We’re heading into a new age for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which unofficially began with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first new superhero to join the MCU as part of phase four.
Phase four is off and running with the Disney Plus original series WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki, as well as Black Widow. While we got some major plot points and a few new characters from these offerings, they all were centered around characters previously introduced in earlier MCU films. In the case of Black Widow, even though it was the first official film of phase four, it took place prior to the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
Fans were excited to see how Shang-Chi expanded the MCU, and can expect plenty more to come from Marvel's master of kung fu (continue reading to find out more). Here’s everything you need to know about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
What is the plot of ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’?
As the first film to feature the character, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has a good amount of leg work to do establishing his backstory. Here's a quick primer.
Shang-Chi is an expert martial artist, raised and trained by his father Wenwu, who is the leader of an ancient organization known as the Ten Rings. When Shang-Chi discovered the dark truth about his father and the Ten Rings, he left that life behind. The movie will find Shang-Chi’s new life colliding with his past, forcing him to confront his father.
Who is in the ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ cast?
Shang-Chi is the first Marvel movie to star an Asian superhero, with Simu Liu taking on the title role. This is by far Liu’s biggest role to date, whose career been primarily in TV with shows like Canada’s Kim’s Convenience (available on Netflix) and appearances on Fresh Off the Boat and Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.
Speaking of Awkwafina, the actor-comedian also stars in Shang-Chi, playing Shang-Chi’s love interest, Katy.
Fans are also likely to recognize Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (The Grandmaster, In the Mood for Love) and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians). Leung will be playing Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father and leader of the Ten Rings, while Yeoh is playing Ying Nan, Shang-Chi’s mentor.
Additional cast members include Florian Munteanu, Fala Chen, Dallas Liu, Ronny Chieng, Meng’er Zhang and Fernando Chien.
Who is the ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ director?
Destin Daniel Cretton is the director tasked with bringing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to the big screen. He also served as the writer along with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham.
This will be Cretton’s first movie for the MCU and the first true action movie that he has directed. He’s made a name for himself with excellent films like Short Term 12 and Just Mercy.
When is the ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ release date?
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was part of the shifting release schedule that has impacted so many films over the last year and a half. Originally expected to hit theaters on May 7, 2021, it was first pushed to July 9, 2021. However, some more movement ended up putting Black Widow in that spot. After all the shuffling, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuted for audiences on Sept. 3.
Unlike Black Widow, Shang-Chi was not available on Disney Plus through Premier Access, as it will have an exclusive run in theaters. However, as of Nov. 12, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been available to all Disney Plus subscribers on the streaming service.
Is there a ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ trailer?
We’ve had a couple of trailers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings thus far. We got the first trailer for Shang-Chi back in April, heavily focused on the action, while a second trailer dug more into the backstory of the character. You can watch that second trailer below.
Are there 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' reviews?
Critics have started to weigh in on the latest MCU movie, and reviews have been pretty good so far for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Broadly, the film currently (as of Aug. 25) sits at a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and is Certified Fresh, while its Metacritic score is a respectable 71.
What to Watch's own Amelia Emberwing praised Shang-Chi for its fight choreography as well as the performances from Simu Liu, Awkwafina and others in the cast, while describing the film as "a fresh origin of a hero we're yet to see on screen." Read the full review here.
How does ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ fit into the MCU?
Part of the draw of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that producer Kevin Feige has been able to have each project have connective threads to one another. Even though this will be the first appearance of Shang-Chi in the MCU, there’s already a few ways that we know the film connects to past entries in the MCU. Warning, some SPOILERS AHEAD.
The first thing is the Ten Rings organization itself. This one goes all the way back to the beginning of the MCU. The terrorists that capture Tony Stark and keep him prisoner in the first Iron Man are members of the Ten Rings. The group also appears in Iron Man 3, as it and a fake Mandarin, the organization’s leader, are used by Aldrich Killian to cover-up his Extremis experiments. However, Shang-Chi revealed that this incarnations of the Ten Rings were not actually the true one originally created by Shang-Chi's father. He even imprisoned the fake Mandarin, Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), who pops up in the film.
We also got a couple appearances from some other MCU characters. The trailer showed a cage fight with a monstrous, Hulk-like creature. That is Abomination (played by Tim Roth), the villain from The Incredible Hulk, who actually happened to be fighting Wong, the Doctor Strange character played by Benedict Wong. Then, in the post credits scene, we briefly got to see Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner (back in human form) and Brie Larson's Captain Marvel as they discuss what exactly the Ten Rings are made of, something no one can figure out.
The other big question entering Shang-Chi is where does it take place in the MCU timeline? It's definitely post-snap and by all indications is before the timeline crisis previewed in the finale of Loki.
Shang-Chi's journey in the MCU will, unsurprisingly, continue, as The Wrap has reported on news for the sequel movie and an expansion of the franchise. First off, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton will return to write and direct the sequel. Also, a spinoff series is being developed to air exclusively on Disney Plus. No more information is available on either the sequel or the Disney Plus series at this time.
How to watch the MCU films?
If you want to catch up with the MCU to this point, there’s a couple of ways to do it. First, you can watch them in the order that they were released, starting all the way back with 2008’s Iron Man. The other option is to watch them as they fit in the MCU’s timeline. This one is a bit more complicated, but we laid it out for you right here.
As far as where to watch them, nearly all MCU films are available to stream on Disney Plus. Missing from Disney Plus are the Tom Holland Spider-Man films.
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Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.