While Marvel Studios is certainly enjoying its new run on Disney+ by building hype with weekly episodes of What If...? and the new trailer for Hawkeye, the theatrical side of the MCU is finally thriving again as well. This continues with Simu Liu's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which became the biggest Labor Day Weekend box office hit in history.
Shang-Chi helped expand the MCU's narrative with a new dimension to the universe, introducing the mystic world of martial arts through the lens of Asian history and culture. This direction took a particularly shocking twist with the introduction of Ta Lo, a mythical hidden city that Shang-Chi and Katy found with the help of Iron Man 3's Trevor Slattery and the undeniably adorable Morris.
Ta Lo served as the home for not only Shang-Chi's family, along with a long-lost connection to his past, but also a new group of creatures like Morris largely based on ancient Chinese myths. The team even had to come face-to-face with an enormous soul-sucking dragon and mini-versions of the beast that wreaked havoc on Ta Lo's people.
In terms of the design for this massive creature, the designer behind the concept recently shared his surprise at being allowed to use his full vision in the movie.
A Perfectly Scary Dragon For Shang-Chi
Concept artist Jarad Marantz took to Instagram to share a detailed look at his design for the soul-sucking villainous dragon, Dweller-in-Darkness, from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
This project was led by Marvel Studios' Visual Development head Andy Park, with whom Marantz worked on development for the creature.
Marantz took a moment to praise Park as "a very good project leader" while exclaiming that getting to work on this material "was really fun:"
"Here’s my “the horror” creature design for Shang Chi. I had an incredible time working on this film with the amazing team over at Marvel Visual Development. The project was led by my buddy Andy Park. He is a very good project leader. I don’t know how he does it. He keeps everyone on track while producing tons of his own exceptional artwork at the same time. Working on this design was really fun."
Marantz looked back on developing the dragon while admitting that he has a tendency to "lean to scary" with his designs. In fact, he appeared shocked that this creature "got on screen" in its full terrifying form.
Understanding that the dragon would be "too large" to actually interact with the human characters without a tool, Marantz spoke about "looking at...Chinese Kites" for inspiration on the smaller dragons to help add to the "cultural element" in the movie:
"My biggest hurtle with my work at Marvel is that I tend to lean too scary. I often get that note and have to dial things back a bit. Surprisingly, this time not so much. I still can’t believe this guy got on screen. He was actually pretty terrifying. My favorite elements of the design are the many tales/tendrils coming off of his back and wings. I knew that the creature would be too large to have any real interaction with the human characters if he didn’t have something that he could actually used to fight them. I was looking at a lot of Chinese Kites for inspiration there, trying to tie in some cultural element to the design."
Chinese Legend Coming To Life For Marvel
Marantz certainly has a history of scary designs for superhero movies, as proven by his work for the DCEU on Zack Snyder's Justice League earlier this year. Taking his talents to Marvel Studios for Shang-Chi, it's clear that the master artist got to unleash his full scary potential with the villainous monster hiding in the Ta Lo cave.
This dragon also came as a stark contrast to the Great Protector, who rescued Shang-Chi from the lake and battled its evil counterpart. The two contributed to an epic final inter-dimensional battle as the titular hero found his full power and used it to help take down the Mandarin and his goons.
While it's unclear how long it will be until Ta Lo makes its MCU return, the stage is set for the MCU's mystical world to play a key role in the narrative.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently playing in theaters.