In the first three phases of its superhero franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe focused on the origin stories of the Avengers, all leading up to their battle(s) against Thanos in the final films. Phase Four is building upon those stories while also weaving new characters into the thread of the expansive metahuman network, including that of little known hero Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the second full-length film in the MCU’s Phase Four, and it will see the franchise finally introduce its first Asian hero into the mix. The film stars real-life snack Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) as the eponymous Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist and heir to a dark and very complicated legacy. At the displeasure of his father Wenwu (famed Hong Kong actor Tony Leung), Shang-Chi flees China and finds his new normal stateside, taking up a life as a regular civilian while hiding his true identity and his kung fu gifts.
Unfortunately, our hero's past catches up to him in a major way when a group of shadowy figures force him to come out of hiding. After years of stifling his skills, Shang-Chi must become the man (and the myth) that he was raised to be in order to save the people he cares about most.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was directly inspired by the original Shang-Chi comics of the 1970s and 80s, but with an appropriate modern update. While it was nice to see Asian representation in Marvel Comics of the past, the stories were often steeped in stereotypes and shallow, racist tropes. What director Destin Daniel Cretton and his cast and crew hope to do with this story is humanize the little that we do know of the legend of Shang-Chi, creating a story that is universally relatable while also highlighting the many difference nuances of Asian culture.
"The most exciting thing about stepping into this character was that his backstory has never been told before," Liu shared in an interview with EW. "Shang-Chi's story is very much unknown to most of the world, so we had a lot of freedom and creative liberty to make it the way that we wanted to."
"When you look at the character of Shang-Chi through the comic books going back to the '70s and '80s, the fact that he existed and the fact that he was an Asian character was amazing," he continued. "But at the same time, there are aspects of that portrayal of him that maybe could feel a little stereotypical. So when we first started to map out who this character was and what his journey was going to be over the course of this film, we were all very sensitive to not have it go into stereotypical territory."
While you might not be fully hip to this back story — which actually calls back to a number of different plot points in previous MCU films — you'll definitely recognize a number of Shang-Chi's star-studded cast. Liu and Leung are joined by an ensemble cast of mostly Asian actors, including Awkwafina (The Farewell), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Ronny Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians). Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) and Florian Muntuneau (Creed II) also star in the film.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hit theaters (and likely Disney+) on September 3, and honestly? That's just too far away for me.