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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Everything we know

At San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Marvel released a ton of news about Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including a slew of brand new films. Although it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Phase 4 finally kicked off with 2021’s Black Widow, and we’re getting close to seeing a brand new world enter the MCU with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Shang-Chi may not be a household name like Iron Man or Thor, but the introduction of the Chinese kung fu master to the MCU represents Marvel’s commitment to greater diversity in upcoming cinematic phases. Here’s everything we know about the film, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and currently set for a September 3 release.

  • Title: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Release date: September 3, 2021
  • Key cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Ronny Chieng, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh
  • Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

An Abomination callback

Producer Jonathan Schwartz confirmed to The Direct that Tim Roth voices the Abomination in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Roth, who played Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination, in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, is one of the few holdovers from that film’s failure to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Schwartz also said that “there will be more of Abomination to come” in future Marvel projects.

New TV spots

Rise | Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Power | Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Rise Up | Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi takes on Razor Fist on a bus, Katy (Awkwafina) learns the correct pronunciation of Shang-Chi’s name, and we get our first glimpse of The Abomination in new TV spots for the upcoming film, due out September 3.

The first look

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Official Teaser

On star Simu Liu’s birthday, Marvel released the first teaser trailer for the film. In it, we get our first look at the titular hero and a small taste for the story. We also catch a glimpse of a couple of the film’s villains, Razor Fist and Death Dealer.

The posters

Simu Liu on the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings poster.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings poster.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Production wrapped

After several COVID-19 pandemic delays, production wrapped on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on December 10.

Production has just wrapped for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and we are excited to share the fantastic cast bringing the film to life.#ShangChi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters July 9th, 2021.

— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) December 11, 2020

As you’ll note, however, due to other release delays, Shang-Chi was eventually pushed from a July 9 release date to September 3.

The cast and director

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Just before the San Diego Comic-Con panel, Marvel announced Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) would make his Marvel debut as the titular Shang-Chi.

The supporting cast includes Awkwafina, Mang’er Zhang, Ronny Chieng, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, and Tony Leung. Awkwafina and Chieng play Katy and Jon Jon, two of Shang-Chi’s friends. Munteanu is set to play Razor Fist, a martial arts master and rival to Shang-Chi who has knives where his hands should be. Leung, interestingly, is officially cast as Wenwu — Shang-Chi’s father — but Marvel has revealed he is actually The Mandarin, a character we’ve already heard about in the MCU. (More on that in a minute.)

Speaking with Collider, Yeoh revealed that her character, Jian Nan, is a guardian of a “mythical city,” although she was careful not to reveal what she was guarding. Speaking about the film, Yeoh said, “These young people come in, and they have to learn how to protect history and to protect not just this world but the worlds that are around us from the demons that are locked away. So it’s magic, it’s reality, so many things happening, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Director Destin Daniel Cretton is a Marvel newcomer who is known for Short Term 12, The Glass Castle, and Just Mercy.

The story

We don’t know much about Shang-Chi‘s plot except for what’s hinted at in the teaser trailer. We know that Shang-Chi discovers he is the son of Wenwu, who gave Shang-Chi 10 years to “live his life” in San Francisco before succeeding Wenwu as leader of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The trailer indicates that the film likely follows Wenwu’s attempts to bring Shang-Chi back into the fold of the Ten Rings. Our best guess is that, wanting his own life, Shang-Chi sets out on a journey to free himself from this evil destiny.

The teaser shows that Shang-Chi will square off with Razor Fist during a bus attack, in which Katy and Jon Jon learn of their friend’s extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills. Additionally, supervillain Death Dealer makes an appearance in his distinctive mask. Although the ultimate villain is likely Shang-Chi’s father, The Mandarin, he’ll have to work through a few smaller villains before all is said and done.

MCU connections

Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin in Iron Man 3.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re thinking the name sounds familiar, yes, we’ve already seen The Mandarin in the MCU. Or, at least, a version of him. In Iron Man 3, The Mandarin was the mastermind behind a terror campaign aimed at unleashing the Extremis program on the world. However, Tony Stark soon found out that this was merely a figurehead being portrayed by British actor Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) at the behest of Killian Aldrich (Guy Pearce) to cover up his grand plan. Obviously, that was not the real Mandarin. Real or not, however, Ben Kingsley confirmed to Entertainment Tonight that Slattery returns in Shang-Chi, albeit in an undisclosed capacity.

We’ve also seen the Ten Rings, too, beginning all the way back in the original Iron Man. They’re the organization that captures Tony Stark in the desert, prompting him to create the Mark I Iron Man suit in the first place. Stark spends much of the first movie dismantling their operations in the Middle East. They also provide assistance to Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) in Iron Man 2.

But it’s not just Iron Man that’s dealt with the Ten Rings. In the Marvel One-Shot short All Hail the King on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray release, we see Slattery abducted from his prison block by real Ten Rings agents. Additionally, in a deleted scene from Ant-Man, a Ten Rings member is present when Darren Cross attempts to sell his Yellowjacket armor.

While we’re not sure how exactly The Mandarin and the Ten Rings will play into Phase 4 of the MCU, they’ve been teased long enough to think they’re not to be trifled with.

The source material

A Shang-Chi comic strip.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Shang-Chi was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin and debuted in Special Marvel Edition #15 in December 1973. As the martial arts craze swept the United States in the 1970s, Shang-Chi ran in a solo comic from 1974 to late 1983 and enjoyed crossovers with other Marvel martial artists like White Tiger, Iron Fist, and the Daughters of the Dragon. And yes, he was originally modeled after Bruce Lee.

In 1972, Marvel Comics hoped to acquire the rights to adapt the Kung Fu TV program from Warner Communications but were denied. Instead, they acquired the comic book rights to pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu and developed Shang-Chi as his protagonist. Notably, Marvel has decided to rework the original storyline to replace Fu Manchu — considered an offensive relic of “yellow peril” America — with The Mandarin.

Although it’s unclear exactly how extensive Shang-Chi’s fighting skills are, he’s proficient in numerous unarmed and weaponry-based wushu styles, including the gùnnunchaku, and jian. He’s one of the strongest non-superhumans in Marvel Comics, instead dedicating his life to martial arts and becoming the best athlete and fighter he can be. Many of his physical abilities are amplified by his mastery of chi, which allows him to tap into an inner strength and surpass his ordinary human physical limitations. He can dodge bullets and deflect guns with his braces.

In the comics, Shang-Chi has been sought out by many superhuman characters, including Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine, to help them strengthen their own hand-to-hand combat skills and inner strength.

Production history

Believe it or not, Shang-Chi has had film prospects since the 1980s, when Stan Lee asked Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, if he’d be interested in a Shang-Chi film or TV series. Unfortunately, when Lee’s life was cut short filming The Crow in 1993, the idea fizzled.

It was picked up again in 2001 when Blade director Steven Norrington was signed to direct The Hands of Shang-Chi for Dreamworks in 2003. The rights reverted to Marvel Entertainment in 2004, however, and were put in reserve while Marvel began to ideate the Infinity Saga.

In 2018, Marvel fast-tracked the film to prioritize diversity in Phase 4 of the MCU. David Callaham signed on to write the script, and Destin Daniel Cretton signed on to direct in March 2019.

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Nick Perry
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