Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earned $29.6 million on its first day of release on Friday, effectively setting a new industry record for Labor Day weekend in a single day, according to Disney.
As expected, Shang-Chi has smashed all pre-release forecasts, tracking, and industry expectations in a way that appeared increasingly likely in the final days leading up to opening, but remains extremely optimistic in a market that continues to experience mixed consumer sentiment levels as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
The $8.8 million start on Thursday night is included in the opening day total, but in total, the first 30 hours or so of Shang-domestic Chi’s box office debut has already surpassed every three-day and four-day Labor Day weekend performance in history, with the exception of Halloween (2007), which earned $30.6 million over four days.
In light of Disney and Marvel Studios’ decision to open a major tentpole over a weekend that had previously been primarily associated with the end of summer in pre-pandemic times, massive Labor Day box office records were expected to be set. That is no longer the case, and moviegoers are demonstrating once again that the right content — even in the midst of a pandemic — will draw large crowds and generate significant ticket sales.
In this context, comparisons are unavoidable, beginning with the Marvel universe itself. Shang-Chi came in only 25 percent behind Black Widow’s $39.5 million opening day, which occurred nearly two months earlier. While it’s true that film’s popularity was likely hampered by its limited day-and-date streaming availability, it was also a film featuring a much more well-known character and star.
On a more level playing field, Shang-Chi outperformed Ant-$22.65 Man’s million debut in July 2015 by 31 percent, and came in just 9 percent behind Doctor Strange’s $32.6 million debut in November 2016.
Marvel’s latest film had the third highest opening day of any film released since before the March 2020 lockdowns, and this was among pandemic releases. Only Widow and June’s F9 ($29.9 million) had higher box office totals.
Shang-opening Chi’s day ranks third all-time among September releases in box office history, trailing only It ($50.4 million) and It: Chapter Two ($37 million), respectively.
The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, and one of the most important aspects to emphasize is that it is the first Asian and Asian-American-led superhero film under the direction of Destin Daniel Cretton, and it features a breakout star performance from Simu Liu, a buzzy supporting role from Awkwafina, and an all-around strong cast that includes several surprises for Marvel fans.
Although it is crucial to watch what happens with the post-rush of Marvel fans beginning with Saturday’s drop (especially after Widow’s notoriously steep drop-off), word of mouth is thriving with an incredible 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience score, the long holiday weekend will be beneficial to internal weekend multipliers, and the film faces very little competition throughout the entire month of September, the film is doing exceptionally well.
Currently, industry projections range from conservative to cautiously bullish, depending on the source. Given the complete lack of historical precedent for this type of film releasing in this particular window during a volatile time for public health and the entertainment industry as a whole, that seems like the most reasonable course of action to take in this situation.
We are currently projecting between $65 million and $72 million for the three-day period and between $75 million and $87 million for the four-day holiday weekend, based on our current projections.
On the international front, according to Disney, the film has earned $23.4 million through Friday, giving it a global total of $53 million as of Saturday.
The film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is reviewed here.
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe employs its immense power to run an assembly line, it is telling of what is to come. The fact that their projects have a deeply human spark to them is just as telling, allowing franchise values such as grand spectacle, arresting performances, and intricate depictions of family to take precedence over everything else. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the latest entry in the latter category, following in the footsteps of previous Marvel films that introduced a vision and established themselves as benchmarks: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Black Panther,” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” to name a few notable examples. This film, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, fits into the Marvel universe in its own way, but it also has a tremendous amount of soulfulness that other MCU films, superhero movies, and action movies in general should take inspiration from in their own ways.
Shang-Chi is played by Simu Liu, who portrays a crucial piece of a fractured family with a history of infighting. Wenwu, Shang Chi’s power-hungry father, has been alive for 1,000 years and has built a society known as the Ten Rings that has destroyed kingdoms and influenced events all over the world. The dysfunctional family dynamics are even more important than the ten rings that grant Shang Chi such immense power. There was a sense of relief when Wenwu fell in love with Jiang Li (Fala Chen). They tied the knot and began a family together. However, after Shang-mother Chi’s passed away, a newly monstrous Wenwu attempted to mature his son by turning him into a murderer, causing the young boy to abandon his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and Wenwu to fend for himself. As in his previous film, “Short Term 12,” a showcase of indie rising talent (including Brie Larson, LaKeith Stanfield, Ram Malek), Cretton keeps the visceral, personal stakes in this script (written by himself, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham) so that the superhero context is merely a bonus to the drama. In many ways, the film is a grand-scale ballet, one that glidingly and gracefully floats above a pit of despair.
While riding the bus with his friend Katy (Awkwafina) up and down the hills of San Francisco, Shang-Chi learns about his family’s history. Shang-Chi is now known as Shaun, an adult in the United States. Shang-Chi is attacked by a group of henchmen over a green pendant he wears around his neck, and in a beat that is prefaced like a power-up (much to Katy’s amusement), Shaun’s incredible courage is revealed. As do his fighting abilities, which contribute to an incredible melee scene of hand-to-hand combat that has the camera looking for long shots and freely entering and exiting the moving bus, just like the film’s impromptu hero. Even though the scene is lacking in the yowch-factor (especially when compared to how “Nobody” did the same thing with appropriate blood earlier this year), it avoids this flaw by being fast-paced, even longer than you expect it to be, and extremely amusing throughout. It’s the beginning of the career of an action star in Liu, and it’s an incredible debut for a character who will find himself in fight scenes of increasing intensity throughout the film.
