The Impactful Success Of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the latest film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), defied expectations and debuted to a stunning $71 million take at the box office this weekend and has a combined total of $90 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend. This shattered box office records not just for the year but for the Labor Day weeken in general. Usually by this time of the year the box office becomes a dumping ground for films as the summer season winds down. But Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings upended that,

Given the pandemic the success is stunning and portends to the eventual recovery of theaters. It also supports the idea that the current hybrid model of releasing a film at the same time as it is available for home streaming has a negative impact on a film’s box office take. Just look at the failure of The Suicide Squad and to a lesser extent the disappointing earnings for Black Widow. If a film is exclusively available in theaters and it is a high-profile film, it will do well. Not as well as it could have pre-pandemic but it still successful. Another good example is Free Guy, which performed much better than expected because it was a well-made film and you only could see it in theaters.

The key factor in the success of Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is that they were well received and had good buzz, especially with the MCU film which earned rave reviews. Not only that but the public is eager for new MCU content and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings offered something new for fans. Namely, that the film focused on persons of color, and explored a new side of the MCU. Given that this film and Black Panther performed well, expect future MCU to feature other persons of color such as Latinos. America Chavez will appear in the next Doctor Strange film and could be spun off into her own film. Maybe the Puerto Rican hero White Tiger could be the next hot property for the MCU. What is important for these films to succeed is quality, both Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Black Panther demonstrated that people will go see a film if it is well made and exciting.

Aside from its merits, the success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has already had a positive impact with future films. Whereas Sony Pictures delayed the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage to mid-October, the film studio has now moved up the film to October 1. There were rumors that Eternals might be delayed as well as Spider-Man: No Way Home until society recoverd more from the pandemic. We have seen the release dates for the upcoming Tom Cruise films Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: impossible 7 delayed to 2022 because of the pandemic. Those rumors for the MCU films, however, are unlikely to come to pass as more and more people are getting vaccinated and the case numbers should start to fall later this year. To date, the release dates for those films have not changed.

Of course, it will take a lot more time for theaters to achieve the earnings they enjoyed pre-pandemic, but recent releases like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have shown that there is a bright future ahead for theaters and fans.

Possible MCU What If…? Episodes To Consider

The new animated Disney+ TV show What If…? is a dream come true for fans of the Marvel Comics and especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as it explores alternate timelines in the MCU. The possibilites are endless over what the show can cover based on the many ways events could have played out in the MCU films. Here are ten possible What If…? episodes for the showrunners of What If…? to consider at some point, in no particular order.

What if Iron Man formed the Guardians of the Galaxy?

At the end of The Avengers, Iron Man/Tony Stark was nearly stranded and left for dead in outer space when he used the wormhole over New York City to divert the nuclear missle launched at the city. Luckily, he fell back to Earth before the wormhole closed, but what would have happened if he was a second too late? Sure, he would have been killed in the explosion, but let’s imagine he survived. What would Stark do in outer space, stranded light years from home? Well, he could have gone on to form allies, possibly Peter Quill or Yondu, and create an earlier version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. As the recent episode of What If…? that showed what would have happened if T’Challa became Star-Lord, the outer space events could have radically changed thanks to Tony Stark’s presence. Imagine the endless quips and putdowns between Iron Man and Star-Lord as we saw in Avengers: Infinity War!

What if Spider-Man did not join Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War?

Spider-Man/Peter Parker made his scene-stealing MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War when Tony Stark recruited him to join his side against Captain America. But what would have happened if Stark never approached Peter? Or Peter turned him down? For one, he would still be in his homemade spider costume and his demeanor would be less of an Iron Man, Jr. as many rightfully complain about. Spider-Man’s personna would have more accurately matched his comic book personna where he operates as a sarcastic loner. Imagine if he joined Captain America instead. How would he have dealt with the Sokovia Accords? Such an episode would show Spider-Man being pursued and hunted by law enforcement as in the earler Spider-Man comics and be more mistrusted by the public.

What if Star-Lord did not lash out at Thanos?

There are many fans who berated Star-Lord/Peter Quill for ruining the heroes’ chance to disarm Thanos on the planet Titan during Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man had Thanos on the ropes and were trying to yank off the Infinity Guantlet from Thanos’ hand. But after Quill learned that Thanos killed his beloved Gamora, he lashed out at Thanos and this led to the Thanos recovering and ultimately defeating the heroes. Some griped that Star-Lord ruined the best chance to defeat Thanos, but was it? Remember that earlier in the film, Doctor Strange observed several million future possibilites and noted they would lose except for one occasion. So, even if the heroes managed to yank the Infinity Guantlet from Thanos, it does not necessarily mean they would have ultimately prevail against Thanos.

