Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is intended to be the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a screenplay he wrote with David Callaham and Andrew Lanham, and stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi alongside Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng'er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, and Ronny Chieng. In the film, Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past after he is drawn into the Ten Rings organization.

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 Mandarin (Leung) and his Ten Rings organization that appears throughout the MCU. Filming began in February 2020 but was put on hold in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed in August before completing in October. Shooting occurred in Sydney and San Francisco.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will premiere in Los Angeles on August 16, 2021, and is scheduled to be released in the United States on September 3, as part of Phase Four of the MCU.

When Shang-Chi is drawn into the clandestine Ten Rings organization, he is forced to confront the past he thought he left behind.[1]

Additionally, Benedict Wong reprises his MCU role of Wong, while Abomination also appears in the film after first appearing in The Incredible Hulk (2008).[15] Also appearing in the film are Dallas Liu in an undisclosed role;[16] Zach Cherry as a bus rider, after previously portraying a street vendor in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017);[17] Jade Xu as a Black Widow from Black Widow (2021);[18][19][20] and the character Death Dealer.[7]

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.[21] 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.[22] In 2001, Stephen Norrington signed a deal to direct a Shang-Chi film entitled The Hands of Shang-Chi.[23][24] 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.[25] 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.[24] 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 studio Marvel Studios,[26] after the company received financing to produce the slate of ten films which were to be distributed by Paramount Pictures.[27] 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.[6]

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.[28] 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.[29] Feige felt this fake Mandarin did not necessarily mean that a more faithful version of the character did not exist in the MCU.[28]

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 David 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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[30] 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".[5] 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 is an opportunity to avoid stereotypes about Asian martial artists and be "more than Marvel's Bruce Lee".[32]

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.[33] Cretton admitted 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.[3] 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 4,700 new jobs, while taking advantage of around 1,200 local businesses.[34] 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.[35]

In mid-July 2019, Marvel Studios began testing actors in their 20s for the role of Shang-Chi,[36] including Lewis Tan and Simu Liu;[2][37] Tan previously portrayed Zhou Cheng in Iron Fist.[37] The studio was adamant that actors be of Chinese descent to audition for the character.[36] 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.[28] He tested again for the part on July 14 and was officially cast on July 16. This was 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 that the Ten Rings organization has appeared throughout the MCU since its introduction in Iron Man, and said the Mandarin would be introduced in this film with Tony Leung in the role. Feige also announced that Awkwafina would appear in the film.[2] Filming was expected to begin in November 2019,[38] but Cretton said in October that production would begin in early 2020.[39] In December, Feige said the film would feature a predominantly Asian cast.[40] A month later, Michelle Yeoh entered talks for a role in the film. This was for a different character than Aleta Ogord who Yeoh portrayed in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).[12]

In addition to Callaham, Cretton and Andrew Lanham also contributed to the screenplay for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,[41] which was described as a "sweeping superhero epic that combines emotional family drama with gravity-defying martial arts action". Producer Jonathan 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, and was an authentic story about Asian identity.[3] Callaham added that 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 "exciting and entertaining, but also personal to all these people".[5] For the film's action, Cretton was inspired by a range of different fighting styles due to the character being trained in different types of martial arts. These include the "elegant, almost ethereal wushu style" from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and the "kinetic" fights of Jackie Chan's films, with supervising stunt coordinator Brad Allan tasked with making the different styles feel consistent.[3] Chinese choreographers were used to create wuxia-style fight scenes.[42] Schwartz said there was a meaning for each fighting style in the film, and they helped to tell the story visually.[3]

Principal photography began in February 2020,[43][44] shooting at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales,[34] under the working title Steamboat.[45] Bill Pope served as cinematographer for the film. 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.[39]

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.[44][46] This was a precaution due to Cretton having a newborn baby, and he self-isolated while awaiting these results;[46] the test later came back negative.[44] 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.[46] On March 13, the rest of the film's production was paused as Disney halted filming on most of its projects.[47] Before the shut down, Ronny Chieng joined the cast in an undisclosed role.[48] 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.[49]

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".[50] 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.[51] Later in August, Yeoh was confirmed to appear in the film.[52] 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.[53] In October, filming took place in San Francisco, also under the working title Steamboat.[54] Shooting locations included the Russian Hill, Noe Valley, and Nob Hill neighborhoods, as well as Fisherman's Wharf.[55] Filming wrapped on October 24, 2020.[56] Filming was also expected to take place in Los Angeles.[38]

