Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the MCU’s 25th Fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, but it’s the first time the MCU has seen another statistic.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is by far the most successful cinematic franchise, with a streak of consistent hits both critically and at the box office, but Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ Rotten Tomatoes score marks a first for the MCU in one interesting area. The MCU has a flawless track record on Rotten Tomatoes, scoring “Fresh” across the board, despite a couple of films scoring on the low end of the Fresh range, and so far Shang Chi is continuing that trend, debuting to a 91% Fresh on the Tomatometer.
What’s most remarkable about the MCU’s Rotten Tomatoes scores, aside from the fact that every single one has been rated Fresh, is the consistency in the score details. When compared to blockbusters, the scores vary a lot more, not just in the Tomatometer score, but in the actual average review scores, which can often diverge significantly from the Tomatometer percentage, which only measures the percentage of positive reviews by converting every score to either a thumbs up or thumbs down, ignoring the actual strength of the score. Joker is a great example for contrast, with an average review score of 7.3 out of 10, which is just barely higher than the average for the whole MCU, at 7.27 out of 10, yet Joker’s Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score is only 68%, while the MCU average is 85%. There’s a variety of factors contributing to this, but consistent output and reliable expectations play a big part.
When it comes to Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it fits right in line with many other MCU films on Rotten Tomatoes with 91% of reviews being positive and a 7.6 out of 10 for the actual average review score; however, when we look at the full breakdown of its review data Shang Chi got a slightly higher percentage of positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes approved “Top Critics” with 92%. While this is only a small variance, it’s particularly interesting because it’s the only time in the MCU’s 25 movie run the Top Critic score hasn’t been lower than the score from All Critics, and the variance is fairly wide in some cases, with the MCU’s average Top Critic score coming in at 78% to the All Critic average score of 85%).
It’s debatable what the Top Critic score actually means. Reviews are ultimately just a single critic’s perspective, and the Tomatometer distills that down to a form of consensus with the Tomatometer, but while they differentiate “Top Critics” from “All Critics,” that doesn’t inherently mean one group holds more weight than the other. What is interesting, however, is how there’s a historical pattern to how the two groups rate MCU movies on Rotten Tomatoes. While both groups of critics have been highly positive, Top Critics have just been slightly less enthusiastic on the first 24 entries in the franchise, to the point that Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk barely dip into the “Rotten” range if you only count Top Critics. So, what makes this particularly intersting is that there’s something different about Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that caused Top Critics to be more enthusiastic than All Critics for the first time in the history of the MCU (ironically, the average Top Critic review is only 7.2 out of 10, which is a bit lower than the 7.6 from All Critics).
Granted, there are only 121 reviews in so far, and MCU films have an average of 381 reviews submitted to Rotten Tomatoes per film, so with only one percentage point of separation, it’s possible the final score won’t look this way. However, the percentage of total reviews comprised of Top Critics so far is consistent with every MCU films, so barring any major swings in Shang Chi‘s Rotten Tomatoes reviews submitted closer to release, it may hold onto this special status, and it’ll be curious to see on release if there is anything about Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that stands out against the rest of the franchise in order to earn it this unique statistic.
Next: How Black Widow’s Rotten Tomatoes Score Compares to the Rest of the MCU
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How Shang Chi’s Rotten Tomatoes Score is Unique in the MCU