It’s been a year since the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 was originally intended to begin. With delays on a lot of filming as well as releases we almost had an entire year off since the events of Avengers Endgame. And while that may or may not have been enough time for the Hulk to recover from his Infinity Gauntlet snap for the rest of us it might take a little longer with lockdowns still occuring around the country – so will Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings be worth the wait?
First off we really should talk about Shang-Chi the character aka Master of Kung Fu. Originally introduced into the Marvel Comics during the early 1970s Shang-Chi is Marvel’s answer to Bruce Lee in more ways than one. Originally Marvel had intended to license Bruce Lee for the comics directly during the height of Bruce Lee’s popularity but when it fell through there was a little bit of a rush for any licensed character that could be snapped up.
Ultimately, Marvel managed to acquire the rights for Dr Fu Manchu (a 1920’s book character who made the leap to film as a villain). Shang-Chi was born quite literally from Dr Fu Manchu with Shang-Chi being created as his son. Fu Manchu being a secret cult/terrorist leader (of ‘The Five Weapons Society’) brought his son up and trained him within the organisation. It was not until Shang-Chi headed out into the world on his first mission did he learn that his fater was not a hero but a villain, thus beginning a life long quest to defeat him.
Since then Shang-Chi has been an Avenger, trained Spider-Man when he lost his powers, arrested people during the Superhero Registration Act (Civil War) and most recently become the head aka Supreme Commander of his father’s empire along with his half sister Sister Dagger after his defeat.
But what does all that have to do with the MCU version of Shang-Chi? Well you know in Iron Man 2 where Ivan Vanko aka Mickey Rourke was introduced as a hybrid of Iron Man villains Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo? Keep that in mind. The big change in Shang-Chi’s story is that his father (no longer Dr Fu Manchu) has more history in common with Tony Stark than the previous telling.
The MCU began with Tony Stark building an arc reactor in a cave with a bunch of scraps after being kidnapped by a Middle Eastern terrorist group known as the Ten Rings. While Tony was man about the MCU even appearing in the Incredible Hulk film or Marvel One-Shot “The Consultant” where he arranged the Abomination’s transfer into SHIELD holding (probably should have looked into that when SHIELD turned out to be HYDRA and was taken down by Captain America). Anyway the Ten Rings appeared again in Iron Man 3 with the bait and switch of The Mandarin.
The Mandarin in the comics was Iron Man’s nemesis. Where Iron Man had tech the Mandarin had 10 Makluan rings (one for each finger) each with a different power and ability that he had found in a tomb or got from space lizards depending on the retelling and continuity you follow. The MCU version of the Mandarin was actually the actor Trevor Slattery who we last saw in another Marvel One-Shot ‘Hail to the King’ which is actually at the time of writing this the only Marvel One-Shot on Disney+ with the remainder being exclusively on the extras of your DVD or BluRay collection.
So what does this have to do with Shang-Chi? Well this time around Shang-Chi is not the son of the leader of the Five Weapons Society but instead the son of the leader of the Ten Rings, an ancient organisation which have been around for centuries as a global terrorist power. Lead by one man who wears 10 mings the size of arm bands.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings is Shang-Chi’s jumping on point for the MCU. While the idea of a Kung Fu master may not exactly gel in a world of Dimensional Sling Rings, Gods secretly being Aliens from other dimensions, Pym Particles and Arc Reactors, Shang-Chi’s story does indeed get some updates but it most certainly not like any other Marvel film that has come before it.
Wrapping into the World of the MCU (or WCU – as in Wong from Doctor Strange) Shang-Chi most certainly begins as a Kung-Fu style action film with filling in the background of story taking a backseat to hand to hand or hand to glowing knife thingy conflicts across a variety of locations spanning San Francisco to Macau. Definitely following the more comic origins there are some familiar beats for anyone familiar with the comic origins. The second half is when things get weird.
We won’t spoil it for you but if you have ever wanted a sort of Lord of the Rings level event inside the MCU but switch out Middle Earth with Chinese Mythology for the most part, you are in luck. The point is there is more than one thing a little bit different to the regular MCU film beats.
So should you go see it? If you are a MCU film you are going to see it regardless but yes, especially if you are a MCU fan. While there are some early references that may not quite land there is definitely some pay off towards the end (both in the mid credits and post credits scenes) that make this mandatory viewing for understanding what is going on in the next few MCU films with this being effectively the 2nd film of Phase 4.
While the release schedule for this film will no doubt be impacted for many with it coming out in states not in lockdown this week but lockdown states having to wait due to it being one of the first films NOT to be also released on Disney+ all we can suggest is to brush up on your Karaoke and maybe perfect your rendition of Hotel California.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is out at selected cinemas across Australia from Thursday (Today!)