So with all the stealth of a master assassin, Marvel just unleashed it’s trailer For Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings onto the internet for us to get more of a fix of that sweet, sweet Marvel goodness. Featuring their first East Asian superhero and nimbly side-stepping quite a few problematic stereotypes, the movie looks to be a fantasy blast of the highest order that some people are already naming Mulan meets Crazy Rich Asians. So join me now as I slip on ten rings, do some lunges to loosen up and leap into the world of Marvel’s premiere martial artist…
5) Respectful Casting Is The Key
Assembling an impressive East Asian cast that also includes Awkwafina as friend Katy, Meng’er Zhang as estranged sister Xialing and the legendary Michelle Yeoh, the filmmakers are obviously shooting for the same kind of rich cultural world building that worked so well for Black Panther and is guaranteed to immerse us into a world we’ve never seen before. Be it fist fights on a speeding bus in downtown California to large-scale fantasy battles, the hunger for an Asian audience to see themselves finally represented in a massively budgeted American action blockbuster should see this score big.
4) Crazy Rich Abrasions
Boasting some of the most dreamy looking action in yonks, Shang-Chi looks set to follow in the achingly beautiful footsteps of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Yi-Mou Zhang’s House Of Flying Daggers. Director Destin Daniel Cretton seems set to create a new gold standard in visually stunning beatdowns that make your jaw hang loose in awe and hopefully the wire assisted fisticuffs will also carry some emotional weight as the combatants float around like impossibly graceful, yet lethal, fairies.
3) Looking Hench, man…
Featuring an intriguing first look at the mysterious Death Dealer and the hulking Razor Fist, Shang-Chi’s secondary villain slate seems impressively stacked. First up is the masked Death Dealer who (when he’s/she’s not presumably “dealing death”) seems to be Shang Chi’s teacher who trains him into being “unkillable” at the orders of criminal kingpin Wenwu (more on him later). Seemingly to be the primary physical roadblock our hero has to face, there’s also the presence of Razor Fist who isn’t going to be answering to the trading standards people anytime soon thanks to him sporting an actual razor for a fist. Played by the absolute unit who played Viktor Drago in Creed II (Florian Munteanu), he’s more than likely an assassin from a rival crime syndicate out to take out our hero. Despite feature one razor fist short of his comic counterpart, he thankfully is missing the wrestling onesie and gimp mask combo that the character also wore.
2) Boss Level
More obsessed with obtaining rings than Sonic The Hedgehog, our big bad here is Tony Leung’s Wenwu, aka. The Mandarin. Yup, that’s right – we’re finally getting to meet the man behind the Ten Rings crime organisation that was first mentioned way back in the first Iron Man and who was so memorably copied by the constantly smashed Trevor Slattery in both Iron Man 3 and the Marvel One Shot, Hail To The King. It’s noticable that when we first see him he’s decked out in classic Mandarin gear but the rest of the movie will undoubtedly see him in swanky suits but the thing that stands out most are that the actual Ten Rings that give Wenwu his powers are actually now bands worn round the forearms other than the finger bling more commonly associated with the character – but considering he once wore them embedded in his spine, hopefully the fanboys will cut Marvel some slack.
1) Ready… FIGHT!
Considering that comics have long labelled him as a “master of Kung Fu” (thanks to the 70’s genre explosion that rocked cinema fleapits back in the day), it’s a relief that Marvel has cast a dude who can actually fight, meaning the awkward days of watching Finn Jones trying to throw a punch in Netflix’s Iron Fist are mercifully over. Best known for his role on sitcom Kim’s Convenience, Simu Liu’s gift for comedy added with the fact he can fling a mean foot means he’s poised to launch himself into superstardom with the same kind of global awareness that springboarded other such MCU alumni to becoming household names and from what we’ve seen so far, he’s certainly nailed the character who is on the run from his criminal destiny.
Hopefully swooping into cinemas for September, Shang-Chi should lend some punch to Marvel’s Phase Four.