“Shang Chi,” The Movie that “Just Mercy” was Sacrificed For, Shatters Labor Day Weekend Box Office Records

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Civil rights or super hero?

It was back in the fall of 2019 that “Just Mercy,” a terrific film headed for the Oscars, opened at the Toronto Film Festival. Everyone was very high on it. Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson starred in it. Dustin Detton Cretton was the director.

And then “Just Mercy” sank like a stone. Cretton was absent for its entire release. Where was he? Shooting something called “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in Australia. Zoom hadn’t been invented yet. So he was gone. “Just Mercy” vanished into thin air.

Now “Shang Chi” is here and over the weekend it broke the record for Labor Day box, three day and four day. The total of $90 million plus is like three times the previous record holder. “Shang Chi” is a Marvel movie with a lot of special effects. No one discusses race, there are no uncomfortable scenes.

Cretton started his career with “Short Term 12,” a movie that starred future Oscar winners Larson and Rami Malek, and nominee Lakeith Stanfield. Then he made the less successful “Glass Castle.” This was followed by “Just Mercy.” We couldn’t expect to stick around making good indie films. Also, he’s Asian American, so the lure of making the first Asian American Super hero movie no doubt outweighed all other considerations. I don’t blame him.

So go back and watch “Just Mercy” if you’re a “Shang Chi” fan, not to mention the other two films. Of course the worry is that this is what happens next to Chloe Zhao, celebrated Oscar winner for “Nomadland” and “The Rider.” Her next movie is Marvel’s “Eternals,” destined to be a blockbuster. It will be hard to get her back out onto the Great Plains with a video cam after that.


Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of “Only the Strong Survive,” a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.


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