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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

why I wasn't excited for Shang Chi but now I am

Obligatory disclaimer in this day and age - has nothing to do with the fact that I'm Asian, apologies in advance.

I remember when Phase 4 announcements were being made and everyone was getting jitters thinking about Spiderman 3 (especially with the rumors of multiverse starting to build), anxiety built over the idea that you had to keep up with Disney+ shows (all of them have been fantastic in my opinion) and all my Korean friends were thrilled that Don Lee was going to be eternals. The Fantastic 4 tease, Wakanda Forever and the overall excitement over the MCU was at an all time high and Mickey Mouse was ready for another disruptive 5 years. If I recall correctly, I don't even remember the Shang Chi announcement as I was watching the live stream and I certainly didn't realize the movie was coming until my man Simu started singlehandedly promoting the movie. There's been a lot of newsflare about how the rest of the marvel cast isn't being "supportive" in the marketing as they usually do with the rest of the cinematic universe as well as the (at least in my understanding) the miscommunication between Disney's president calling this an "experiment" and the subtweet my Simu (I'm of the belief he was just talking about the Disney+ release date stuff, perhaps more as a jab at Scarlett with her recent lawsuit - regardless, it's just facts that there hasn't been that much hype around this movie, especially considering the obsession the world has over the MCU.

I think there's a couple things outside of the marketing issue (which honestly isn't an issue anymore considering how much the man himself has been self-promoting and Disney has been pumping out videos these past few weeks), that are contributing to the lack of relative hype for Shang Chi. The biggest of them all may be that there is almost nothing known about this character with complete detachment from what's been introduced in the MCU thus far, outside of the "10 rings" organization, that seemed more like a joke at the conclusion of Iron Man 3 (also important to note that Iron Man 3 wasn't Marvel's greatest feat). I've tried my best to avoid Reddit spoilers, but it seems like the 10 rings organization has been around since Iron Man 1 and Kevin Feige is really trying to sell this idea that Shang Chi is one of Marvel's longest projects in the making - Disney+ recently released a short titled All Hail the King, conveniently a week before the movie's release. For those of you haven't seen it, I highly recommend going to watch it because I have an inkling it'll directly relate to what occurs in the film and also sets the tone for how dangerous of an organization the 10 rings may be. I think a bigger issue is the lack of scale and weight that the powers (at least shown in the trailers) seem to have on the rest of the Marvel Universe, especially compared to the recent introductions to beings like Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel. Power imbalance and ability disparities is always an issue in sci-fi and fantasy genres, and I'd like to think Marvel does a relatively good job keep its audience at their feet when it comes to this, but it's really hard to get excited for someone who's main powers seem to be martial arts at a point where we've been introduced to gods and time controllers.

Other issues that rely more on how we've been conditioned, to no one's direct fault - I think the trailers look a little off and reminds MCU fanatics of Phase 1 vibes, with slightly cheesy fight scenes and fast cut camera angles. I can see this being more of a promotional issue (or maybe it's even purposeful). I know I kind of hinted I wasn't going to talk about race, but if we're being very honest Asian cast movies are still a gamble, even if you're relying on the martial arts thing to sell it for you. There's also the whole reality that we're still kind of somewhat amidst a pandemic and this is the first real "in-person" release of a Marvel movie in a while (Black Widow was concurrent with Disney+ streaming), which is what the whole "experiment" comment was making light of.

With all this in mind, I think (also slightly based on professional spoiler-free critic reviews), Shang Chi will shine as a true origin story we haven't had in awhile in the MCU, with zero exposure to the character himself in any of the other movies. We were introduced to both Black Panther and Spiderman in Civil War (we've technically been introduced to Spidey for a decade now), Wanda in Ultron, Bucky and Falcon through the Captain America serieses and various other heros now their own shows/movies by the rest of the franchise. It's actually the first time since Dr. Strange (true fans please correct me) that we're being truly introduced to someone we have no idea about, with many viewers probably unaware of how to even pronounce his name. I also think with the recent explosive content like WandaVision and Loki that dealt with multi dimensions, time travel and things beyond explanation (also in anticipation of Eternals), perhaps it's time for us to sit back and enjoy a movie about a man's growth into a role he does not want to embrace while dealing with the delicacies involved in all family dynamics (I've heard the movie does a beautiful job dealing with this - because at the end of the day, it's all about family Dom). I know the distribution of why I'm not excited vs. what I am excited for is rather skewed, but I think this is because of how active I've been in trying to avoid spoilers. The only thing I've been keen to is the high Rotten Tomatoes score as well as news one liners saying that critics find this movie "one of the best" and even a "tear-jerker."

I hope that when I see this movie Labor Day, my only regret coming out is not trying out for a role in the film.

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