Marvel Studios‘ Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings began filming early in 2020 was originally due for release in May, then moved to July and now September 2021, just one of the many, many scheduling casualties of the covid pandemic.
It’s an interesting choice for Marvel, launching a film that may be based on a comic, but a release that does not feature an instantly-recognisable pop culture property to the wider audience. A little like Black Panther before it, it is a case of deliberately positioning a film to reflect elements of a specific style and culture while, at the same time, needing to bring its usual wider audience along to secure success. We now know that Black Panther paid off in dividends, a critically-acclaimed success, a box-office smash and managing to launch rising star Chadwick Boseman into the stratosphere (even if it was for too short a time). Will the same be true for Simu Liu (on whose birthday the new teaser art and trailer were released). Though born in China in 1989, he’s been a Canadian resident since the age of 5 and has been working solidly as an actor, martial-artist and stunt performer for the last decade. Given his active skill-set, the film should avoid comparisons with the Marvel/Netflix outing Iron Fist which featured Finn Jones in the lead, a decent actor but one with limited martial-arts training.
The character has been swirling around potential production for many years – as far back as the 1980s, Brandon Lee’s name was being touted as a possible lead – but all attempts to bring him to the screen floundered. In the comics , the character was originally said to be the son of Fu-Manchu, though that element has largely disappeared in more recent iterations. For the film, that aspect is dispensed with and his father is now the alter-ego of the nefarious Mandarin. Director Destin Daniel Cretton has also said that the film deliberately avoided the more obvious tropes and cliches in an effort to avoid some of the previous, problematic stereotypes of Asian culture.
Liu’s supporting cast on Shang-Chi… is impressive and includes the likes of Michelle Yeoh and Akwafina. The choreography – all-important for such an action film – looks good in the trailer (thanks to Andy Cheng and Brad Allen).