Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Everything You Need to Know
4/19/2021 • 3 min read
We need a hero! After a lousy 2020 — a year which was largely devoid of big-screen comic book-based derring-do — 2021 will transport us back to Marvel's sprawling Cinematic Universe, with a new slate rich in superheroes and equally super villains. One of the most exciting projects on the horizon from Marvel Studios is SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS.
This martial arts adventure, due out in the summer, looks to subtly shift the paradigm of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. Expect it to incorporate Eastern action inspiration as it rewrites some MCU lore in the process. (More on that in a minute.) We're a few months away from the movie's debut, but it's not too early to explain everything you need to know about SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS.
The Shang-Chi Release Date
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (JUST MERCY, SHORT TERM 12) is scheduled to open in theaters on September 3, 2021.
Watch the First Shang-Chi Trailer!
The first trailer for SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS hits hard. It shows off more than a few notable cinematic inspirations, including films as diverse as SPEED and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON — but more importantly it demonstrates that this movie has a real fighting spirit. It's also a pleasure to see Simu Liu in action at last.
The Plot Is Mysterious
Even with the first trailer out in the wild, the movie's story remains more or less under wraps. Most of what we know about the storyline for SHANG-CHI is this brief synopsis, provided by the ultra-secretive Marvel Studios: “When Shang-Chi is drawn into the clandestine Ten Rings organization, he is forced to confront the past he thought he left behind.” That’s it.
We know that Shang-Chi is the hero, and can surmise that the Ten Rings is a terrorist group. It also seems like the hero's father may be the leader of the Ten Rings, which would certainly lead to some complications.
But Who Is This Hero?
If you’ve never heard of Shang-Chi, that’s okay. We’ll fill in some of the blanks. The character was created in the early 1970s by the legendary Marvel Comics duo of writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin.
Originally, he was conceived as the son of the infamous villain Fu Manchu. That character appeared in novels by British author Sax Rohmer and became the center of a series of films beginning with shorts in the 1920s and continuing through features released in several decades. Over the years, Fu Manchu has been embodied by various actors ranging from Christopher Lee to Peter Sellers to Nicolas Cage. Marvel eventually lost the rights to the Fu Manchu character and Shang-Chi's association with the mad scientist was diminished or obscured. (In some stories, there’s a character who looks and acts an awful lot like Fu Manchu but is never explicitly identified as such.)
Shang-Chi is a martial arts master, proficient in a number of styles, and can duplicate himself endlessly. He’s been a member of the Avengers and is singular in Marvel Comics canon for his commitment to martial arts and Eastern philosophy.
Who Plays Shang-Chi?
In the movie, Shang-Chi is played by Simu Liu, a Chinese-Canadian actor who has starred in the beloved cult sitcom "Kim's Convenience" since 2016, and has appeared on shows like "Orphan Black," "The Expanse," "Fresh Off the Boat," and "Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.", In fact, the latter show is oriented around Awkwafina (which is probably obvious, given the title) who also happens to be Liu's co-star in SHANG-CHI.
In public appearances and on social media, the actor is self-deprecating and charming. We can’t wait to see him in the role.
The Rest of the Shang-Chi Cast Is Also Amazing
Joining Liu and Awkwafina in SHANG-CHI is an impressive array of performers. The film’s villain, the Mandarin, will be played by the legendary Tony Leung. The actor is best known for his frequent collaborations with director Wong Kar-Wai, most notably IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and THE GRANDMASTER. The brilliant Hong Kong actor has starred in a number of other genuine classics, including HERO, RED CLIFF, and INFERNAL AFFAIRS — the movie that inspired Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED. And if the name of The Mandarin sounds familiar to you … well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
Florian Munteanu, the walking mountain who played Viktor Drago in CREED II, is also a part of the cast, as is martial arts legend Michelle Yeoh. What’s interesting about Yeoh’s involvement is that she’s already been in the MCU; she had a cameo in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 as Aleta Ogord. And SHANG-CHI is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who directed Brie Larson in her breakout role in SHORT TERM 12. Could Captain Marvel fly into this movie? Only time will tell…
A Classic Marvel Villain Is Fully Revealed
Long-time Marvel fans will have immediate associations with the full title of this movie, but more casual viewers may not. Here’s why the Mandarin and the Ten Rings might sound familiar: like Michelle Yeoh, they’ve already shown up in the MCU.
In 2013’s billion-grossing IRON MAN 3, Ben Kingsley played a version of the character. His was a phony terrorist focus-grouped into existence by the movie's real villain, played by Guy Pearce. Fans were not exactly happy that the clever twist meant that the evil terrorist was actually a stooge. The existence of a "real" Mandarin was alluded to back in February 2014, in the Marvel Studios short film "All Hail the King," which suggested that the actual Mandarin is unhappy with the British performer impersonating him. Now, finally, one of the more fearsome Marvel villains will get a chance to exert his willpower in SHANG-CHI, portrayed by one of the world’s greatest actors, Tony Leung (seen above in THE GRANDMASTER). Yes, please!
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS will be in theaters on September 3, 2021!
All images courtesy of Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics, CBC, The Weinstein Company, and Entertainment One.