Production delays and release date woes are in the rear-view, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in the fast lane to its fall release.
Marvel Studios unveiled the first look at the MCU's first martial arts-centric film, showcasing Simu Liu's titular character in all his Kung-Fu glory. Aside from a few set photos, most of Shang-Chi's storyline has been shrouded in secrecy. While this teaser likely asks more questions than it answers, it offers plenty of hints towards the film's greater narrative.
Without further ado, here are ten Easter eggs, plot details, and hidden meanings you might have missed in Shang-Chi's debut teaser.
"I GAVE YOU TEN YEARS..."
The trailer opens with narration presumably from Tony Leung's Wenwu, Shang-Chi's father, telling his son he gave him "ten years to live [his] life." From there, Shang-Chi is shown enjoying his Western life, valeting expensive cars and throwing back shots with Awkwafina's Katy.
Here, Wenwu is likely asking for his son to return home to finish his training as an assassin for the Ten Rings. As evident by later flashbacks, this flick will jump through time quite a bit. That said, it appears that the present-day conflict will pick up at the end of Shang-Chi's ten years of normalcy.
Keep that number ten in mind as well. Before getting his "ten years" of a normal life, Shang-Chi trained for a decade with the Ten Rings organization.
Immediately after the famous Marvel Studios title card, Shang-Chi is shown working up a sweat inside his poorly-lit room. While it's tough to decipher the various paraphernalia in Shang-Chi's living space, one poster is recognizable.
Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle has its poster prominently placed above Shang-Chi's bed, indicating the hero has an admiration for martial arts motion pictures. Kung Fu Hustle dealt with the villainous Axe Gang, a group that ruled over Shanghai through violent measures carried out by Brother Sum, not far from what the Ten Rings and the Mandarin seem to be up to in this film.
Shang-Chi did not take that decade of freedom lightly.
Early shots show Shang-Chi and Awkwafina's Katy singing karaoke, with the song in question being "A Whole New World" from Aladdin.
In that movie, Aladdin sings the song to Jasmine as they soar through the skies on his magic carpet. Shang-Chi's song choice actually contains lyrics that might allude what's going through his mind at that point in the movie:
"I'm like a shooting star, I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be"
Based on the Mandarin's narration, it's clear that Shang-Chi's presence is desired at home, but his antics here indicate he has no rush to return to his family.
THE DEATH DEALER
Between Black Widow's Taskmaster and Shang-Chi's Death Dealer, the first two feature films of MCU Phase 4 are set to introduce mystery men as the primary antagonists.
The Death Dealer is said to be a warrior of the Ten Rings and a former mentor of Shang-Chi, presumably during his childhood training. Standing side-by-side with Wenwu during those scenes, the Death Dealer's eventual fight with Shang-Chi could point him to being a loyal subject of the Mandarin. If Shang-Chi refuses to go home willingly, the Mandarin could be sending his right-hand man to bring his son back forcefully.
In a recent toy leak, the Death Dealer is described as “one of the most formidable opponents Shang-Chi has ever faced.”
TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
What's a Kung-Fu movie without a tournament?
A fighting pit appears twice in this trailer, with the second glance showing Shang-Chi squaring off with his estranged sister, Xialing, played by Meng'er Zhang. Early plot rumors focused Shang-Chi's narrative on a "tournament of champions," where dozens of characters would square off in hand-to-hand competition until one victor was left standing.
This cage fight far from confirms a full-on tournament, but it at least hints towards the possibility of a martial arts March Madness.
Florian Muneanu's blade-based antagonist appears twice in this trailer, both times as an opponent of Shang-Chi.
In the comics, Razor Fist is an assassin and a member of the Ten Rings. Razor Fist is a mantle held by three different men, most notably by Douglas Scott. After losing his arms in battle, Scott replaces his missing limbs with blades. Muneanu's Razor Fist appears to be operating with just one bladed arm, a slight deviation from the page. Beyond his involvement with Shang-Chi storylines, Razor Fist has found himself taking jobs in Madripoor, a location introduced into the MCU in recent weeks with episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
There's no telling how involved Razor Fist will be in Shang-Chi's plot, but he could pose a similar threat to how Ulysses Klaue factored into 2018's Black Panther, in that he has a connection to the film's main antagonist but only gets physically involved with the title hero in the opening acts.
Shang-Chi is a martial arts movie on the surface, but that doesn't mean it won't lean into some classic MCU mystical elements.
A restaurant table meets a blue-energy fist early in the trailer. With a closer look, it appears that the mystery man punching the table has bracelets up and down his forearms. That same blue energy glows on an unknown arm's bracelets later in the teaser.
Connecting those dots, these bracelets seem to incorporate some sort of mystical power to who wields them. That said, are they bracelets, or rings?
THE TEN RINGS
The Ten Rings are not only the name of this film's villainous organization but are also a physical power source.
In the comics, the Mandarin wears ten cylinders on his fingers, each possessing the power of a deceased cosmic warrior. As evident by the subtitle, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is prepared to incorporate the infamous weapon in a big way.
The large rings appear on numerous characters' wrists throughout the trailer, including Tony Leung's Mandarin and potentially Shang-Chi in a close-up shot. If Shang-Chi does in fact get his hands on these rings, will they be voluntarily gifted to him by his father, or will he take them by force?
Speaking of the Mandarin...
THE REAL MANDARIN
Believe it or not, the Mandarin is neither a drunken soccer fan nor a fire-breathing business mogul, but actually an infamous (and immortal?) crime lord.
Nearly ten years after the MCU introduced Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery as a fake-out for Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian's psychotic schemes, the real Mandarin is finally standing up.
Tony Leung's iteration of the character, also known as Wenwu, is set to combine elements of the Mandarin and Shang-Chi's comic father, Fu Manchu. As evident by his prowess throughout the trailer, the Mandarin is the leader of the Ten Rings, a position he's held for what could be centuries.
Leung is shown rocking long hair halfway through the trailer as he sits on a throne, the Ten Rings emblem etched into the wall behind him. Based on his attire and altered hairstyle, speculation has run wild on the Mandarin's age. There is every possibility that the physical ten rings have imbued Wenwu will immortality, and his demand for Shang-Chi to return home comes out of a need for a replacement.
He is not referred to by name in this trailer, but expect Wenwu to at least address the fake Mandarins from previous MCU flicks.
Between shots of a young Shang-Chi training alongside the Death Dealer to massive action set-pieces with ancient iconography in the surrounding areas, Shang-Chi promises to take fans on a journey that spans decades.
Early shots indicate fans will see Shang-Chi's full progression as a master of Kung-Fu, from his beginning stages as a young boy tirelessly punching wood to a frenzied-fist teenager unaware of how to control his strength.
Most noteworthy comes in the form of the landscape shots of an ancient battle taking place. Based on the choice weaponry and attire, it's clear this colossal clash takes place at some point in the past. Past rumors could bring Shang-Chi all the way back to the days of Genghis Khan, whose dynasty is said to play some role in the lineage of the titular hero.
What did the first look at a Marvel Studios' martial arts film do for your anticipation? Where do you see Shang-Chi fitting in the greater MCU? Let us know below, or hit me up on Twitter @LiamTCrowley! For all other things Shang-Chi, be sure to check out The Direct Podcast's latest episode where we dive into all things surrounding this project.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is due in theaters on September 3, 2021.