2021 © Walt Disney Studios
Shang-Chi is an incredibly important movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about it.
From the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings release date and origins, to the premise, cast and characters plus all the clues you may have missed in the trailer, it’s all here.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings release date: 3 September 2021
If you’ve never heard of Shang-Chi, are in the dark about these rings and what makes them legendary, you’ve come to the right place. Here is your at-a-glance guide to Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu and the backstory to the first new MCU superhero origin story since 2019’s Captain Marvel.
• Riding the pop-culture wave of fascination with all things Kung Fu that hit the USA in the early 1970s (thanks largely to the popularity of Bruce Lee’s eye-popping martial arts movies such as 1972’s The Way of the Dragon), Marvel Comics’ writer, Steve Engelhart and artist, Jim Starlin created Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu for Special Marvel Edition #15 in December 1973.
• With characters originally spun off the culturally problematic characters from author Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels – Shang-Chi’s dad was master villain Fu Manchu himself – the comic books abandoned this dodgy inspiration to become a popular standalone series for 10 years, ending in 1983 with issue #125.
• Shang-Chi has never completely left Marvel Comics, appearing in one-shots and crossovers over the years. Stan Lee was a Shang-Chi champion, attempting to get a movie off the ground in the 80s, 90s and in the early 00s, with a Shang-Chi film one of the 10 titles penciled in for production when Marvel Studios was created in 2005.
• So, what are the Ten Rings and what’s the connection to Shang-Chi? Remember Iron Man 3’s ‘decoy villain’, Mandarin? Not only does the Mandarin actually exist in MCU, but – in an inspired bit of retrofitting – he’s Shang-Chi’s dad!
• Mandarin (aka Wenwu) is the leader of The Ten Rings. This criminal/terrorist organisation has been up to no good ever since the MCU’s Infinity Saga began. Who kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man (2008)? The Ten Rings. Who was there to buy PymTech’s Yellowjacket suit in Ant-Man (2015)? Yup, Ten Rings.
• As well as being the name of Mandarin’s criminal enterprise, the Ten Rings also form an actual mystical weapon that Wenwu wears – five rings on each forearm (Hung Gar Kung Fu-style). Each has a different ability-enhancing power that makes Mandarin a truly superpowered supervillain.
• By contrast, Wenwu’s estranged son – Shang-Chi – is not traditionally superpowered. That being said, having been trained in martial arts since childhood, Shang-Chi’s physical abilities are so incredibly well-honed that he doesn’t require Captain America’s super-soldier serum or Black Panther’s Heart-shaped Herb to hold his own among the MCU’s enhanced individuals.
• Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an MCU first, featuring a majority-Asian cast and an Asian-American director – Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle, Just Mercy) – and writer – David Callaham (Godzilla, Wonder Woman 1984).
For 10 years, Shang-Chi has lived a modest life in San Francisco, working as a hotel valet along with best friends Katy and Jon Jon.
What neither of his mates knows, however, is that he is a living weapon with a dangerous past that has no intention of leaving him be.
2021 © Walt Disney Studios
Trained as a martial arts master since childhood, Shang-Chi’s estranged father is none other than Wenwu who, as the Mandarin, is the head of Ten Rings – a powerful global crime syndicate and terrorist network.
So, when Mandarin’s lieutenants arrive in San Francisco to bring Shang-Chi home, our hero is forced to own his formidable powers and make a decision about whether to stand by his father’s side, or fight alone on the side of good.
Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) is Shang-Chi
Trained to be an assassin from an early age by his father Wenwu AKA the Mandarin, Shang-Chi abandoned obligations to his dad’s criminal Ten Rings organisation for an under-the-radar life in San Francisco. 10 years on and his past is catching up with him.
Tony Leung (In the Mood for Love, Infernal Affairs) is Wenwu/The Mandarin
Chinese cinema royalty, Tony Leung, plays Shang-Chi’s father, and the ruthless leader of the Ten Rings terrorist network, Wenwu/the Mandarin. He gave his son 10 years to live his life in the world, but time is up and he wants Shang-Chi to return to his side, or else.