Although his father, Wenwu, is absent from the film, his presence is felt in the eyes of the audience. One of the most brilliant decisions in the film is the casting of Tony Leung, who will be able to recreate the same magic he has created in countless romances and dramas in Hong Kong. Leung is the star of this film. Leung destroys armies, raises a family, and struggles to resist destructive grief with the same silent passion and stillness that made “In the Mood for Love” one of the greatest romances of all time; his presence is made all the more powerful by the ten blue rings that allow him to slingshot around and destroy whatever is in his path. After hearing what appears to be the voice of his wife from behind a rock formation, Wenwu transforms into a Darth Vader-like tyrant, leading a campaign to rampage through the mother’s magical home known as Ta Lo in order to reach a cave that everyone else (including his son and daughter) knows contains an apocalyptic, soul-sucking dragon. As a result of the passion and grief it expresses, it’s the best performance from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The performance is appropriately Leung-sized.
This enthralling film is carried along by Cretton’s vivid depiction of a brother and sister trying to prevent their father from destroying everything because he is unable to move on from his past. Shang-Chi and his similarly skilled and aggrieved sister, Jiang Li, face a far more devastating threat than the usual world dominance scenario, which parallels how the script develops the painful backstory of Shang-Chi and his similarly skilled and aggrieved sister, Li. Because of a few unexpected twists along the way, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” transforms into an adventure and a homecoming to an idyllic realm from another age, with Michelle Yeoh turning in a sweet and magnetic performance. These passages, which are as balletic as the rest of the film, describe how Shang-Chi learned two different fighting approaches—or, more accurately, two different life philosophies—from his mother and father.
That a massive Hollywood tentpole with a genuine character-based kung fu theme would inspire such intense fight scenes does not appear to be a coincidence, and it only serves to enhance the film’s already-refreshing experience. In order to create a fight set-piece that surprises the audience (like a jaw-dropping, high-up nighttime battle royale on some scaffolding in Macao), Cretton and his team constantly experiment with height, light, reflections, and staging. It is not just about who is throwing the punches and kicks, but also about how the fight is choreographed as the main spectacle. I should admit that numerous beats in these sharply edited sequences made me sit up straight in my chair, an unintentional filmmaking nerd response I’ve had to similar films that inspired this one, such as “Skyfall” and “The Grandmaster,” to name a couple examples.
Shanghai Chi’s exhilarating embrace of clarity, of nudging your imagination rather than doing all the work for you, disseminates the inspired special effects that enhance the magic of this story and the world of the characters it portrays. When water bursts from the walls, floats through the air, and forms an intricate map of icicles, it creates an arresting visual depiction of a moment that would otherwise be represented by a simple hologram. Even a charming animated cute sidekick is included in the film, who cleverly subverts the expectations of audiences who expect cute faces on plush-looking sidekicks. As with the previous film, the most dominant use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) is saved for the final, massive sequence, which is such an exhilarating, giddy rollercoaster ride that you can’t help but root for it. “Avengers: Endgame” is rated PG-13 for language and violence.
Even though the Avengers, or at the very least the new roster, are only peripherally involved in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” director Andrew Cretton’s film benefits from the development of its deeper family and friend relationships. As two valet workers who are thrust into another adventure, this one more intense than their karaoke nights, Liu and Awkwafina have adorable, platonic chemistry; Awkwafina in particular becomes a vital source of levity for the script, as well as a welcoming audience surrogate as the film ramps up to a large battle. When compared to the darker themes of the story, she makes the humor stand out even more, resulting in numerous passages of the film that are not only thrilling but also charming and funny.
In terms of Shang-Chi himself, take away the comic relief that is lavished upon him, or the battling schools of fighting from his parents that swirl within him, and there isn’t much personality to the character left behind. When one considers the performance as a whole, there is a distinct void, given that Liu is so watchable in the way he combines a striking, bulky presence with endearing innocence, a la Channing Tatum’s own box office dominating days in the role. It becomes indicative of the script’s flawed balancing act when its main character is given a little more attention in the sequel; the same could be said for other intriguing characters such as Xialing, a vengeful badass in her own right who is not given enough screen time or depth, especially considering where she ends up.
However, without giving anything away, the film does make some attempts to address Marvel’s previously problematic portrayals of Asian characters, and while these efforts are primarily used for self-deprecating comic relief, they serve to remind me of two things: how it is impossible for these Marvel films to exist in a vacuum, and how much more work needs to be done to address these issues. Even those who were involved in the production of the film have difficulty talking about it, as evidenced by Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s insensitive comment that the film was a “interesting experiment,” a phrase that indicates a secondary or unofficial status. The statement is erroneous in many ways, but it is particularly erroneous after witnessing the numerous victories of “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” That is, it embraces fruitful ideas in all their forms, whether they are cohesive action sequences, embracing platonic friendships in a mega-budget movie, or the introduction of a new exciting hero who also has to teach his friend (and the audience) how to properly say his name. Marvel and Disney are not attempting anything new with this film. It offers a promising blueprint for how they can get things back on track.