Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is arguably the most culturally significant addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the release of the Black Panther (2018). From the cast to the comics, here is everything you need to know about the movie prior to its release on 3 September.
Marvel’s official description of the film from a cast announcement last December reveals that “Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organisation.” The teaser trailer released earlier this year revealed more of what fans can expect from the leading character, whose father’s voice we hear gravely reminding Shang-Chi of the freedom he’s been allowed over the last decade. What’s more, he is expected to now return home to face who he truly is—the son of the leader of the Ten Rings organisation
Chinese fans have expressed worries that the West will be portrayed as a place of escape in the film, unfairly portraying China and its culture. Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, specifically addressed these concerns during an interview with the critic Raymond Zhou for Variety on the day of the movie’s premiere. He explained that Shang-Chi running away “is presented as one of his flaws. It is a flaw to run away to the West and to hide from his legacy and his family—that’s how the movie is presented. And how he will face that and overcome that is part of what the story is about.” Therefore, viewers can expect to watch in suspense as Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu (best known for his role on the popular TV show Kim’s Convenience), tries to figure out how his two very separate lives fit together.
Other cast members include Awkwafina (playing Katy), Tony Leung (playing The Mandarin) and Fala Chen (playing Leiko Wu). Fans can also expect to see an appearance from Benedict Wong, who played Wong in Doctor Strange (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
What Superpowers Does Shang-Chi Possess?
Shang-Chi may not have any superpowers per se, but in the comics he does learn how to harness his Qi (Chi), a bio-electric energy that is thought to run through all living things. A master of his own body, he can also slow down his bleeding (meaning he can stay alive for longer), control his nervous system (so he feels no pain), and has heightened senses meaning he is practically unbeatable in battle.
Trained by his father to be a human weapon, the title Master of the Martial Arts was given to him because his astonishing precision and self-control in combat would be enough to make onlookers think he possesses powers.
His name, which means the “rising and advancing of the spirit“, predicts that Shang-Chi will act as a beacon of hope when there is none and will naturally be a character the audience roots for.
It is not yet known exactly what power the ten rings, which have been adapted into bracelets rather than the rings seen worn on The Mandarin’s hands in the comics, will bestow on the wearer. It’s possible the original origin story, which claims the rings are from an alien race of dragons, will be kept and may somehow provide a link to The Eternals, who have inhabited earth for thousands of years (and who are starring in their own MCU film later this year). However, it is far more likely that the rings will allow the user to tap into some mystical power similar to that harnessed by Doctor Strange.
The Movie Vs The Comics
From the trailers it is visually apparent that Shang-Chi has been largely influenced by the comics from which the original idea for the character was born. However, a few minor details to the plot have been changed.
It has been confirmed that The Mandarin (a ‘version’ of whom appeared in Iron Man 3 played by Ben Kingsley) is in fact the alias of Shang-Chi’s father, Wenwu. For fans of the comic books who will remember his father by the name of Zheng Shu, leader of the Five Weapons Society (or the racist caricature Fu Manchu), this will be the one of most notable changes in the movie. Indeed, Feige has confirmed that Fu Manchu will play no part in Shang-Chi or the Marvel universe.
MCU fanatics drawn in by the producers’ abilities to seamlessly link movies together will not only be grateful for the removal of the archaic Fu Manchu, but for how the movie will bring about fond recollections of early Marvel Cinema. As already mentioned, The Mandarin is a familiar name for fans of the Iron Man trilogy. However, the familiarity of the character will end there, as suggested by the co-writer of the film Dave Callaham. In an exclusive interview with Empire, he said that “our version of the character is not The Mandarin in the way that people are expecting him to be.”
It may not be necessary to watch any of the previous Marvel movies to understand the events that will unfold in the upcoming release, set post-Avengers Endgame, however, doing so might mean you get the most out of this “deeper” character’s storyline.
As well as seemingly delivering on the MCU’s action-driven reputation, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a step forward for people of colour seeing themselves represented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
William Yu, screenwriter and Asian-American advocate, pointed out in a tweet that the production represents a symbolic passing of the torch from the actors and producers of Black Panther to the cast of Shang-Chi, who continue to make strides towards inclusive cinema.
Reactions following the movie premiere have only created more fan excitement for the 3 September release date.
Meanwhile, Simu Liu wrote “we are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers,” in response to a comment reportedly made by Disney CEO Bob Chapek calling the movie an “interesting experiment.” Liu hit back noting how much “joy” the movie will bring after a year of global struggle and how ready he is to make movie history. Fellow MCU actor Mark Ruffalo responded to his tweet in support.
Soon, audiences across the globe will hopefully get the chance to see the Master of Martial Arts in full fight mode and get a taste of what the latest superhero will bring to Phase 4 of the MCU.
Words by Jasmine Edge
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