Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
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Shang-Chi and the Legend
of the Ten RingsShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings poster.jpegTheatrical release poster
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Screenplay by Dave CallahamDestin Daniel CrettonAndrew Lanham
Story by Dave Callaham
Destin Daniel Cretton
Based on Marvel Comics
Budget $150–200 million
Box office $390.7 million
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a 2021 American superhero film based on Marvel Comics featuring the character Shang-Chi. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures it is the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a screenplay he wrote with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham and stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi alongside Awkwafina Meng’er Zhang Fala Chen Florian Munteanu Benedict Wong Michelle Yeoh Ben Kingsley and Tony Leung. In the film Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past when his father Wenwu (Leung) the leader of the Ten Rings organization draws Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing (Zhang) into a search for a mythical village.
A film based on Shang-Chi entered development in 2001 but work did not begin in earnest until December 2018 when Callaham was hired. Cretton joined in March 2019 with the project fast-tracked as Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead. The film’s title and primary cast were announced that July revealing the film’s connection to the Ten Rings organization which previously appeared throughout the MCU and its leader Wenwu. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Marvel Studios film with an Asian director and a predominantly Asian cast. Filming began in Sydney in February 2020 but was put on hold in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed in August before completing in October with additional shooting occurring in San Francisco.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings premiered in Los Angeles on August 16 2021 and was released in the United States on September 3 as part of Phase Four of the MCU. It has grossed $390 million worldwide making it the sixth-highest-grossing film of 2021. The film received positive reviews from critics who praised the choreography of the action sequences exploration and representation of Asian culture and the performances from the cast particularly Liu and Leung.
3.4.1 Visual effects
6.1 Theatrical release
6.2 Home media
7.1 Box office
7.2 Critical response
10 External links
Thousands of years ago Xu Wenwu discovers the mystical ten rings which grant immortality and godly powers. He establishes the Ten Rings organization conquering kingdoms and toppling governments throughout history. In 1996 Wenwu searches for Ta Lo a village said to harbor mythical beasts. He travels through a magical forest to the village entrance but is stopped by guardian Ying Li. The two fall in love and Wenwu abandons the Ten Rings. When the villagers reject Wenwu Li chooses to leave with him and they have two children Shang-Chi and Xialing. When Shang-Chi is 7 Li is murdered by Wenwu’s enemies the Iron Gang. Wenwu massacres the Iron Gang and resumes leadership of his organization. He makes Shang-Chi undergo brutal training in martial arts but does not allow Xialing to train so she teaches herself in secret. When Shang-Chi is 14 Wenwu sends him to assassinate the Iron Gang’s leader. After fulfilling his mission a demoralized Shang-Chi runs away to San Francisco and adopts the name “Shaun”.
In the present day Shang-Chi works as a valet with his best friend Katy who does not know about his past. They are attacked on a bus by the Ten Rings who steal a pendant that Li gave to Shang-Chi. Wenwu anonymously provides Shang-Chi with the location of Xialing and fearing that the Ten Rings will go after Xialing’s matching pendant from Li Shang-Chi decides to meet her. He reveals his past to Katy who insists on helping him. They find Xialing at an underground fight club in Macau which she founded after escaping from Wenwu. The Ten Rings attack the fight club and Wenwu arrives to capture Shang-Chi Katy Xialing and her pendant.
They are taken to the Ten Rings’ compound where Wenwu uses the pendants to reveal a magical map leading to Ta Lo. Wenwu explains that he has heard Li calling to him and believes she has been held captive in Ta Lo behind a sealed gate. He plans to destroy the village unless they release her. When his children and Katy object he imprisons them. The three meet former actor Trevor Slattery whom the Ten Rings imprisoned for impersonating Wenwu[N 1] and his hundun companion Morris who offers to guide them to Ta Lo.
The group escapes and goes to Ta Lo which exists in a separate dimension with various Chinese mythological creatures. They meet Ying Nan Li’s sister who explains the history of Ta Lo: thousands of years ago the village was attacked by the soul-consuming Dweller-in-Darkness and its minions but was saved by a Chinese dragon called the Great Protector who helped seal the Dark Gate to the Dweller’s world. According to Nan the Dweller-in-Darkness has been influencing Wenwu to believe Li is still alive so that he will open the Gate. Shang-Chi Xialing Katy Slattery and Morris join the villagers in training and preparing for Wenwu’s arrival using outfits and weapons crafted from dragon scales.