What if the Hulk never left Earth after Avengers: Age of Ultron?

Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron a despondent Hulk left the team in an Avengers Quinjet and apparently disappeared. It turned out the Quinjet fell into a wormhole and was deposited in the distant planet Sakaar where the Hulk became a gladiator hero. But what would have happened if the Hulk never left Earth? Who would Thor have faced in Thor: Ragnarok? Beta Ray Bill? Korg? How would that film have turned out if there was no Hulk? Then there is the fact that Hulk would be still be around this world during the events of Captain America: Civil War. Which side would he be on and would he be a catalyst for the war? It’s a given one rampage too many could have led to the Sokovia Accords happening sooner. Then again, he may have adopted the Professor Hulk identity at an earlier date and had a positive impact in the Civl War. There is also his romantic relationship with Black Widow, would they still be an item?

What if Ant-Man was not stranded in the Quantum Realm?

Ant-Man/Scott Lang was very pivotal to the plot of Avengers: Endgame. When he was stranded in the Quantum Realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, he probably avoided being a victim of the Snap. When he re-emerged five years later and realized time passed differently for him in the realm, he gave the surviving Avengers the idea to use time travel to create their own Infinity Gauntlet and undo the Snap. If he emerged from the Quantum Realm seconds before the Snap would he too have been erased? If not, how would he have factored into the storyline of Avengers: Endgame and how would the heroes gone on to undo the Snap? If anything a What If…? episode about this premise would demonstrate Scott’s importance to the MCU.

What if the survivors of Avengers: Infinity War were Snapped instead?

If Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, most of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Wasp, the second generation Avengers, and others were not Snapped and the OG Avengers, Captain Marvel, Rocket, Valkyrie and Nebula were instead, how would that situation have played out after Avengers: Infinity War? Could the alternate rag tag Avengers have taken on Thanos? Perhaps they would have reached Thanos’ farm planet sooner before he could destroy the Infinity Stones and defeated him. Or there still could have been a five-year time jump as the heroes concocted a scheme based on mysticism (thanks to Doctor Strange) to defeat the Mad Titan and undo the Snap. Clearly, this alternate take of Avengers: Endgame would be wildly different. There are tons of YouTube videos imagining this premise and it can go in so many ways. Check out one of them below.

What if Project: Insight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeded?

The nefarious plot by Hydra to preemptively wipe out their current and future threats using S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers was nearly pulled off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon and their allies did not stop them the consequences would have been terrible as many MCU heroes like Iron Man and Doctor Strange would have been killed along with millions of victims. How could Captain America and his friends recover and avenge the fallen? That is if they even survived. This What If…? episode could see the birth of a new team of Avengers featuring other heores like the Eternals or Black Panther to take on Hydra and help rebuild the world.

What if Thor became King of Asgard in the first Thor film?

As the saying goes, timing is everything. In Thor, the arrogant title character was about to ascend to the throne of Asgard in a ceremony but then a group of Frost Giants attacked his father Odin’s Vault, which stopped the ceremony. Thor was so headstrong that he led an attack against the Frost Giants in their world that led to his being banished to Earth by Odin. But what if he was crowned the king before the attack? As the ruler of Asgard how would Thor react to the Frost Giants? Would Odin stand by as the new ruler of Asgard waged all-out war against the Frost Giants? And what would Loki be doing? Given his scheming nature, he would be trying to undermine his brother Thor and even attempt to assassinate him so he could take the throne. Also, would Thor’s preoccupation with the throne prevent him from helping to form the Avengers? There are so many intriguing ways this alternate MCU timeline could develop.

What if T’Challa was actually killed in Black Panther?

Black Panther/T’Challa was defeated by Eric Killmonger in ritual combat during the Black Panther film and Killmonger briefly became the ruler of the African kingdom, Wakanda. In the fight, Killmonger threw T’Challa over a waterfall and left him for dead, but T’Challa was later found and revived. What if this did not happen? Killmonger would have carried out his mad plan to attack the outside world for conquest. Could he have succeeded? Yes, he did have the advanced Wakandan technology, but the outside world by this time had considerable sources including superheroes. At the time of the film, the Avengers had broken up, but Killmonger’s war could be the catalyst to get them to reunite and just in time to face Thanos’ forces in Avengers: Infinity War. Or if they failed, how would the world face the Mad Titan when he finally arrived?

What if Baron Mordo became the Sorcerer Supreme instead of Doctor Strange?

