The Marvel Cinematic Universe is back in the cinemas. After the controversial hybrid release of Black Widow , Marvel Studios is set to debut their first theatrically-exclusive picture in over two years with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings .

Following leading man Simu Liu, Shang-Chi tells the age-old tale of the prodigal son returning to his confrontational ( and assumedly evil ) father. Coupled with the film's promise to answer a decade-old Mandarin mystery , Shang-Chi has the world's full attention.

Beyond the plot, Shang-Chi is a film of firsts. It's the first Asian-led Marvel Universe movie. It's the first martial arts Marvel Universe movie. It's the first origin story of Phase 4. The list goes on and on.

While Shang-Chi has a lot going for it, there are factors working against it. In any other year, a theatrically-exclusive release is a colossal vote of confidence. In 2021, the cinematic rollout is being described as an "interesting experiment." With COVID-19 concerns worldwide, shadows of doubt have been cast on this film's box office potential.

As creative as promotional pushes can get, there's no better marketing campaign than word of mouth. With that being said, how are critics reacting after Shang-Chi 's world premiere?

SHANG-CHI RECEIVES RAVE REVIEWS

Shang Chi Poster
Marvel

Just under three weeks before it hits theaters, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuted its world premiere to stars and critics alike.

ComicBook.com's Brandon Davis says the film is full of "action like we've never seen from the MCU before" while also noting it's "darker than expected."

"#ShangChi is awesome. This movie hits all that Marvel does well (pacing, humor, character) and adds action like we’ve never seen from the MCU before! Lots of people are about to have a new favorite Marvel hero. Darker than expected. Loads of fun. Integral to MCU Phase 4!"

Insider's Kirsten Acuna praised the film's cast, specifically citing the leading women and star Simu Liu.

"#ShangChi is fantastic. It's full of INCREDIBLE, beautifully choreographed fight scenes and full of badass women. Get ready to know Simu Liu's name if you don't already. Marvel has another hit on its hands."

Fandom's Eric Goldman emphasized that the film has "a lot not in the trailers" and presents "distinct elements" that set it apart from the typical origin stories.

"I really dug #ShangChi! There is a lot not in the trailers (maybe avoid ads in the next couple of weeks I fear will show more?) and it has its own vibe and distinct elements that make it stand out and not feel like a standard origin story. And Simu Liu makes for an awesome hero."

The Hollywood Reporter's Aaron Couch called the theater atmosphere "the most enthusiastic [he's] been with since [Avengers:] Endgame ."

"The #ShangChi crowd was the most enthusiastic I have been with since Endgame. Couldn’t hear some of the post credit scene dialogue due to cheering. Shang and Katy are instant MCU all-stars."

The Wrap's Umberto Gonzalez mentions that Shang-Chi is Marvel's "first true family movie" with plenty of "likeable characters."

"#ShangChi was a blast! Actually, Marvel's first true "family movie" that has a lot of heart. Loads of fun, great fight choreography, & likeable characters galore!"

Collider's Steve Weintraub stressed that it "is like no Marvel movie you've seen" while also saying it "opens the door to a new world" set in the MCU.

"#shangchi is like no Marvel movie you’ve seen. Love that it opens the door to a new world that I can’t wait to see more of. Simu Liu literally kicks so much ass and he is perfectly cast. Got to see it in imax  tonight and this is how you want to see it. Looked and sounded perfect."

Drew Taylor of Vanity Fair and SYFY WIRE had high praise for leading man Simu Liu, saying he "is your new favorite Avenger."

"#ShangChi is an absolute triumph, unexpectedly spiritual and emotionally complex, with some of the very best action in the MCU. Simu Liu is your new favorite Avenger and the movie’s myriad influences (everything from Jackie Chan to Hayao Miyazaki) pay off big time. Astounding."

Writer and actress Dani Fernandez praised the film's fight choreography while also giving major props to star Meng'er Zhang's portrayal of Xialing.

"Omg #Shangchi was so special. The fight choreography was siiiiiiiiiiiiick yall SICK I am dead. Simu Liu is perfectly cast, so bad ass and has so much heart and Meng’er Zhang is KILLER. Much love to the team."

POC Culture called the film a game-changer due to its "martial arts action."

"It’s an amazing blend of East meets West! Hong Kong martial arts action comes to the #MCU & CHANGES THE GAME!!! It’s emotional, beautiful & HILARIOUS! This isn’t like ANY MCU film to date. WOW!"

Hollywood Critics Association member Wendy Lee Szany suggested fans will "want see this on the big screen."

"Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is PHENOMENAL. Get hyped. Even fight scene/action sequence is better than the last. Simu Liu fully embraces the marvel superhero role. Amazing imagery. Killer soundtrack. You’ll want to see this on the big screen."

ComicBook.com's Brandon Davis continued by noting the third act is "a little crazier than is needed" at time, but it "ultimately delivers epic action."

"#ShangChi is such a personal, family story at its core. That’s when it’s at its best. The third act is full of surprises but sometimes is a little crazier than is needed. Ultimately delivers epic action and the intimate moments to land. Big MCU stuff. Can’t wait to watch again!"

Geeks of Color's Dorian Parks added that the film still has those trademark Marvel "hilarious moments" while also checking "all the summer blockbuster boxes."

"#ShangChi is an action packed adventure that checks all the summer blockbuster boxes. Simu shines bringing a long overdue comics character to the silver screen. The fighting is another level and it has some hilarious moments throughout it."

MASSIVE WORD OF MOUTH BOOST FOR SHANG-CHI

While the jury’s still out on Shang-Chi ’s box office performance , Disney has to be over the moon with these early reactions.

Aside from some over-the-top third act woes, Shang-Chi is being unanimously described as a must-see theatrical experience that stands out amongst 13 years of MCU filmography. With a franchise this old, repetitiveness is almost expected, but this film seems to change pace in the most appropriate and entertaining way.

Each review highlights a different strength, but one constant remains: Simu Liu is a star.

Marvel is known to snatch up relatively unknown actors before they propel themselves into superstardom, and it looks like Liu will follow in the footsteps of the Chris Hemsworths and Tom Hollands before him.

Waging war at the box office is a tricky thing , but the first essential battle to win comes with simply making a good film. Stellar marketing campaigns and stacked casts will only get a movie so far. Marvel Studios seems to have an undisputed hit on their hands, which poses well for Shang-Chi ’s “experimental” debut in just under three weeks.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters on September 3.

FOLLOW MCU DIRECT