What a year it’s been for Marvel fans! Not only has the first half of 2021 seen the MCU deliver four amazing new series on Disney+, we’ve also finally gotten to see the long-anticipated Black Widow and are now gearing up for the universe’s second film of the year, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Filmed close to home in Sydney, Shang-Chi is the latest superhero blockbuster in a year that is still yet to give us Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home, not to mention the Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel series.
With Shang-Chi set to introduce us to the MCU’s first Asian-led superhero film early next month, let’s take a look to see what Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel Studios have in store for us.
Based on the Marvel comic character created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi made his comic book debut in 1973. Originally, the folks at Marvel had wanted to undertake a comic book adaptation of the Kung Fu television series, but were denied by Warner Communications who owned the rival DC comic label. Instead, they developed Shang-Chi, a master of Kung Fu whose comic book appearance was modelled off the legendary Bruce Lee.
This latest MCU film is not the first time Shang-Chi has been considered for a live-action adaptation, and as early as the 1980s the late Stan Lee had discussed the possibility of a Shang-Chi television series starring The Crow’s Brandon Lee, son of Bruce. While those plans never eventuated, in the early 2000s, Blade director Stephen Norrington was signed on to helm a Shang-Chi film titled The Hands of Shang-Chi. Norrington eventually left the project, and martial arts director Yuen Woo-ping was tapped to replace him, though the film failed to make it past the very early stages of development.
In 2005, the film rights reverted to Marvel, and Shang-Chi was shortlisted as one of the potential characters to helm his own film in the newly formed Marvel Studios. Fast forward 13 more years and Shang-Chi was finally on track for his own feature film with director Destin Daniel Cretton, a frequent collaborator with MCU star Brie Larson.
Four months after Cretton signed on, actor and stunt performer Simu Liu beat out Mortal Kombat’s Lewis Tan for the film’s titular role and filming officially began in Sydney in February 2020. While he is best known for his role in the sitcom Kim’s Convenience, Liu has a background in gymnastics, Taekwondo and Wing Chun and served as a stunt double on 2015’s Heroes Reborn.
In 2014 Liu himself foreshadowed his own casting, sending Marvel Studios a tweet that would become a viral sensation years later. Congratulating Marvel for the success of Captain America and Thor, he asked when fans would see an Asian-American hero.
Hey @Marvel, great job with Cpt America and Thor. Now how about an Asian American hero?
— Simu Liu (刘思慕) (@SimuLiu) July 17, 2014
Four years later, when Shang-Chi was officially announced to be in development, Liu took to Twitter again:
Joining Liu in his MCU debut is comedian and Jumanji: The Next Level’s Awkwafina as Katy, a hotel valet and close friend of Shang-Chi who doesn’t know about his past and his family connection to the Ten Rings organisation. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh is set to play Jiang Nan, Shag-Chi’s aunt and the guardian of a mystical city, while Tony Leung will finally bring the true Mandarin to life on screen, who in this iteration of the character also serves as Shang-Chi’s father.
While the Ten Rings criminal organisation has been an integral part of the MCU since the first Iron Man, it was not until 2013 that fans finally got to see a false version of the infamous Marvel villain in Iron Man 3 played by Ben Kingsley. That film would pull the rug out from audiences’ feet, however, revealing Kingsley’s Mandarin as little more than an actor by the name of Trevor Slattery. One year later, in the Marvel One-Shot short All Hail the King, it was revealed that there was still a real Mandarin out there, and he was most displeased with Slattery’s attempts at impersonating him.
Also connecting the dots from previous MCU entries, Doctor Strange’s Benedict Wong is returning as his master of the mystic arts, Tim Roth is returning as the Abomination from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and martial artist Jade Xu will reprise her Black Widow role as one of Natasha Romanoff’s fellow widows.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releases in cinemas on September 2, and in the ACT, NSW and Victoria on September 16.
LEAD IMAGE: Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ ‘SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS’. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021.