The demand for greater Asian representation in Hollywood has never been higher than it
Luckily, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel seems to be putting
their money where their mouth is.
Here's what you need to know before you see Shang-Chi.
Like every other project in Marvel's Phase 4, Shang-Chi has taken a long and bumpy road
to movie theaters.
The film was initially set to kick off on February 12th, 2021, making it the third theatrical
release for the Phase 4 lineup, after Black Widow and Eternals.
That was announced all the way back in 2019, however, when nobody had any idea what the
Obviously, 2020's COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, and basically every
studio in Hollywood ground to a halt, including Marvel.
Both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hit Disney+ before their feature-length
cousins could return to theaters.
And then, after a whole lot of reshuffling, Shang-Chi battled its way to the #2 spot on
the new theatrical release calendar, sliding in between Black Widow and Eternals.
As it stands, The Legend of the Ten Rings is expected to hit theaters on September 3rd,
Marvel has apparently heard the longtime cry for diversification of not only cast but crew
as well, as the studio has chosen Asian-American filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton to helm Shang-Chi.
He joins Eternals director Chloe Zhao as the first filmmakers of Asian descent to join
the MCU in Phase 4.
Cretton's standout project so far is the 2013 film Short Term 12, a story about troubled
teenagers and their carers living together in a group home.
Much of Shang-Chi's comics history is checkered, to say the least, featuring a number of racist
"Oriental mysticism" tropes and "Yellow Peril" villains.
Bringing on talent of actual Asian heritage is a positive sign that Marvel Studios is
interested in reflecting the real world more accurately.
Casting Asian actors is all well and good, of course but placing the movie's creative
vision in the hands of a director of Asian descent is an even better way of avoiding
the mistakes made by the earliest Shang-Chi comics.
Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu was introduced at Marvel's SDCC 2019 panel as Shang-Chi less
than a week after getting cast.
He was born in Harbin, China, and immigrated to a suburb in Toronto, when he was 5 years
Liu is best known for his role as the former delinquent son Jung in Kim's Convenience,
a sitcom he recently criticized, not only for its premature cancelation, but also for
the way in which many of the Asian actors were treated by the show's white creators.
Liu also guest-starred as Taiwanese noodle seller Willie in the 100th episode of ABC's
Fresh off the Boat, which aired in April 2019.
The actor has himself underlined the need for more Asian representation in the MCU,
first tweeting such sentiments back in 2014.
In 2019, he bought out a Toronto theater for a screening of Awkwafina's film The Farewell,
citing the need for greater representation for Asian actors.
Going forward, it seems like the MCU couldn't ask for a more passionate and devoted champion
for the franchise.
To many Western moviegoers, the name Tony Leung won't be immediately familiar, but he's
one of the most high-profile and celebrated actors in the Hong Kong film industry.
Leung's career dates all the way back to the '70s, and he's starred in everything from
rom-coms to thrillers to martial arts movies.
During his long and storied career, Leung has won a number of prestigious Hong Kong
Film Awards and earned Best Actor at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for his leading role
in Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love.
In short: he's a big deal.
For Shang-Chi, Leung has been cast as the film's antagonist: the Mandarin.
This, of course, is a subversion of the fake Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley in Iron Man
"It's just a role.
The Mandarin, you see, it's not real."
The 2014 short film Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King first revealed that there was indeed
a very real Mandarin operating from the shadows.
According to the trailers for Shang-Chi, it seems Leung's character is the leader of the
Ten Rings organization, the criminal organization that debuted in the first Iron Man movie.
In Shang-Chi, it appears that the Mandarin has trained his son, Shang-Chi, to become
an assassin and now he's ready for our hero to take his place in the family business.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will find its titular hero out and about in
the normal world.
Sure, he was trained as an assassin by his villainous father, but Shang-Chi doesn't want
anything to do with his criminal group.
Instead, he's spending his days in San Francisco, living out a normal life and hanging out with
his BFF and co-worker Katy who's played by none other than Awkwafina.