Wenwu and the Ten Rings arrive and attack. Wenwu overpowers Shang-Chi and forces him into the nearby lake then attacks the Gate with the rings. This allows some of the Dweller’s minions to escape and the Ten Rings join forces with the villagers to fight them. Shang-Chi is revived by the Great Protector which leaves the lake to battle the minions. Wenwu and Shang-Chi fight once more and Shang-Chi gains the upper hand but chooses to spare Wenwu. The Dweller-in-Darkness escapes the weakened Gate and attacks Shang-Chi. Wenwu saves Shang-Chi bequeathing him the rings before being killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness. Shang-Chi the Great Protector Xialing and Katy battle and kill the Dweller-in-Darkness. Afterwards Shang-Chi and Katy return to San Francisco where they are summoned by the sorcerer Wong to the Sanctum Sanctorum.
In a mid-credits scene Wong introduces Shang-Chi and Katy to Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers. They discover that the ten rings are emitting a mysterious signal. In a post-credits scene Xialing becomes the new leader of the Ten Rings after telling Shang-Chi that she was going to disband the organization.
Simu Liu at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con
Simu Liu as Xu Shang-Chi Shaun:
A skilled martial artist who was trained at a young age to be an assassin by his father Wenwu. Shang-Chi left the Ten Rings organization for a normal life in San Francisco and changed his name to “Shaun”. Director Destin Daniel Cretton characterized Shang-Chi as a fish out of water in the U.S. who attempts to hide that with his charisma and does not know “who he really is”. Cretton also compared Shang-Chi to the character Will from Good Will Hunting (1997) with both characters combining masculinity and vulnerability and having secrets and superpowers that they do not understand. Cretton described the film as a journey for Shang-Chi to discover his place in the world and Liu added that Shang-Chi’s identity struggles are the core of the character rather than his martial arts skills. Liu performed many of his own stunts since the character does not wear a mask and put on 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of muscle for the role while working on his flexibility. Liu was knowledgeable in taekwondo gymnastics and Wing Chun and learned and trained in tai chi wushu Muay Thai silat Krav Maga jiu-jitsu boxing and street fighting for the film. Jayden Zhang and Arnold Sun portray Shang-Chi as a child and teenager respectively.
Awkwafina as Katy:
A hotel valet and Shang-Chi’s best friend in San Francisco who is unaware of his past. Awkwafina described Katy as relatable with a “real heart” and dedication to Shang-Chi who is “thrust into a world where she doesn’t really know what to do [… and is] discovering things about herself”. Katy has difficulty committing to a direction in her life something Awkwafina felt was relatable struggle for a lot of Asian Americans due to their own expectations as well as those of their parents and society.
Meng’er Zhang as Xu Xialing:
Shang-Chi’s estranged sister and Wenwu’s daughter. Xialing is Zhang’s first film role and an amalgamation of several comics characters particularly inspired by Zheng Bao Yu. Zhang said Xialing was vulnerable behind her tough exterior and asked for a red streak that was originally in the character’s hair to be removed after discovering the style’s association with the “rebellious Asian girl” stereotype; the streak was removed from existing footage in post-production with visual effects. For the role Zhang trained in MMA tai chi and rope dart. Elodie Fong and Harmonie He portray Xialing as a child and teenager respectively.
Fala Chen as Ying Li: Wenwu’s wife and the mother of Shang-Chi and Xialing who was a guardian of Ta Lo. Chen studied tai chi for the role.
Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist: A member of the Ten Rings who has a machete blade for his right hand.
Benedict Wong as Wong: A Master of the Mystic Arts participating in a cage fighting tournament.
Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan: A guardian of Ta Lo and aunt to Shang-Chi and Xialing. Yeoh previously portrayed Aleta Ogord in the MCU film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery:
An actor who previously took on the guise of the Mandarin and was abducted by the Ten Rings becoming a “court jester” or Shakespearean fool for Wenwu. He has a close relationship with the mythical hundun Morris and journeys to Ta Lo with Shang-Chi. Cretton felt it was “essential to hear [Slattery] admit how ridiculous that whole [Mandarin impersonation] situation was” as seen in Iron Man 3 (2013) and the Marvel One-Shot short film All Hail the King (2014) feeling that having Slattery apologize for impersonating Wenwu was the perfect way to apologize for the racial stereotypes surrounding the Mandarin. Kingsley enjoyed revisiting and developing the character with Cretton saying Kingsley was able to portray “a Trevor who has actually benefited from being in prison and has come out a clean and sober version of himself”.
Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu:
Shang-Chi and Xialing’s father and the leader of the Ten Rings. Wenwu is an original character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who replaces Shang-Chi’s original comic book father Fu Manchu a “problematic character” associated with racist stereotypes whom Marvel Studios does not hold the film rights to. In the film Wenwu has taken on many different names including “The Mandarin” which producer Jonathan Schwartz noted comes with audience expectations due to the comic book history of that name. He said Wenwu was a more complex and layered character than the comic book version with Cretton adding that there were problematic aspects of the Mandarin’s comic book portrayal that he wanted to change. He felt Leung avoided Asian stereotypes and a one-dimensional portrayal by bringing humanity and love to the role describing Wenwu as a “fully realized human” with relatable reasons for his bad decisions. Leung did not want to approach the character as a villain instead hoping to explore the reasons behind why he is “a man with history who craves to be loved” describing him as “a sociopath a narcissist [and] a bigot”.
Also appearing in the film are Ronny Chieng as Jon Jon Xialing’s right-hand man and announcer at her underground fighting club; Yuen Wah as Guang Bo one of the leaders of Ta Lo; Jodi Long as Mrs. Chen Katy’s mother; Dallas Liu as Ruihua Katy’s brother; Paul He as Chancellor Hui; Tsai Chin as Katy’s grandmother; Andy Le as Death Dealer one of Wenwu’s assassins; Stephanie Hsu and Kunal Dudhekar as Soo and John married friends of Shang-Chi and Katy; Zach Cherry as Klev a bus rider who livestreams one of Shang-Chi’s fights (after portraying a street vendor in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming); and Dee Baker as the voice of Morris a hundun who befriends Slattery. Jade Xu reprises her role as a Black Widow named Helen from Black Widow (2021) while Tim Roth provides uncredited vocals for his The Incredible Hulk (2008) character Emil Blonsky Abomination. Mark Ruffalo and Brie Larson appear uncredited in the mid-credits scene as Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers respectively reprising their MCU roles.
According to Margaret Loesch former president and CEO of Marvel Productions Stan Lee discussed a potential film or television series based on the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi with actor Brandon Lee and his mother Linda Lee during the 1980s with the intention of having Brandon Lee star as the character. Brandon’s father martial arts legend Bruce Lee was the visual inspiration for artist Paul Gulacy when drawing Shang-Chi during his tenure on the Master of Kung Fu comic book series in the 1970s. In 2001 Stephen Norrington signed a deal to direct a Shang-Chi film entitled The Hands of Shang-Chi. By 2003 the film was in development at DreamWorks Pictures with Yuen Woo-Ping replacing Norrington as director and Bruce C. McKenna hired to write the screenplay. Ang Lee joined the project as a producer in 2004 but the film did not materialize after that point and the rights to the character reverted to Marvel. In September 2005 Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad announced Shang-Chi as one of ten properties being developed as films by the newly formed Marvel Studios after the company received financing to produce the slate of ten films which were to be distributed by Paramount Pictures. Shang-Chi was put on a list of characters that Marvel thought could make great films despite being relatively unknown since he had a “very Disney story” in the comic books.
The Ten Rings were featured in the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film Iron Man (2008) without their leader the Mandarin. Marvel Studios then planned to feature the Mandarin in a film that could do the character “supreme justice” and showcase his complexity which Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige felt they could not do in the Iron Man films because those focused on Tony Stark Iron Man. According to Chris Fenton former president of the Chinese-based film production company DMG Entertainment that was in talks with Marvel Studios to co-produce their films Marvel offered to create a teaser featuring either Shang-Chi or the Mandarin for the Chinese market that would be featured at the end of The Avengers (2012). DMG balked at the offer since the Mandarin’s negative stereotypical portrayal in the comics could potentially prevent the film from releasing in China and risk shutting down DMG as a company. The Mandarin would eventually appear in the DMG co-produced film Iron Man 3 (2013) portrayed by Ben Kingsley but he is revealed to be imposter Trevor Slattery posing as the Mandarin. Feige felt this fake Mandarin did not necessarily mean that a more faithful version of the character did not exist in the MCU.
