When Shang-Chi was first announced, my initial thought was that Marvel was planning on making smaller films post End Game. The later announcement of The Eternals would prove that thought wrong. On top of that, while I understood why Marvel was making a film based on an Asian character, I didn’t understand why they didn’t just make a character that was a little bit more known like Iron Fist, Asian. After all, it wasn’t until the Netflix show that I was shocked to discover that the character was actually white. That’s not my fault by the way. Spend two seconds looking up Iron Fist’s origins, that character definitely shouldn’t be white and it says a lot about the state of Marvel in the 70’s that the character was created a year after the debut of Shang-Chi. All of my terrible opinions quickly changed however after I started looking up more about the character, but before I get into why this character and this movie are going to be awesome, allow me to give just a little bit more info on the movie itself.
Release Date and Box Office Projections
Both Black Panther and Captain Marvel have a lot in common with Shang-Chi. For starters, all three represent an audience that isn’t well represented in major films. Before Black Panther, it was Blade 14 years earlier, before Captain Marvel… it was Wonder Woman 2 years earlier, but that still doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big deal for Marvel, and now with Shang-Chi… well, with the exception of a few people that popped up in the X-Men movies, there really hasn’t been anything in the way of superheroes. I think the closest thing audiences have gotten in a major motion picture over the last few years was Donnie Yen when he was stealing the show in Rogue One.
On top of representing a group of people that aren’t often represented in this genre of storytelling, they also share release dates. Captain Marvel released in early March, Black Panther released in the middle of February, and now Shang-Chi will follow in their footsteps when it comes out February 12, 2021. This early release date shows the faith that Marvel has in the film. While someone who’s never heard of the character may be shocked to hear this, if you’ve been paying attention to the Marvel playbook, Shang-Chi is absolutely expected to make a billion dollars just like the other early year releases did.
It’s okay if you don’t believe me, but trust me, all the evidence is there and all you have to do is look at Crazy Rich Asians. A movie with only a 30 million dollar budget based on a book, that myself along with many of my friends had never heard of, opened in the Summer, of all times, and made over 170 million dollars in the US with an additional 64 million worldwide. Now imagine a movie with all of the same buzz and importance that also features Awkwafina, don’t think that’s a coincidence by the way, but now with the Marvel and Disney hype train behind it. Am I saying that Shang-Chi will do Black Panther numbers? While it would be amazing if that happened, I do think that Captain Marvel numbers, which are still amazingly impressive considering you had that dumb online campaign that had people trying to get others to boycott the film, are absolutely in reach.
Cast and Character Breakdowns
Simu Liu: Shang-Chi:
Trained by his father, Fu Manchu, yep, Shang-Chi grew up thinking that his father was a nobleman who was training him to do great things in this world. Sadly, after being sent out to assassinate an elderly man who was a former enemy of his father’s, Shang-Chi learned the truth. Fu Manchu was the leader of an evil crime syndicate (as opposed to a good crime syndicate) and it was because of this that the two would forever be locked in conflict.
When the character originally made its way to comics in the early 70’s he was essentially a Bruce Lee knock off in a standard karate gi. Think Ryu or Ken from Street Fighter but without all of the cool wizard stuff they can do. And while a Karate Spy sounds pretty cool, when compared to the other heroes who could do more than just punch and kick, Shang-Chi was kind of lame in comparison. Years later though, this was fixed as the character was, for the most part, turned into Bruce Lee but with the ability to duplicate himself. On top of that, he also has metal nunchucks that can shoot out pulse blasts. Modern-day Shang-Chi is Bruce Lee if he was somehow able to be made even cooler than he already was. Excited yet?
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung: The Mandarin
Raised by his mad at the world Aunt after his parents both died, The Mandarin was trained in both science and combat using all of the money that his socialite parents left behind. It was because of this though that by the time he became an adult, all of his families money was gone and now with his Aunt passing shortly after this, The Mandarin found himself traveling the world alone. It wasn’t until he reached the lowest of the lows that he traveled to the Valley of Spirits, a mystical and dangerous place that existed in the fables of China, where The Mandarin discovered a crashed alien ship and on this ship the 10 rings of power… there was also a robot that he found and reprogrammed to do his bidding, but I don’t really think that’s important.
- Little Finger “Ice Blast” Ring – capable of emitting waves of energy cold enough to stun an opponent or lower a person or items temperature to nearly absolute zero.
- Ring Finger “Mento-Intensifier” Ring – allows Mandarin to mentally dominate one or more people. This person or persons is under his control and he is able to communicate with them mentally.
- Middle Finger “Electro-Blast” Ring – shoots high voltage electrical blasts, the intensity of which is determined by The Mandarin.
- Index Finger “Flame Blast” Ring – releases heat and/or infrared radiation, the intensity of which is determined by The Mandarin.
- Thumb “White Light” Ring – releases any energy which is found along the electromagnetic spectrum
- Little Finger “Black Light” Ring – creates an area of darkness that absorbs all available light within the area.
- Ring Finger “Disintegration Beam” Ring – releases a beam of energy that destroys the molecules of any object that it comes in contact with.
- Middle Finger “Vortex Beam” Ring – releases supercharged air in the form of a vortex. This vortex can levitate persons or items, or propel the Mandarin through the air.
- Index Finger “Impact Beam” Ring – releases destructive energy on the level of 350 pounds of dynamite.