The original What if…? comic book series explored a similar premise in issue #40, What if Doctor Strange had not become the Master of the Mystic Arts? The What if…? episode could follow this idea with its own take. Conceited neurosurgeon Stephen Strange never gets involved in the car accident that mangles his hands and leads him to change his ways and become a sorcerer. Or he dies in the accident. Strange is taken out of the equation, and Baron Mordo remains the Ancient One’s best disciple. Would he takeover for the Ancient One after she dies and how would he fare against Kaecilius? Could he defeat him or be clever enough to trick Dormammu as Strange did? Is he worthy enough to be the Sorcerer Supreme? Perhaps he could have and it would be interesting to see Mordo being the hero in the episode.

These are just some ideas for future episodes of the MCU What If…? Anyone else have other ideas for possible episodes? Be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts!

José Soto

In Memoriam: Chadwick Boseman, Forever The Black Panther

King T'Challa

We are still in shock and grieving over the death a couple of days ago of actor Chadwick Boseman. Most of us in the geek community best knew of him from his playing the Marvel Comics superhero, Black Panther, in a few films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Of course, Chadwick Boseman contributed much more to acting besides King T’Challa of the fictional African nation Wakanda. He became prominent in the acting role for his breakout performance as Jackie Robinson in 42 and had distinguished roles such as portraying Thurgood Marshall in Marshall and James Brown in Get On Up. Boseman achieved superstardom when he was cast to play Prince (later King) T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and in his own film Black Panther in 2018.

The cultural impact Black Panther had was revolutionary thanks to Chadwick’s measured and dignified performance. Even during his debut in Captain America: Civil War, Boseman exhibited a quiet sense of royalty and gravitas as his character was conflicted over the killing of his father. He also projected natural leadership and honor when he starred in Black Panther and later MCU films. As we know, Black Panther was a huge box office hit and reverberated in the cultural zeitgeist in that it was a wildly successful superhero film that featured Black characters in prominent roles. This was remarkable given the hesistancy of the head of Marvel Entertainment (Ike Perlmutter) to greenlight MCU films starring people of color and women, because he believed they would not be successful. That struggle to bring Black Panther and his futuristic kingdom to life was justly vindicated by the mammoth success of Black Panther.

black panther at wakanda

Boseman appeared again as T’Challa later in the year in the MCU epic film Avengers: Infinity War and last year in Avengers: Endgame. A sequel to Black Panther was announced last year but its production status was unknown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the film was expected to be released in 2022; in the meantime, Boseman provided voice work for the same character in the upcoming animated series What If…where his episode would examine what if he became Star-Lord instead of Black Panther. At this point, it is unknown if a sequel to Black Panther will ever happen. It probably will with either T’Challa recast or with another character assuming the role of the Black Panther. The Marvel comics and the MCU films established that other people assumed the mantle of Black Panther.

The sudden news of Chadwick Boseman passing away hit many of us hard because of his young age (43) and the fact that he passed away after battling colon cancer for four years. Boseman looked healthy and fit in his appearances, which is why his death was so shocking. His burden as he portrayed the mighty T’Challa in Black Panther and other MCU films was truly remarkable in that he was able to continue his role while he underwent treatment while none of us were aware of his battle.

As we mourn his death and ponder what might have been, it is important to commemorate the man for his contributions and honor his memory. Another may take over the mantle of the protector of Wakanda but Chadwick Boseman will never be forgotten.

tchalla wakanda forever

Wakanda Forever.

 

Superheroes Represent At The Oscars

Last night, the Academy Awards were surprisingly kind to superhero films. Sure, there were some disappointments, big and small; seriously, First Man had better special effects than Avengers: Infinity War? Please. But on the whole the superhero film genre was well represented in the Academy Awards for films that came out in 2018.

Recognizing the MCU

Comic book fans had reasons to celebrate last month when Black Panther was nominated for best film. As we all know, this is the first time a superhero film earned that prestigious nomination. Whether or not the film deserved it is open for debate. But nevertheless it was a great and historic moment for fans as at last the superhero film was recognized as a genuine piece of cinematic art. OK, this is a bit hyperbolic, but the fact is that for too long superhero films were considered juvenile fare though that has been far from the truth.

black panther at wakanda

In the past, these films were often nominated for best visual effects or some other technical category and sometimes won. That has changed slowly over recent years. The Dark Knight picked up an award for Best Supporting Actor in addition to getting numerous technical nominations. However, many rightly felt that The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture, and this snub caused a changed in the amount of films that can get the Best Picture nomination. Others also believed that Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination, but it did get one for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was the first time a superhero film got such a distinguished nomination. With this, it was only a matter of time before a superhero film was nominated for Best Picture and that happened only a year later.

