Marvel Actor Hits Back at Disney Over 'Box Office Experiment' Comments

Actor Simu Liu was not pleased by Disney CEO Bob Chapek's recent comment about the upcoming Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This week, Chapek told Disney investors that Shang-Chi is an "interesting experiment" for the company. Liu lashed out on social media, saying that Asian representation in cinema should not be "experimental" in any way.

"We are not an experiment," Liu wrote alongside four pictures from the making of Shang-Chi. "we are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will preserve after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I'm fired the f— up to make history on September 3rd, JOIN US."

Liu plays the titular hero in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is adapted from years' worth of successful Marvel Comics. He will be the first main hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe of East Asian descent, and the movie is expected to help tie together several disparate elements of that fictional world all at once.

Chapek was speaking to shareholders on Thursday in the Disney Q3 Earnings Call when he confirmed that Shang-Chi will have an exclusive theatrical release — meaning it will not be available to stream right away in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Screen Rant. Chapek likely meant this strategy as an "experiment" for Disney, but Liu and fans still did not appreciate having the movie relegated to an economic "experiment."

The theatrical-only release could be an issue for Shang-Chi, since it comes amid a spike in new COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country and the proliferation of the Delta variant. Some commenters noted the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes around the U.S. in the last two years, drawing their own connections.

There are many factors at play here, including Scarlett Johansson's new lawsuit against Disney for releasing Black Widow on Disney+ without changing her share of the profits from the movie to reflect that. Some reports indicate that Emma Stone is considering a similar lawsuit over Cruella, though legal experts are split over whether these cases are legitimate.

Regardless, Chapek characterized this "experiment" as unconnected. He said that Shang-Chi has always been slated for a theatrical-only release, and it is too late to change it now regardless of the COVID-19 status. He said that Disney assumed the pandemic would be under better control by now.

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However it performs at the box office, Liu's comments make it clear that Shang-Chi is one of the most momentous blockbuster movies to be made in years. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings premieres on Friday, Sept. 3 in theaters only.