Awkwafina broke into the entertainment world as a rap artist in 2014 with her debut album
Yellow Ranger, followed in 2018 by an EP entitled In Fina We Trust.
Not content to sit on her laurels, she turned her eye to acting, making her major breakthrough
in 2018 with the one-two combo of Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians.
The very next year found her starring in The Farewell, a drama about a Chinese-American
family heading overseas to pay one last visit to their dying matriarch.
The movie also features Hong Kong action legend Michelle Yeoh, who plays Jiang Nan, the hero's
ally and mentor, Fala Chen as Jiang Li, his mother, and Meng'er Zhang as Xialing, Shang-Chi's
Meanwhile, Ronny Chieng is playing Shang-Chi's friend, Jon Jon, and Florian Munteanu will
appear as the intimidating Razor Fist.
After much speculation and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it trailer appearance, Doctor Strange actor Benedict
Wong confirmed that his character, Wong, will also be featured in the movie.
Not much else is known right now, but you can bet your bottom dollar that a few more
familiar faces will show up before those credits roll.
As you might imagine, the Ten Rings themselves are going to play a pretty big part in Shang-Chi's
But what exactly are they?
Well, there are two interpretations to take into account here, and it's looking like both
will be relevant for the movie's story.
Longtime MCU fans doubtlessly know that the Ten Rings is a terrorist organization that
kidnapped Tony Stark way back in Iron Man.
It's also revealed in Ant-Man that the group is very interested in buying Darren Cross'
weaponized Yellow Jacket technology.
They're sort-of featured in Iron Man 3 as well, claiming responsibility for a number
of explosions across the U.S.
Of course, it turns out the Ten Rings organization has nothing to do with these events, and the
so-called Mandarin leading them is really an alcoholic actor being manipulated by a
But now, it looks like we're getting the real Ten Rings and this appears to be a bunch
of people you really don't want to be messing with.
However, there's another meaning behind the name "Ten Rings."
In the comics, the Ten Rings are magical pieces of jewelry that imbue special powers to the
They're the Mandarin's primary weapons, and each performs a different type of attack,
ranging from fire and ice beams to matter and mind control.
The movie version of the rings are more like bracelets worn on the user's arms, but their
powers appear to be similar to their comic book counterparts.
Expect them to play a pivotal role in Shang-Chi's story.
Long before the trailers for Shang-Chi hit the internet, there were rumors that the Marvel
movie might also be a martial arts tournament film.
In fact, a few years ago, Murphy's Multiverse claimed to have seen a casting call for "tournament
Now that two trailers for the movie have been released, it seems pretty clear that there
will indeed be some kind of tournament featured in the movie in which Shang-Chi will battle
his own sister, Xialing.
This tourney is also the setting for a showdown between two familiar MCU faces: the sorcerer
Wong and the Incredible Hulk villain known as the Abomination.
This kind of setting makes sense, of course, as Destin Daniel Cretton has drawn influence
from a variety of martial arts films for Shang-Chi including the graceful wuxia stylings
of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the more frenetic pacing of Jackie Chan's action
Everyone knew that Shang-Chi was going to be an action flick.
After all, the original comic book character was inspired by the legendary Bruce Lee.
However, judging by the trailers, it looks like the movie might also be dipping its toe
into the fantasy genre, too.
One trailer, for example, sees Shang-Chi encountering a gigantic dragon.
Word has it that this massive beast is called "the Great Protector," and will assist our
hero with its "benevolent power."
In addition, the movie's trailers have offered a few glimpses of some huge lions, which could
be a nod to the Chinese guardian lions that guard Imperial landmarks such as tombs and
On top of all that, a few leaked toys seem to be indicating that a Dijiang might show
up somewhere in the film.
These are furry, faceless creatures with wings that, according to Chinese legend, are perpetually
confused and love to sing and dance.
Could we be about to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first ever twenty-minute karaoke
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