Destin Daniel Cretton promoting the film at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con
By December 2018 Marvel had fast-tracked development of a Shang-Chi film with the intent of making it their first film with an Asian lead. Marvel hired Chinese-American writer Dave Callaham to write the screenplay and began looking at Asian and Asian-American filmmakers to potentially direct the film. The studios’ goal was to explore Asian and Asian-American themes presented by Asian and Asian-American filmmakers as they had done for African and African-American culture with Black Panther earlier in 2018. Development of the film also came following the success of the film Crazy Rich Asians that was likewise released earlier in 2018 and led to several other Asian-led properties being developed by Hollywood studios. Callaham’s script was expected to modernize elements of the character’s comic book story which was first written in the 1970s to avoid what modern audiences would consider to be negative stereotypes. When Callaham began work on the script he became emotional realizing it was the first project where he was asked to write “from my own experience from my own perspective”. Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter said the film could “break out in a way similar to Black Panther” by bringing a new perspective to the character. Newby felt Shang-Chi could have worked well as a television series and said it “speaks volumes” that Marvel would decide to make a feature film about the character instead. Newby concluded that the film was an opportunity to avoid stereotypes about Asian martial artists and be “more than Marvel’s Bruce Lee”.
Marvel Studios hired Japanese-American filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton to direct the film in March 2019. Deborah Chow—who previously directed episodes of Marvel Television’s Iron Fist and Jessica Jones series—Justin Tipping and Alan Yang were also considered. Cretton admitted that he had previously not been interested in directing a superhero film but was drawn to the project to help create a world and character that Asian children could look up to and see themselves in. Cretton’s pitch for the film included visual inspiration from Chinese South Korean Japanese and other Asian cinema including anime to highlight a tone that showed “the drama and the pain of life but also show[ed] the humor of life”. In April Marvel Studios and Australian Arts Minister Mitch Fifield announced that an upcoming Marvel film believed to be Shang-Chi would be filmed at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales. The production received AU$24 million (US$17 million) in one-off funding from the Australian government as well as backing from the AU$10 million (US$7 million) “Made in NSW” state fund. The production was expected to generate AU$150 million (US$107 million) for the Australian economy as well as 4700 new jobs while taking advantage of around 1200 local businesses. Don Harwin the New South Wales Arts Minister confirmed in July that this film was Shang-Chi and that it would be produced back-to-back with Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder (2022); production on Shang-Chi was set to be completed before work began on Love and Thunder later in 2020.
In mid-July 2019 Marvel Studios began testing actors in their 20s for the role of Shang-Chi including Lewis Tan and Simu Liu; Tan previously portrayed Zhou Cheng in Iron Fist. The studio was adamant that actors be of Chinese descent to audition for the character. Liu was considered earlier in the audition process and was brought back in for a second audition when the creatives were finding it difficult to cast the role. He tested again for the part on July 14 and was officially cast on July 16. Awkwafina who was the first actor cast for the film had chemistry tests with the potential actors and said “it was apparent that [Liu] was Shang-Chi from the jump”. Liu and Awkwafina’s castings were announced by Cretton and producer Feige at Marvel Studios’ San Diego Comic-Con panel on July 20 where the film’s full title was announced to be Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Feige noted the Ten Rings organization’s role throughout the MCU and said the Mandarin would be introduced in this film with Tony Leung in the role.
The Ten Rings logo was changed for the film from including Mongolian language in previous MCU appearances to having “inoffensive” Chinese characters that are synonyms for strength or power written in ancient seal script. This was done following the logo’s appearance in Iron Man 3 which drew ire from the Mongolian government who felt the Mongolian scripts “offensively tied the country’s intangible cultural heritage to a terrorist group” though Oyungerel Tsedevdamba Mongolia’s former minister of culture sports and tourism believed the change was more to appease the Chinese market. Kingsley reprises his role as Slattery in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with the character’s inclusion planned early on in order to help fully explore the “context of who the Mandarin is in the MCU”. Producer Jonathan Schwartz called Slattery a “secret weapon” whose introduction part-way through the film moves it in a different direction and provides comic relief. Cretton said in October that production would begin in early 2020. In December Feige said the film would feature a predominantly Asian cast. A month later Michelle Yeoh entered talks for a role in the film. This was for a different character than Aleta Ogord who Yeoh had briefly portrayed in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
In addition to Callaham Cretton and Andrew Lanham also contributed to the screenplay for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings from a story by Callaham and Cretton. The film was described as a “sweeping superhero epic that combines emotional family drama with gravity-defying martial arts action”. Schwartz said much of Shang-Chi’s arc within Marvel Comics is a family drama and Cretton wanted to focus on that element for the film exploring Shang-Chi’s broken and abusive family background. Liu noted that the comic book backstory for Shang-Chi is not widely known like those for comic book characters such as Batman or Spider-Man and that gave the film’s writers freedom to take more creative liberties with the story. Cretton and Callaham were cognizant of some of the racial stereotypes surrounding the character in the comics with Liu saying everyone involved was “very sensitive to not have it go into stereotypical territory”. Cretton believed the resulting script was a “really beautiful update” to the character from what began in the comics.
