place with $3.95 million.
Rounding out the top 10 were Don’t Breathe 2 ($2.2M) in sixth, Respect in seventh ($1.265M), followed by The Suicide Squad ($905K), Black Widow ($748K), and The Night House ($552K).

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