- Thumb “Matter Rearranger” Ring – Able to rearrange, speed up, or slow down the molecules and atoms of an object. Also able to teleport people or objects to and from the wearer (can even transport people or items to other dimensions).
- The Mandarin briefly wore a force-field generator, but this is not part of his standard gear.
Even after all of that, I’m sure you’re thinking, but what about Iron Man 3? Isn’t The Mandarin already in jail? Well, in the Marvel short All Hail The King, we see that The Mandarin is a real person who is upset that an actor has stolen his identity and has sent one of his henchmen to kidnap the actor from prison and bring him to the man himself. Now in this short, they talk about the 10 rings as if its just the name of a terrorist group but it’s important to remember that this part can probably be ignored since at the time of its release Marvel hadn’t yet ventured into space and while Guardians of The Galaxy did come out not too far after the short, I really doubt that the fine people at Marvel, no matter how far ahead they plan, had any idea just how cosmic their universe would get. So until further notice, the 10 rings are from space and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
For those who may not know, Awkwafina is an incredibly funny actress who recently showed off her acting range in the critically loved film The Farewell. So while some may have one specific idea of what her character in this film will be, I think we should all try to broaden our horizon on this one. Yes, she’s going to crack some jokes, but that doesn’t mean she’ll have to be the comic relief of the film. BUT who will she be playing? The jury is still out on this but with the help of our friend the internet, there are some ideas.
The overall plot of Shang-Chi is, I think, pretty simple to figure out. Like I said, in the comics, Shang-Chi’s father, Fu Manchu, turns out to be an evil crime boss looking to take over the world forcing Shang-Chi to fight against the man that raised him. Well, since we can’t call a character Fu Manchu in 2019 and since he basically is The Mandarin but without the cool rings, it makes perfect sense to combine the two characters. Now, while this section of the article is often me just spitballing ideas, I would be very surprised if this isn’t the direction the movie goes.
It’s the rest of the film that I’m having a hard time trying to figure out. There is a popular theory out there that I first saw from https://mcucosmic.com that suggested that Awkwafina might be playing a character known as Fah Lo Suee, a loyal soldier and daughter to Fu Manchu or in this case The Mandarin. While I spent a lot of time trying to come up with ideas that could involve her playing characters that Shang-Chi worked with in the past like The White Tiger, Tarantula, or even someone like Leiko Wu who, in the past, has been Shang-Chi’s love interest, or even gender-swapping her with a character that was in the room while Shang-Chi assassinated his father’s enemy. Instead of this character being a friend of the man that was assassinated, she would be turned into more of a granddaughter of sorts. Once I learned of Fah Lo Suee though, a character who was conveniently in none of the comics I read for this, it mostly clicked. If she is the daughter of the Mandarin then that would make her Shang-Chi’s sister and while we’ve seen sibling rivalries in past MCU films, dueling Brother and Sister would be a nice change up to the formula.
My only hang-up with this idea is, and I know I’m contradicting myself from earlier, that Awkwafina is charismatic and funny and casting her as this character would be so out of type for her that it would almost seem like a waste of her talents. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much to go on to convince me either way which is why I’ll be excited to dive into any future updates that are announced in the future. I grew up adoring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li films. I love this genre so much that as a kid I probably saw The Last Dragon a dozen times. So the idea of Marvel bringing this genre into the MCU and doing it correctly is something that I can’t wait for.
One last thing before I go, Shang-Chi is a character that I imagine a lot of people reading this might not be familiar with and if you’re interested in reading some of his adventures, I found a great list of comics that are recommended by Marvel.
First off, I take some slight issue with your characterization of Iron Fist as a long time fan of both characters. No Iron Fist doesn’t “need” to be white. Iron Fist doesn’t “need” to be any race. Out of universe, the martial arts are for everyone. In-universe, the Iron Fist has been K’un-Lun native, Chinese, Vietnamese, and African. The idea is that anyone can become the Iron Fist if they earn it and Danny Rand most certainly did. (Although as an extension of that principle, I wouldn’t have minded Danny Rand being played by an Asian-American actor.)
To answer a question asked in the article, yes I am excited. Because I know Shang-Chi is a badass who doesn’t need to shoot lasers or turn into a bird. He’s the master of Kung Fu, he and Iron Fist are the best fighters in the Marvel Universe. Which of the two is better goes back and forth as they one up each other when they meet as they’re staunch friends and allies. So even if he doesn’t get the hi-tech nunchaku, Shang-Chi is a worthy addition to the MCU.
That’s the thing. My excitement came from both my familiarity with the character and my anticipation of the film’s genre. The MCU has shown non-comic fans that “superhero” is less a genre and more a subject you can attach to many stories. Whether it’s a war movie like Captain America: the First Avenger, heist movie like Ant-Man, or urban fantasy like Doctor Strange.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings adds a new genre to the superhero mix, Wuxia. As admitted to my bias as both a martial arts enthusiast, an actual martial artist, and a student of Kung Fu in particular, Shang-Chi bringing the traditional tales of power, grace, loyalty, righteousness, and how all of the above can be expressed through body, blade, fist, and feet makes me feel, yes, represented.
Kung Fu, and the culture that gave birth to it, are a part of me. Even though I’m not Asian or Chinese. Much like Danny Rand.