Why 'Shang-Chi' Isn't a Hit in China

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The New York Times 17 September, 2021 - 02:14am 42 views

Is Shang Chi an avenger?

Shang-Chi is one of the greatest fighters in the Marvel Universe. Using his incredible physical prowess, martial arts mastery, and instinct, he pursues criminals and fights injustice as an Avenger and Hero for Hire. marvel.comShang-Chi | Character Close Up

‘Shang-Chi’ May Be Banned From China for Perceived ‘Insults,’ Even as Some Chinese Viewers Praise It

Yahoo Entertainment 17 September, 2021 - 03:00am

After two banner weekends at the box office, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is looking to easily three-peat atop the domestic market.

The Marvel Studios hit from Disney has so far recorded several important benchmarks, including the all-time Labor Day weekend record ($75.4 million three-day) and the third highest opening and sophomore frame ($23.2 million) in industry history — behind only the two It films ($60.1 million and $39.6 million, respectively). Shang-Chi also scored the best second weekend of any film released during the pandemic, topping Black Widow‘s $25.9 million.

Such momentum should carry on as strong word of mouth propels the crowd-pleasing superhero film. Its premium screen footprint will remain largely in tact again this weekend. Not only should a pandemic-best third frame be on deck (a mark held by A Quiet Place Part II‘s $12 million back in June), Shang-Chi has a strong chance to surpass It: Chapter Two‘s $17 million for the second highest third weekend gross by any film in September history. The first It posted $29.8 million on weekend three in 2017.

As Marvel comps go, Black Widow slid 55 percent in its third frame, Black Panther eased 41 percent, and Guardians of the Galaxy dipped just 40 percent. With a dearth of competition entering the market, Shang-Chi may approach or best the latter two of those comparisons as the film continues its goal of running the board until Venom: Let There Be Carnage arrives on October 1.

On the new release front, things are again looking quiet during this mostly abandoned corridor on the early fall schedule before things ramp up again in October. Warner Bros., fresh off the hybrid box office misfire of Malignant last weekend, is pushing Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho in wide release and for free to HBO Max streaming subscribers this Friday.

Eastwood films have seen peaks and valleys at the box office in recent years, but Macho unfortunately is trending very conservative compared to the likes of 2018’s The Mule. That pic scored $17.5 million in its December opening frame, legging out to $103.8 million domestically and nearly $175 million globally. The iconic filmmaker and actor’s latest is instead trending more along the lines of Richard Jewell, which bowed to $4.7 million domestically in December 2019.

In addition to the repeated cannibalization of a film being available at home the same day it’s in theaters, Cry Macho‘s target audience will likely lean toward older males. That audience was a staple of driving films like Let Him Go and The Marksman throughout the early months of theatrical re-openings during the pandemic, but it remains a demographic more cautious to return to theaters than younger patrons right now due to Delta variant and unvaccinated concerns. Furthermore, those aforementioned comps weren’t available to stream for free.

Meanwhile, critics have so far scored Cry Macho at an underwhelming clip of 53 percent.

Meanwhile, Open Road will also return to the fray with Copshop this weekend. Gerard Butler’s audience could turn out, but this is otherwise another low-profile, male-driven release that is tracking more in line with the likes of The Protégé and Reminiscence than the star’s more successful action films in years past. Social media impressions are lukewarm at this stage before release, but early critics’ reviews lean positive at 76 percent.

Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decrease between 20 and 30 percent from last weekend’s $58.5 million top ten aggregate.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.

Following a breakout by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Sony Pictures immediately jumped on the opportunity to move its upcoming Venom: Let There Be Carnage to the first weekend of October -- two weeks earlier than its...

One week after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' historic Labor Day opening, the Marvel Studios film is targeting another easy box office victory in its sophomore weekend.

Disney reports this morning that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings scored $29.6 million on opening day Friday, essentially setting a new industry standard for Labor Day weekend in a single day.

