"Is this what you wanted?"
While full focus has been on Loki and the imminent Black Widow as of late, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings roared back onto the scene with a brand-new trailer airing during the NBA's Western Conference Finals. The official trailer follows up on April's teaser, giving fans a deeper look into the conflict between Shang-Chi and The Mandarin, a feud that appears to be the central plot of the motion picture.
Through two minutes of footage, Marvel Studios reintroduced a flurry of familiar elements, but also teased some big picture implications in blink-and-you'll-miss-it frames. Without further ado, here are 10 Easter eggs, hidden meanings, and plot details from Shang-Chi's first official trailer.
TEN RINGS FLAG
The trailer opens with Tony Leung's Wenwu narrating over shots of the mystical Ten Rings. He details that the bracelets "gave [his] family power" before telling a young Shang-Chi that he needs to prove himself before he can wield them on his own.
This monologue comes over quick glimpses of the rings in action, as well as one noteworthy shot of a black Ten Rings flag. While Shang-Chi's depiction of the organization is set to defer from what was established in the Iron Man franchise, the flag from this trailer bears many similarities to the banner from Tony Stark's films.
Both logos utilize ten circles encased in one another and spiraled around two swords. Distinct differences between the two include the flag's color, which is primarily red in the Iron Man films, and the swords' hilts. The most notable change comes in the characters encased in the ten circles, as the Shang-Chi trailer incorporates Chinese lettering, different from the Arabic symbols used previously.
AN IMMORTAL ANTAGONIST?
Just how old is The Mandarin?
Before the Marvel Studios logo sequence commences, quick action shots of Tony Leung's Mandarin are shown. Sporting long hair, The Mandarin wields the Ten Rings to take down a temple. The warriors protecting the temple appear to be donning ancient clothing, which hints at this scene being a flashback.
Shang-Chi has been rumored to go as far back as the days of Genghis Khan, and shots like these only add stock to those rumblings. Couple these with longer shots from the film's first trailer, and flashbacks are becoming more and more apparent.
If these scenes are from the era of Genghis Khan, that would make The Mandarin over 800 years old. Century-old beings are no stranger to the MCU, but adding an antagonist that spans nearly a millennium adds a fantastical layer to this grounded Kung-Fu flick.
MARVEL STUDIOS' UPDATED LOGO
It's been common for Marvel Studios to update their logo in tune with the advertised project for a couple of years now, but the re-brands in Phase 4 continue to be memorable.
Here, the Marvel Studios emblem gets remastered in gold, complete with the Ten Rings orbiting in the background. It's a small touch, but it only emphasizes how the MCU is embracing this new character and his story.
Throughout the trailer, a mountain range reappears on multiple occasions. The first glimpse at this location only shows the terrain, but future frames reveal a man-made facility among the peaks. Based on what this trailer provides, it can be assumed that the Ten Rings dojo shown early on is located within these mountains.
In the comics, the K'un-Lun Mountains are a mystical location that is heavily-linked to Shang-Chi. The mountain range is home to a city of the same name, K'un-Lun, which operates in a pocket dimension and is one of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven.
While it's doubtful that Marvel Studios would adapt this concept verbatim, there are deeper parallels between the trailer's mountains and the ones described on the page. The comics point out that the gate to K'un-Lun can only be accessed every ten years, coincidentally the same amount of time Shang-Chi has been away from his father in this movie.
Beyond that, K'un-Lun is known to be a domain where martial artists train. Considering the brief shot of black-robed warriors practicing among Ten Rings iconography, it only emphasizes this spot as the MCU's K'un Lun.
EMBRACING THE MYSTICAL
The inter-dimensional aspects of K'un-Lun may be ditched for this film, but the mystical elements are still being embraced.
Later shots show Tony Leung's Mandarin escorting his son, along with Awkwafina's Katy and Florian Munteanu's Razor Fist, off a helicopter towards the facility. The footage right before that shows an astounded Shang-Chi feeling the floating water particles around him as The Mandarin watches on calmly.
This shot further emphasizes the chance of K'un-Lun being the name for this location, as the lost city is known to have some next-level magic.
Wenwu is already penciling in himself as a top candidate for next year's worst MCU dads list.
Halfway through the trailer, a present-day Simu Liu fights off masked men from the Ten Rings. The onslaught is led by the mysterious Death Dealer, a face-painted figure who has appeared in both current shots and flashbacks. As Shang-Chi holds his own, his father narrates over the conflict.
"I told my men they wouldn't be able to kill you if they tried."
Coupled with the trailer's final moments, it's clear that any father-son bond The Mandarian has with Shang-Chi will implode before the credits roll. While most expect Wenwu to be an antagonist from the jump, his narration does not quite line up with that idea.
Why would he give these masked men the green light to even try and kill Shang-Chi? From everything that's been shown so far, it appears that Wenwu wants his son to return to him alive, presumably to take up the mantle of The Mandarin. Does this suggest the Death Dealer has some power over his assumed superior?