Of course, cynics will credit Black Panther’s numerous nominations to a strong marketing campaign from Disney, and they would not be wrong. But in the end the film studio was largely successful with Black Panther nabbing the coveted Best Picture nomination. Honestly, it winning was always a long shot, especially since it didn’t garner nominations for directing, writing or acting. Traditionally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a huge bias against genre films. No science fiction film has ever won, and only a couple of fantasy films have won including The Shape of Water. Also, that film just won for Best Picture the year before. There wasn’t any way the Academy would allow a genre film to win for Best Picture two years in a row. In fact, this doesn’t happen with other genres. Besides, the Academy likes to pick “important” biographies or historical dramas with timely messages.

Put all that aside for now. It was great that not only was Black Panther nominated, but that it actually won three well-deserved awards. The most for any superhero film. Frankly, it would have been a shock if the film didn’t win for Best Costume Design or Best Production Design. In these categories, Black Panther excelled with its unique and eye-popping visual look and costumes. The award for Best Original Music Score was a pleasant surprise since the score was so enchanting. These wins signal the Academy’s recognition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) quality and caliber. This will be the first of many awards that the MCU will win. It may be a long time before an MCU film or any superhero film will win for Best Picture, but it will happen.

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Top 10 MCU Villains

mcu villains

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are beloved by many but one complaint lodged against the MCU is over its villains. Critics point out that the main flaw with the MCU films are its lightweight villains. This is a valid criticism since many times the MCU films featured forgettable foes that didn’t resonate with viewers. However, there are some truly outstanding villains in the MCU, and some underrated ones, as well, that have broken this mold lately. Here for your consideration are the best MCU villains. Needless to say spoilers will follow.

Thaddeus Ross

10. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (The Incredible Hulk)

Obsessed and prejudiced against superpowered beings, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) has proved to be a hindrance to superheroes in the MCU. First as a general in The Incredible Hulk, Ross played a Javert-type by relentlessly chasing Bruce Banner throughout the Americas. His actions led to the creation of the Abomination and fractured his relationship with his daughter, Betty.

Ross next turned up in Captain America: Civil War as an obtuse Secretary of State determined to bring all the superpowered beings of the world under control by imposing the Sokovia Accords. This truncation of freedom and individual rights put him at odds with Steve Rogers and his teammates, which ultimately led to the Avengers breaking up.

Hela

9. TIE: Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)/Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)

These two are prime examples of villains crazed with world conquest. Hela is the Asgardian Goddess of Death who destroyed Thor’s hammer, conquered Asgard and helped cause its destruction. More than a match for her half brother, Thor, she was portrayed with great gusto by Cate Blanchett.

Born in the fires of World War II, the Red Skull/Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) outgrew the Nazis and formed the Hydra terrorist organization thanks to his severe nihilistic mindset and access to superweapons. While not as layered as other villains on this list, the Red Skull in the first Captain America film was quite memorable and his recent reintroduction into the MCU sparked new interest in him.

8. Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)

Despite the controversy surrounding the third Iron Man film, it can’t be denied that Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) was not only the best Iron Man villain to date but one of the MCU’s top foes. Not only was Killian a notorious business competitor to Tony Stark, but he was the mastermind behind A.I.M. and the Mandarin. His machinations to topple the U.S. government and destroy Tony Stark by implementing the Mandarin’s terrorist campaign are nothing short of genius.

However, it was his vendetta against Stark that made Killian somewhat relatable. Years ago, Killian was a nerdy scientist who was dismissed by a pre-Iron Man Stark. This inspired him to achieve Stark’s level of success and fueled his hatred for Stark. This bit of history also illustrated how Stark’s callous past had caught up to him in Iron Man 3 and nearly undid him.

7. Alexander Pierce (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

As the U.S. Secretary of Defense (the MCU is a fertile ground for evil politicians, isn’t it?), Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) developed a S.H.I.E.L.D. project using preemptive strikes that targeted world leaders and important figures like Tony Stark and Stephen Strange.

What is worse is that his actions against Steve Rogers and his supposed friend Nick Fury revealed that Pierce was a Hydra leader who had infiltrated and corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. to its core. A big factor in his successful infiltration was his charming exterior which hid his cold interior. What made Pierce even more frightening and formidable were his immense resources and clout. He actually had the law on his side, which he used to take out to try to take out Captain America and his allies.

6. The Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Nowadays it may be difficult to think of Steve Rogers’ BFF as a villain, but that was not the case in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the first Captain America film, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastain Stan) was Steve’s Depression-era buddy and joined him in World War II before ultimately dying in the line of duty. Or so we thought.

The second Captatin America film resurrected Barnes as a vicious and brainwashed Hydra assassin who was more than a match for Captain America. He even caught Cap’s famed shield in mid-air as it was thrown at him! The level of ruthlessness and deadly skills he displayed was as intimidating for us to watch as it was for the film’s heroes to endure. At the same time we felt for Steve and Bucky because of their past history and the fact that Bucky was forced by Hydra to carry out heinous acts.

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