When I was invited to watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in theaters, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was excited for Simu Liu (famed stock image model) and Awkwafina, two people I’d enjoyed watching in other things. I was happy for what it meant for Asian Americans to get representation in a major blockbuster franchise. I was excited to see people I hadn’t seen in months.
But I couldn’t get excited about the movie itself.
I’ve been picky about movies for a while. My resistance to watching even mediocre movies has made movie nights unnecessarily complicated.
Marvel movies have been especially contentious. From Age of Ultron until Endgame, I refused to watch a single Marvel movie. No one’s recommendation could convince me, though not due to a lack of trying from my friends.
I softened my tone a few years ago when Avengers: Endgame came out. A rabbit hole into the spoilers convinced me to watch. It didn’t matter that I had missed four years and a dozen movies—almost every character who survived Thanos’s snap was familiar to me.
I hadn’t always been anti-Marvel. For the first half-decade of the MCU, I couldn’t wait for the next film to come out. I hawked Wikipedia for the synopsis of the newest movies right after their release date. I’d look up all the Easter eggs after the movie to see any I’d missed.
When Age of Ultron came out in 2015, I was just as excited. I was also in the Philippines. For whatever reason, some blockbusters come out abroad before they release in the United States. Age of Ultron was one of those movies. I got to watch it over a week before most Americans. I was exuberant.
This also meant that there was not a built-out synopsis page. On the day of the release, I remember sitting in English class, refreshing Wikipedia, hoping to find out which character the rumored death befell, but it never updated.
To my disappointment, the death that had been hinted at for weeks (months?) was a character who had hardly had enough screen time to make his death meaningful. I felt cheated. It also began my long (one-sided) beef with Marvel. How could these extravagant fight scenes carry any tension if you knew all the main good guys were going to survive?
No movie that followed could convince me. It didn’t matter if half the cast was snapped away by Thanos—they’re all going to come back anyway.
Those deaths finally happened in Endgame. It was inevitable. Watching Endgame didn’t reignite the excitement I once had for the MCU. I felt remnant sparks before going to the theater. I enjoyed the movie. They didn’t do enough for me to leave the theater with a resolve to watch the movies I had missed.
Endgame cooled my resistance to the MCU, but nothing more. Until Shang-Chi’s release, I still hadn’t seen another Marvel movie.
I didn’t enjoy Shang-Chi. Aside from a few moments, I was mostly bored. My longstanding gripe of too many people in the final battle scene was not subverted.
Still, I loved the experience. The social aspect of movie watching is something I often overlook. In the past, when I was asked to go to a movie, I judged the movie’s merit. Whether it was critical opinion or my own genre preferences, I looked too much at the film itself.
While Endgame softened my aversion to the franchise, Shang-Chi helped me look past it. Socializing is hard to happen upon than it was during university. Getting boba beforehand and sharing our varying opinions after the movie was exciting.
I’m trying to cherish the moments I get to hang out with others, even if it means watching the next Marvel film.
Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mitchell Barbee graduated from Calvin University with a B.A. in writing in 2021. Originally from Boone, North Carolina, he is currently residing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He enjoys hanging out with the few friends who stayed, wearing grey hoodies, and hoping that he doesn’t get sucked into the nightly wormhole of watching a baseball game.