Summer 2021 has proven to be a wild ride for the film industry and theatrical exhibition, one that will forever have an asterisk next to it. The unusual nature of it will fittingly be capped off this weekend with arguably...

Simu Liu’s favorite Asian snacks are my favorite Asian snacks, too

The Takeout 17 September, 2021 - 03:00am

Wong (Benedict Wong), a Master of the Mystic Arts, made his MCU debut in Doctor Strange. In the film, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his followers kill the Kamar-Taj librarian, and Wong then takes over the role. He assists Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his studies and eventually becomes his friend, helping to protect the New York Sanctum from threats. Since Doctor Strange, Wong has made several appearances in the MCU, showing up in both Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Wong also appears in the fighting tournament in Shang-Chi and will show up in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Wong's Shang-Chi appearance may solve an MCU mystery. Early in Infinity War, Wong and Strange have a conversation about money. After Strange questions why Wong doesn't have any money, the latter says, "Attachment to the material is detachment from the spiritual." However, Strange is on his way to the deli, and Wong doesn't want to miss out on a tuna melt. So he desperately produces 200 rupees from his pocket. Wong says it equates to about a "buck and a half." Considering Wong's need for money and the fact that he already has rupees in Infinity War, it seems he may have received it in a fighting tournament.

Alternatively, the Infinity War conversation may have inspired Wong's appearance in Shang-Chi. While Wong has rupees in Infinity War, it's such a minuscule amount that he can't afford a deli sandwich on his own. In all likelihood, Wong has had the rupees since being the librarian. The MCU's Kamar-Taj is located in Nepal, which uses rupees as currency. Strange is obviously annoyed by Wong's lack of funds in Avengers: Infinity War, so it's possible the character came up with the fighting plans in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to scrounge up some money of his own. In other words, he did it all for tuna melts.

‘Shang-Chi’ Wins a Warm Asia Greeting. Then There’s China.

Boxoffice Pro 17 September, 2021 - 12:37am

Marvel’s first Asian superhero movie has yet to be released in the mainland amid fierce debate over its back story and star.

Marvel released “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” with China in mind. Simu Liu, the film’s Canadian lead actor, was born in China. Much of its dialogue is in Mandarin. The cast includes Tony Leung, one of the biggest Chinese-speaking movie stars in history.

The studio’s first Asian superhero movie is a hit, drawing praise and ticket sales in East Asia and other global markets. Perhaps the only place where the movie has not been well received — in fact, it has not been received there at all — is mainland China.

Disney, which owns Marvel, has yet to receive clearance from Beijing’s regulators to show the film in the vast but heavily censored movie market. While the reasons aren’t clear, “Shang-Chi” may be a victim of the low point in U.S.-China relations.

China is also pushing back against Western influence, with increasingly vocal nationalists denouncing foreign books and movies and the teaching of English. They have even criticized Mr. Liu for his previous comments about China, which he left in the mid-1990s, when he was a small child.

Lack of access to the world’s largest movie market could limit how much money the film makes. But in other parts of Asia, the movie has been greeted warmly by audiences for how it depicts a Chinese superhero burdened by a racist back story.

“I was really expecting the movie to be racist,” said David Shin, a Marvel fan in Seoul. “I was surprised at how well they touched upon Asian culture.”

Worldwide, the movie has earned more than $250 million, all but guaranteeing audiences will be seeing more of Shang-Chi, the title character. Big sales in Asia helped: “Shang-Chi” earned more than $23 million in the Asia Pacific region and debuted at the top of the charts in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. It also set an industry record for a September weekend debut in Hong Kong.

The movie is a retelling of the story of a little-known Marvel character created in 1973 — 16 years before Mr. Liu was born — and updated for today’s audiences. It centers on Shang-Chi, a young man working as a valet who is reluctantly drawn into his father’s deadly criminal organization, known as the Ten Rings.

The group is named after the magical rings that Shang-Chi’s father, Xu Wenwu, wears on his wrists and that give him destructive power that have helped him destroy and conquer empires.

