Shang-Chi Video Reveals How Simu Liu Filmed His Underwater Scenes

By Russ Milheim Updated:
Shang-Chi Underwater

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been quite the hit. Not only did it tickle the fancy of critics and fans across the world, but it also did well enough at the box office to save the movie industry in the immediate future—Venom: Let There Be Carnage hasn't even said thank you yet.

The film introduced Simu Liu's Shang-Chi to the MCU, providing the world with a new future Avenger. Not only did it do that, but the movie finally showcased the real Mandarin, named Wenwu, and his mystical weapons the Ten Rings.

The final act of Shang-Chi went even further and brought the mystical village of Ta Lo to life on screen, including the likes of countless mythical creatures, among them none other than a massive red and white dragon. But how did they pull it off?

Simu Liu Underwater BTS

Shang-Chi, Marvel, MCU

Marvel Studios has released a video that goes over how they achieved some of the special effects in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Within the featurette were some fascinating images of how they created the iconic shot of Simu Liu's Shang-Chi underwater with The Great Protector.

Shang-Chi, Marvel, MCU

Above is what it all looked like on set, without any fancy visuals. It's almost surreal seeing where it all starts.

Shang-Chi, Marvel, MCU

Here's a great comparison shot of the before and after.

When it came to how they did the scenes with Shang-Chi and Xialing flying on The Great Protector's back, according to VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend, they had to "create a simplified version" of parts of the dragon so that actors could hold onto something physical while filming:

"One of the great things about this particular dragon is that we've got characters actually riding it. Because of that, we had to build a buck, and we went to our visual effects company who was working on the dragon. We then asked them to create a simplified version of just the head portion and a small portion of the body that people were able to hold on to and sit on, and sort of interact with."

Shang-Chi, Marvel, MCU

Not only did they have to create this contraction, but they also put the "whole piece onto a glimpse so that it rotate[d] and [spun]:"

"So putting this whole piece onto a gimble so that it rotates and spins, and moves and tilts and everything. And then we photographed our  actors sitting on this thing with wind and sometimes rain to imply that they were going through water. And then we added big camera moves, trying to emulate the sense that they were flying. It's very challenging to try and make that stuff look real, but I think you know it's an incredibly fun challenge."

Shang-Chi, Marvel, MCU

Further challenges come when they had to insert the dragon into the world of Ta Lo, where they had to "figure out where the camera is in relation to the body of the dragon:"

"The challenge, particularly once we'd actually got this photograph, was then putting that into our world of Ta Lo which is where the dragon exists in this sort of mythical place. We also have to figure out where the camera is in relation to the body of the dragon, and then tracking the dragon, so the dragon now has a CG dragon, and then, on top of the real world camera that we have, we then add additional camera movements and we then start building our  CG world around that, and start putting in all other action beats."

The full VFX breakdown, which also focuses on the mystical Morris, can be watched below:


Shang-Chi's Secrets Revealed

That shot of Simu Liu's Shang-Chu underwater with The Great Protector was easily the most epic moment in all the film's main trailers. There's no doubt that one shot alone sparked curiosity amongst many who had no idea what the film even was.

It's awesome to think that the MCU now has dragons in it, and hopefully there's plenty more to come in that regard—lookin' at you Shou-Lao. The addition of these mystical creatures, in general, is a huge moment for the universe at large; a whole new corner of the world has been introduced, and seeing it explored in the future will be a thrill.

No one knows when the world might see Shang-Chi on screen again, so in the meantime, make sure to go watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is now playing in theaters worldwide. If that's not an option, then all hope isn't lost—the film will be coming to Disney+ on November 12.


Release Date
September 03, 2021
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.