Michelle Yeoh makes her return to the MCU by flexing her sorceress skills. She spirals a collection of leaves in front of Shang-Chi, using a similar motion to a sling ring.
Yeoh's character, Jiang Nan, is Shang-Chi's mother. She appears a couple of times before showcasing her magic, speaking calmly to her son about his roots. She seemingly warns Shang-Chi that "whether [he] likes it or not, [he] is also [his] father."
Between his (immortal?) crime-lord father and his magical mother, Shang-Chi has quite the DNA. His mom clearly wants him to succeed, but just like a certain X-Wing pilot from a galaxy far, far away, she fears awaking The Mandarin in him. Rather than keep him hidden, Nan's advice and possible training indicates she is going to ensure that Shang-Chi is stronger than Wenwu's vicious vices.
The actress previously portrayed Aleta Ogord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a member of the Ravagers. This is only the first of two recycled roles for MCU actresses this fall, as Gemma Chan is set to star in Eternals as Sersi two years after she played Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel.
THE GREAT PROTECTOR
We have a dragon.
In what was surely to be the trailer's money moment (until the end), a massive dragon greets a suited-up Shang-Chi underwater. Considering Simu Liu has his crimson threads, this moment likely comes towards the latter half of the film.
This dragon is the Great Protector. We know this white and red scaled creature's identity thanks to toy leaks, but this is viewers' first live-action glimpse of the beast. Many will point to its parallels to famous Marvel dragon Fin Fang Foom, but Liu has debunked all rumors of the comics' iteration making an appearance in September's flick.
Previous rumors hinted at Fin Fang Foom's inclusion in a big way. Rumblings from 2020 claimed a "magical trinity" would be tasked with keeping the dragon dormant. Unless plans have changed, the Great Protector being awake is bad news for our titular hero.
It's clear that some characters in Shang-Chi are blessed with mystical abilities, but MCU magic has always been in the Doctor Strange wheelhouse. While a sorcerer's appearance in this film may have seemed out of left field weeks ago, this trailer made it all the more probable.
THE FIRST RULE OF MCU FIGHT CLUB...
You don't talk about MCU fight club.
Shang-Chi's trailer shattered Twitter with the three particular frames from a fighting arena. The first glimpse shows the pit erupting in chaos as spectators frantically flee the scene. It's a quick frame, but masked men appear to be dropping from the ceiling. Considering Shang-Chi is wearing the same jacket as when he's attacked by masked men and the Death Dealer later in the trailer, it's likely that this fight club carnage follows him for at least a few scenes.
Shang-Chi won't just be attending the fight club as a fan; however, as a shirtless Simu Liu is shown squaring off against Meng'er Zhang's Xialing.
Xialing is Shang-Chi's estranged sister, which could make this combative confrontation the first time they've reunited in a while. Considering they are both throwing haymakers at each other, it's likely that they aren't aware of who the other is.
WONG VS. ABOMINATION
Marvel Studios is known for their trailer surprises after the title sequence, but this just might be the most unexpected.
For the first time since 2008, the Abomination roars back onto an MCU screen. Tim Roth was previously confirmed to star as Emil Blonsky in 2022's She-Hulk, but this fast-tracks his big Marvel Studios return. It is unclear whether Roth will show face in Shang-Chi, but his beastly alter-ego will certainly see spotlight.
Fans last heard Abomination was being held in a prison in the Marvel One-Shot "The Consultant." Even if he escaped, it would be pretty difficult for a monster his size to lay low. That is, unless this MCU fight club is located in a country that operates as a safe haven for the wicked.
Madripoor, I'm looking at you.
While the green behemoth is easily identifiable, the sorcerer he squares off against is less clear. The sorcerer's face is never shown, but his stature and hairstyle had fans speculating the mystery man to be Wong. Couple that with an Instagram post that showed Benedict Wong and Simu Liu grabbing lunch together during the time of Shang-Chi production, and it's all but confirmed that this sorcerer is none other than Doctor Strange's right-hand man.
Beyond the battle with Abomination, Wong's inclusion in this film raises a number of questions. If Thanos's imminent arrival wasn't enough to get him to abandon the Sanctum Sanctorum, what events in Shang-Chi would lure him away from Bleeker Street? Is there a mystical threat here that requires his presence? Why is he competing in cage fights?
With the aforementioned rumored plot of a "magical trinity" keeping the dragon at bay, it is entirely possible that Wong could be a part of that protector trio. Other rumors have Shang-Chi's plot revolving around a tournament of sorts, with the winner potentially gaining the Ten Rings. Could Wong be competing to add another magical item to the Sanctorum's arsenal?
How did Shang-Chi's second trailer impact your anticipation? What moments caught you off guard? Where do you see this story 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 deep dive into this trailer.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters on September 3, 2021.