Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the 25th film to be released by Marvel Studios, and the first to feature an Asian protagonist.
If you were a fan of Marvel Comics in the 70’s and 80’s, you probably remember Shang Chi, the lead character in the eponymously titled comic series Master of Kung Fu. He hung around with superheroes, and held his own as their peer despite having no superpowers, and was considered the greatest living martial artist in the Marvel Universe.
Shang-Chi, nimbly played by Canadian actor Simu Liu (Bad Blood, Dark Matter), has been trained since infancy in the martial arts. And he is the best there is. In the comic books, once he learned his father was evil, he repudiated him and helped his father’s former foes, Sir Denis Nayland Smith of MI-6, the Avengers, Spider-Man, et al. Whether the movie will follow a similar course, we’ll need to wait until Autumn to see.
The movie co-stars Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon) as Katy and Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies, Star Trek: Discovery) as Jiang Nan. Wenwu is played by Hon Kong-born actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Two Most Honorable Knights, The Magic Crane), who appears to be a Fu Manchu-type character, and possibly Dr. Manchu himself.
Given the trailer, it’s definite the movie is action-filled, with the fight scenes well choreographed. Whether director Destin Daniel Crettin (The Glass Castle, Tokyo Vice) will live up to the example provided by the Russo Brothers and Taika Waititi remains to be seen.
Wenwu: “You walked in my shadow. I trained you so the most dangerous people in the world couldn’t kill you. Son, it’s time for you to take your place by my side.”
Shang-Chi: “That’s not going to happen.”
Whether Dr. Fu Manchu?
Originally, Shang-Chi was the son of Fu Manchu, but for legal reasons, that may be skipped in the Disney movie.
In the 1970’s, Dr. Fu Manchu appeared Shang-Chi’s father. Marvel Comics cancelled Master of Kung Fu in 1983, and since then licensing issues over Fu Manchu and concepts from the novels (such as his daughter Fah Lo Suee and adversaries Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie) have hampered Marvel’s ability to both collect the series in trade paperback format, and to continue the use of Fu Manchu in the story lines. As such, the character is either never mentioned by name, or by an alias (such as “Mr. Han”) They wrote themselves out of a corner in Secret Avengers #6–10, when writer Ed Brubaker officially sidestepped the entire issue via a storyline where the Shadow Council resurrect a zombified version of Dr. Fu Manchu, only to discover that “Dr. Fu Manchu” was only an alias; that Shang-Chi’s father was really Zheng Zu, an ancient Chinese sorcerer who discovered the secret to immortality.
Also, in the 21st century, the “yellow peril” of an ancient Chinese evil mastermind like Fu Manchu is no longer considered acceptable.
Background on the Production
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is written by Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham, and based on characters created by Steven Englehart and Jim Starlin. Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwarts are producers. It was shot mostly in various cities in New South Wales, Australia, with some second unit stunt footage shot in San Francisco, California.
It’s taken 20 years to get the film in front of audiences. It was originally going to be made by Paramount Pictures before Disney bought Marvel. The 25th film in the Marvel Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first superhero movie with an Asian protagonist for Marvel Studios, and features The Mandarin as its villain. The Mandarin is traditionally the enemy of Iron Man/Tony Stark, but he was brought in for this film as it felt more appropriate for a Chinese hero to fight a Chinese villain.
The movie started filming in March 2020 and was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming resumed at the end of July 2020 and ended in October 2020. This production was recognized as the first feature film to open Disney operations globally, since the COVID-19 lock down. They managed to successfully wrap production in Australia with zero positive cases and zero production standstills.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings makes its debut September 3, 2021.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.