Nat Sanders and Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir serve as co-editors of the film,[57] alongside Harry Yoon.[58] In December 2020, Marvel revealed roles for several cast members, including Awkwafina as Shang-Chi's friend Katy, Yeoh as Jiang Nan, and Chieng as Jon Jon. They also announced the casting of Meng'er Zhang as Xialing, Fala Chen as Jiang Li, and Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist;[10] Munteanu was cast after Marvel Studios was impressed with his role in Creed II (2018).[59] In March 2021, the film's release date was pushed back once again to September 3, 2021, when Black Widow was shifted to the July 2021 date,[60] and Dallas Liu was revealed to be appearing.[16] The film's official trailer in June 2021 revealed that Benedict Wong would reprise his MCU role of Wong, along with the appearance of Abomination;[61][15] Abomination first appeared in The Incredible Hulk (2008), portrayed by Tim Roth.[62] Feige called it "great fun" to be able to return to a character like the Abomination that has not appeared in the MCU in over a decade and for the fans to "recognize and embrace that".[15] Wong said he was "super thrilled" to be part of the film and to be "sat at a table of Asian excellence".[63] In July, Jade Xu was revealed to reprise her role as a Black Widow from Black Widow in the film, after previously confirming her involvement.[18][19][20]

Recording for the film's score, composed by Joel P. West, began at Abbey Road Studios in London by June 2021. West scored Cretton's four previous films.[64]

On April 19, 2021, Liu's birthday, he shared the first teaser poster for the film, shortly followed by Marvel releasing the first teaser trailer.[41] Adam B. Vary of Variety felt it was "gratifying to finally see Liu in action as Shang-Chi" and highlighted how the teaser provided further insight and new information for the film, such as the way it would depict the rings worn by the Mandarin.[7] Cole Delbyck at HuffPost said the "eye-popping" action was unlike anything seen in past MCU films.[65] Writing for io9, Rob Bricken felt the teaser did not disappoint with its action, but the family drama was what made the film look compelling to him.[66] Collider's Adam Chitwood called the teaser "pretty fantastic", comparing its story and tone to Black Panther, and saying Shang-Chi looked to be "an exciting, fresh, and new Marvel Cinematic Universe experience" based on the teaser.[41] Reactions to the poster and trailer in Chinese speaking regions in East Asia were more critical, with commentators believing both presented a "rather stereotyped" view of Chinese people and culture.[67]

The film's first full trailer was released on June 24, 2021, during ESPN's NBA Countdown. Sean Keane at CNET enjoyed seeing more of Leung in the trailer and called the fight sequences "super-impressive". He was surprised by the inclusion of Abomination at the end of the trailer, and noted that the character looked more like his design from the comics than when he appeared in The Incredible Hulk.[68] Digital Spy's Gabriella Geisinger felt Abomination's role in the film would just be a cameo appearance to set up the character's story in the Disney+ series She-Hulk (2022), but felt it could still have "wide-reaching implications" for the MCU.[69] Germain Lussier of io9, Susana Polo of Polygon, and Jennifer Ouellette of Ars Technica all felt the trailer was a better showcase for Shang-Chi than the teaser was,[70][71][72] with Ouellette highlighting the different narration for the trailer that expanded on Shang-Chi's family background.[72] Lussier also noted that the trailer featured a lot of new visual effects that were not in the teaser, and felt that Shang-Chi would soon become a "huge star", despite not being a well-known character, similarly to Iron Man before Iron Man.[70] Polo highlighted the martial arts and magic seen in the trailer.[71]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will have its world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre and TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on August 16, 2021,[73] and is scheduled to be released in the United States on September 3. It will have a 45-day exclusive theatrical release, rather than being released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access like Black Widow.[74] The film was previously scheduled to be released on February 12, 2021,[2] the first day of the Chinese New Year,[75] before it was shifted to May 7,[49] and then to July 9, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[53] The film shifted once again in March 2021 to the September 2021 date after Black Widow was moved to the July 9 release date.[60] Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be part of Phase Four of the MCU.[76] In May 2021, a Chinese state media report excluded Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as Eternals, from its list of upcoming MCU films releasing, which Variety noted "added to rumors" that the films would not be released in China.[67]