Xu Wenwu is played by Mr. Leung, a legend in Hong Kong cinema. His role in the film was pivotal in attracting Hong Kong audiences to the theaters, said Kevin Ma, a film industry observer and writer from Hong Kong.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone who watches Hong Kong films to not know who he is,” Mr. Ma said, adding that Mr. Leung was used as the central figure in advertisements for the film in the Chinese city.

To reshape the comic-book character to appeal to Asian and Asian American audiences, Marvel put the movie in the hands of Destin Daniel Cretton, a Japanese American director. In addition to Mr. Liu and Mr. Leung, the cast includes Michelle Yeoh, another major star in Asia, and Awkwafina, the Asian American actor and comedian.

The strong showing by “Shang-Chi” comes after a wave of financial and critical success for recent films with Asian casts and production crews, like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Parasite” and “The Farewell.”

But for blockbusters, mainland China is the major market to win. So far this year, its theaters have reaped $5.2 billion in ticket sales, according to Maoyan, which tracks Chinese box office results. Disney has submitted the movie for release there.

Despite its absence, the film has generated spirited debate on the Chinese internet. Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Communist Party, published commentary that cited the racist origin of the character.

Readers of Shang-Chi comic books in the 1970s saw Asian faces colored in unnatural oranges and yellows. They saw the main character shirtless and shoeless, spouting “fortune-cookie platitudes in stilted English,” The New York Times noted recently. And then there was Shang-Chi’s father in the comics: He was named Fu Manchu and caricatured as a power-hungry Asian man, an image that harks back to the stereotypes first pressed upon Asian immigrants a century ago.

“How can Chinese people be insulted like this,” the Global Times commentary asked, “while at the same time we let you take our money?”

Some critics in China have also pointed to Mr. Liu’s previous comments about China. One nationalist account on Weibo, the popular social media platform, posted several screenshots from a previous interview with Mr. Liu in which he talked about how his parents left “Third World” China where people “were dying of starvation.” (The video is no longer online. A spokeswoman for Disney declined to comment on the remarks.)

Mr. Liu has been critical of China before. In 2016, when he was starring in the television show “Kim’s Convenience,” he wrote on Twitter, “I think countries that try to censor and cover up dissenting ideas rather than face them and deal with them are out of touch with reality.” When a Twitter user replied, “sounds like America,” Mr. Liu responded: “I was referring to Chinese gov’t censorship. It’s really immature and out of touch.”

Others, including some who said they had seen the movie, leapt to its defense.

“There is nothing wrong with the film and half of its dialogue is in Mandarin Chinese,” wrote a Weibo user. “Those who said it insulted China before were too irresponsible.”

Still, the movie has found some resonance with Chinese audiences who have managed to see the film. Jin Yang, 33, a Chinese film producer based in Beijing, praised the film after watching it in a theater in Hong Kong, which despite its own rising censorship operates under different rules.

“It’s a bit regretful that the film has not been released in mainland China,” Ms. Yang said. “It’d be great if Chinese audiences could see this film that combines Chinese and Western cultures so well.”

Debate about “Shang-Chi” predated the movie’s release, as China’s voluble online audience debated Mr. Liu’s looks, an argument that the actor himself noted with amusement. Some claimed to see a passing resemblance to a young Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, leading to Photoshopped images that others predicted might hurt its chances to pass muster with Chinese film regulators.

The trouble in China may have unintentionally helped sales in other markets in Asia, where Beijing’s increasing bellicosity with its neighbors has hurt public perceptions of the country.

“I thought that the movie might not be well received in South Korea because of the protagonist being Chinese,” Kim Hanseul, 31, a Marvel fan in Seoul, said. But, he said, the movie’s absence in China “has actually led to more Koreans watching the film.”

The movie’s fans said they hoped Chinese audiences would be able to see it eventually.

“It’s amusing,” said Ms. Yang, the film producer, “that it’s Americans’ turn to read subtitles in a Marvel film.”

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