Meng’er Zhang is Xialing
Newcomer Meng’er Zhang is playing Shang-Chi’s estranged sister (and fellow Ten Rings-trained assassin) Xialing. While Shang-Chi went off around the world, Xialing stayed by their dad’s side, working in the family ‘business’. We suspect she’s none too happy about being sent to retrieve Wenwu’s prodigal son…
2021 © Walt Disney Studios
Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Crazy Rich Asians) is Katy
Katy is Shang-Chi’s best mate and fellow valet. Initially, she has no idea about her BFF’s criminal mastermind dad nor his amazing Kung Fu skills, but once the shock has subsided she’s 100% behind Shang-Chi.
Ronny Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians, Godzilla vs. Kong) is Jon Jon
Along with Katy, Jon Jon makes up Shang-Chi’s tight-knit posse of San Fran friends.
Fala Chen (The Undoing, Heading South) is Ying-Li
Ying-Li is Shang-Chi’s mum. Given that she’s always depicted in the glorious gold and green tones of the film’s past, it seems that she either died or left the scene a long time ago.
Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Star Trek: Discovery) is Ying-Nan
Ying-Nan is the guardian of a mythical city and seems to act as a mentor to the adult Shang-Chi on his journey. It’s she who points out that he is both his mother (good) and – for better or worse – his father (far from good).
Florian Munteanu (Creed II) is Razor Fist
Romanian boxer turned actor Munteanu previously played Viktor Drago in Creed II. He’s now stepping into the MCU as long-time Shang-Chi foe, Razor Fist who, just to be 100% clear, has a vicious blade instead of a right hand.
Andy Le is Death Dealer
Masked Mandarin lieutenant Death Dealer is a big deal. In the trailer, they are seen training the young Shang-Chi and leaping out of a chopper to fight the adult Shang-Chi in a stripped out skyscraper. We can’t help feeling there’s a BIG secret beneath that Beijing Opera mask. Traditionally, a white mask with mostly black markings denotes neutrality and integrity. Could it be that Death Dealer is ultimately a secret ally to Shang-Chi?
If that's not enough, we've got plenty more on Shang Chi's illustrious friends and foes to spare.
New heroes, new villains, insanely cool Wushu action and balletic, Crouching Tiger-style Wuxia combat – it’s fair to say that the Shang-Chi trailer has got us very excited. Excited enough, in fact, to pore over every frame and spot a few things you may have missed…
• Death Dealer’s presence in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings could point to a 1974 comic book run in which Shang-Chi’s dad sought to get some of his son’s blood to help him become immortal.
• Notice Jiang Li’s yellow and green costume in the elegant Wuxia combat scene? Is it a coincidence that those are the colours of another Marvel martial artist superhero, Iron Fist?
• In the comics, Mandarin’s Ten Rings were the jewellery kind, forged from the remnants of a crashed alien craft. While Wenwu’s ten rings are on his forearms, they also glow with an otherworldly light and appear to have text on them. Could they be created from alien technology? Kree, or maybe gifted by the Eternals in the ancient past and repurposed for evil by the Mandarin?
• The Ten Rings have been in Mandarin’s possession for a very long time and appear to alter the wearer’s biology (glowing veins!). Their power is clearly off the charts – one shot set in the distant past clearly shows the moment after Mandarin’s used the Ten Rings to cut a swathe through an entire army.
• Look closely at the shots in which Shang-Chi prepares to fight his sister Xialing in some sort of battle arena. You’ll see the flag of Madripoor, suggesting the fight club takes place in Marvel’s fictionalised version of Singapore. And we last saw Madripoor featured prominently in… The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Connections!
• This one’s just a cute little Easter Egg: notice the registration code on the Mandarin’s helicopter as it touches down – W-W888. We assume the W-W stands for Wenwu, while ‘8’ is a famously lucky number in Chinese culture as its pronunciation – ‘ba’ – sounds very similar to the word for ‘wealth’. This is one very lucky chopper.
2021 © Walt Disney Studios
The MCU’s newest superhero is here, in the first Marvel Studios film to take place in the post-Infinity Saga, post-Avengers world of Phase Four.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is released on 3 September
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