In 2021, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will become Marvel’s first movie with an Asian protagonist. The film, which will pit Shang-Chi against the Mandarin, will also serve as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first big-screen foray into the kung fu genre.
It was reported near the end of 2018 that Marvel was fast-tracking a movie about Shang-Chi, a lesser-known character and one of Marvel’s two biggest martial arts heroes — the other being Iron Fist. At San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Marvel Studios confirmed its slate of movies for 2020-2021, which consists of Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder. Destin Daniel Cretton is set to direct Shang-Chi, with David Callaham penning the script. It was revealed at Comic-Con that Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu will play the titular character.
A Shang-Chi movie was actually in development as far back as 2006, two years before the release of Iron Man. 15 years later, Marvel’s Shang-Chi movie is finally becoming a reality. Shang-Chi is a bit of a deep cut character, and has never before appeared in any film, TV show, or animated series. Of all the Marvel characters to receive their own solo movie in the MCU, Shang-Chi is easily the least recognizable. So who is Shang-Chi, and what makes him Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu?
Origin of Shang-Chi
During the kung fu craze of the 1970s, Marvel Comics created a kung fu expert of their own in Shang-Chi, and modeled him after Bruce Lee. In 1973, Shang-Chi debuted in Special Marvel Edition #15, preceding Iron Fist by a year as Marvel’s first major martial arts hero. Created by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart, he became the star of his own comic book series, The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.
Shang-Chi, the son of the immortal Chinese criminal mastermind Fu Manchu, was born and raised in the Honan province of China. His name means “the rising and advancing of a spirit.” His father secretly sought to use Shang-Chi as a tool to strengthen his criminal empire. While shaping his son into a kung fu master, Fu Manchu fooled Shang-Chi into believing that he was a good man with noble ideals. In his early years, Shang-Chi lived a sheltered life where he experienced little of the outside world, and even less of Western culture. He was taught to trust only one person: his father.
Everything changed one day when, under Fu Manchu’s orders, Shang-Chi assassinated a helpless old man. This was the moment that broke Fu Manchu’s hold over Shang-Chi and made him realize what kind of a person his father truly was. Shang-Chi formed a reluctant alliance with MI-6 and devoted himself to defeating Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi’s adventures with MI-6 were what made him a hero, even though he deeply hated the time he spent with them. Shang-Chi despised the world of espionage and frequently referred to it as “games of death and deceit.” Eventually, Shang-Chi became involved in a private detective agency where he was finally able to help people in a way that he was comfortable with.
What Are Shang-Chi’s Powers?
As the Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi has no need of super powers. Like Captain America, Shang-Chi is recognized for his ability to hold his own against insurmountable odds without the benefit of superhuman strength, flight, or other powers. Shang-Chi is even capable of defeating super-powered opponents, such as Wolverine. While it is true that at one time Marvel briefly gave Shang-Chi abilities similar to Multiple Man’s, Shang-Chi is typically portrayed as a character who relies solely on his skills as a martial artist.
True to his title of Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi employs various different forms of Chinese martial arts and combines them all into his fighting style. Additionally, he’s proficient with a number of weapons. Though Shang-Chi is normally seen using hand-to-hand combat, he also makes use of nunchucks, spears, and swords.
As someone who has meditated and practiced kung fu daily for decades, Shang-Chi has carefully honed his concentration skills, which is one of the things that makes him such an accomplished fighter. Shang-Chi effortlessly analyzes both his opponents and his surroundings while in the midst of combat, which enables him to look for weaknesses in his enemies as well as advantages he can exploit.
What Will Shang-Chi’s Movie Be About?
In the comics, Shang-Chi primarily fought Fu Manchu, but this won’t be the case in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The MCU is replacing Fu Manchu with the Mandarin as both Shang-Chi’s father and main antagonist. In the movie, the Mandarin will be played by prominent Chinese star Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Not much is known about the plot of the film, but the inclusion of the Mandarin does offer some clues, based on events in previous films.
The Mandarin’s criminal organization, the Ten Rings, had a central role in the Iron Man trilogy. Iron Man 3 famously faked out audiences with the character of Trevor Slattery, who masqueraded as the Mandarin. Fan reaction was overwhelmingly negative, as it was perceived that Marvel had turned Iron Man’s greatest enemy into a joke. This was later corrected in the Marvel one-shot, All Hail the King, which revealed the existence of a real Mandarin. This plot point will finally be addressed in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
The context behind the battle between Shang-Chi in his father in the upcoming movie is yet to be determined. In the comics, Shang-Chi’s clashes with Fu Manchu often involved a deep level of espionage in places like Hong Kong and London. It’s unclear how fighting the Mandarin instead of Fu Manchu will affect Shang-Chi’s story. In any case, Shang-Chi will have his hands full going up against the MCU’s Mandarin, who will most certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
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