Cretton felt the film told an authentic story about Asian identity. Callaham said there is “no single Asian American voice” and he and Cretton contemplated how the film could speak to “the wider Asian diaspora” and would be generally entertaining but also “personal to all these people”. Cast members Liu Leung and Meng’er Zhang contributed their own experiences coming from Canada Hong Kong and mainland China respectively to add to the authenticity of the film. Some aspects that were discussed regarding each scene were whether characters should be speaking in Chinese Mandarin or English and the type of food served in the different households to ensure it felt authentic to whose house it was. The film’s opening begins with narration entirely in Mandarin which Nancy Wang Yuen writing for io9 said was a striking decision for an MCU film to “begin in a language other than English and continue to do so for an extended period”. Regarding the use of Mandarin in the film Cretton said the choice of which language to use when was “always rooted in just the logic of the characters and who would naturally be speaking what language”. Zhang whose first language is Mandarin served as a dialect coach for the other actors. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings further deals with Asian language and some negative characterization around it by portraying its characters as having varied knowledge of Asian languages as demonstrated by an exchange with Katy and Jon Jon when Jon Jon says he speaks “ABC” (American-born Chinese) and Shang-Chi teaching Katy how to pronounce his name which serves as a meta moment to also aid the audience on the proper pronunciation of “Shang-Chi”.
Having Shang-Chi surrounded by “many strong women” formed out of the relationship between Shang-Chi and Wenwu with them being supporting characters to him while also being on their own narrative arcs. Cretton stated that having “women who are kind of kicking his butt into gear throughout the movie just felt right”. Cretton’s three sisters and his wife helped inspire Katy Xialing Ying Nan and Ying Li. Speaking to the relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy Cretton enjoyed being able to show a strong “deeply caring” friendship that is rarely seen in superhero films adding that it never felt right to have the two characters end up in a romantic relationship since it would have been forced. Yeoh requested a scene be added between her character Ying Nan and Zhang’s Xialing that would empower Xialing to “step out of the shadows for the first time”; this scene became an important part of Xialing’s journey in the film and was one of the many scenes that also addressed the sexism presented in the story. Cretton felt seeing Xialing become the new head of the Ten Rings organization in the film’s post-credits scene was reflective of her beginning to take control of her life. Various versions of the scene existed throughout the production before it was moved to be after the credits since they thought it was “a juicy idea for where the story might go in the future”. Cretton also noted there was more material created regarding the ten rings that was purposely withheld to be explored in future projects.
Principal photography began in February 2020 shooting at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales under the working title Steamboat. William Pope served as cinematographer for the film shooting on the Arri Alexa LF. Cretton chose Pope because he felt the cinematographer’s style could be both naturalistic and heightened and because of Pope’s work on The Matrix (1999) which Cretton believed had the right tone for an MCU film focused on Asian and Asian-American characters. Cretton was inspired by Jackie Chan’s filmography the Ip Man series Tai Chi Master and Kung Fu Hustle among others in the martial arts and kung-fu genres as well as anime and video games.
On March 12 after studios had started halting production on films due to the COVID-19 pandemic Cretton decided to have himself tested for coronavirus after working closely with people who had potentially been exposed to it. This was a precaution due to Cretton having a newborn baby and he self-isolated while awaiting these results; the test later came back negative. While Cretton was self-isolating Marvel suspended first unit production for the film but intended for other aspects such as second unit to continue as normal. On March 13 the rest of the film’s production was paused as Disney halted filming on most of its projects. Before the shut down Ronny Chieng joined the cast in an undisclosed role. In early April Disney shifted much of their Phase Four slate of films due to the pandemic moving Shang-Chi’s release date to May 7 2021.
Work building sets for the film resumed at the end of July 2020 and by August 2 all cast and crew members had arrived to begin shooting “in the coming days”. Any cast and crew members returning to Australia from outside the country had to be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival before returning to work according to Australia’s guidelines. Later in August Yeoh was confirmed to appear in the film. The next month the film’s release date was pushed back to July 9 2021 after Black Widow (2021) was shifted to the May 2021 date. In October filming took place in San Francisco also under the working title Steamboat. Shooting locations included the Russian Hill Noe Valley and Nob Hill neighborhoods as well as Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. Filming wrapped on October 24 2020.