Welcome to Shot by Shot, our ongoing series of movie trailer breakdowns. We’re constantly scouring for perfect shots, and in this column, we share our favorites and discuss them. In this entry, we’re entering a new realm of Marvel Cinematic Universe badassery with the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailer.
With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel Studios enters into a new realm of action. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Simu Liu, the movie erupts from a long tradition of wuxia cinema. The Chinese martial arts genre is noted for its tremendous celebrations of fantastic heroes, gifting the world such classics as One-Armed Swordsman and Come Drink With Me, as well as modern masterpieces like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers.
The lesser-known comic book character of the movie’s title began as a Bruce Lee knockoff in the wake of Enter the Dragon, but over time Shang-Chi has crafted a unique corner within a universe overflowing with traditional spandex-types like Captain America and Spider-Man. I’m sure we’ll put together a Reading List to pair alongside the film before it comes out, but until then, jump on over to Gene Luen Yang’s most recent Shang-Chi miniseries if you’re curious to learn more about the hero.
What you see in the below trailer is a mighty swing from Marvel Studios. You’ll catch several staples expected from a Marvel Cinematic Universe origin story, but the world beyond the city setting is something not previously explored. As Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther did before, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will expand the Marvel universe into grand new vistas and styles. We’re incredibly excited.
Yep, that’s an exhilarating watch, and it’s chockablock with comic book deep-cuts and unexpected characters to consider. We broke down the two-minute Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailer into eleven shots. Let’s dig in and see what we can make of this brave new world of kung fu adventure.
The trailer opens with Shang-Chi returning to his father’s temple and placing his hand on a post where he once practiced. On his face, we can sense the years come rushing through him. His father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), chastises Shang-Chi from offscreen, “I gave you ten years to live your life, and where did that get you?”
The answer to the question is friendship and the stressful existence of a minimum wage worker. We see Shang-Chi experiencing delight alongside his best pal, Katey (Awkwafina). We don’t know much about her. In an interview, the actress stated that her character “is thrust into a world where she doesn’t really know what to do.” As we see throughout this trailer, Katy never backs down. She takes the madness at face value and sticks by Shang-Chi’s side. As an ordinary human, that makes her incredibly brave in our book. Of course, there could be more to her story than she’s letting on. Marvel is tricky that way. But as of right now, she appears to be created exclusively for the film. She’s a Darcy Lewis of sorts.
Flashback! Wenwu stands behind Death Dealer as he whips a young Shang-Chi into action. In the comics, Death Dealer also goes by the name of Li Ching-Lin. He was an MI6 operative who secretly worked for Fu Manchu (more on that in a second). He and Shang-Chi had a vicious rivalry, but neither could best the other. Eventually, a final confrontation occurred, and Shang-Chi killed Ching-Lin in combat. It looks like they’ve distanced the characters through age for the film, but you can bet there will still be plenty of animosity bubbling between them.
Shang-Chi is technically a spinoff character from Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels. For a brief period in the 1970s, Marvel controlled the publishing rights to the character, and they used him to sire their kung fu champion. When Marvel lost Fu Manchu, they slowly disregarded Shang-Chi’s origin story. However, for the film, they’ve tied the character to the villainous Wenwu, a.k.a. “The Mandarin.”
In the first Iron Man film, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) hired the Ten Rings terrorist cell to help assassinate Tony Stark. Later, in Iron Man 3, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) falsely positioned actor Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) as the Ten Rings leader known as The Mandarin. In the Marvel Studios short film All Hail the King, we learned that the real Mandarin was quite upset that Trevor dared to masquerade as the Ten Rings commander. He sent Scoot McNairy’s hitman to bust Slattery out of prison so he can meet the Mandarin’s wrath in person.
Folks, Wenwu is The Mandarin, and we’re finally going to witness his treacherous deeds in and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In the shot above, we can even see the Ten Rings wrapped around his forearms. These artifacts are traditionally worn as rings around the fingers, but Cretton’s team has updated them to fall in line with traditional wuxia bracelets/gauntlets. The comic book rings grant their keeper various powers: ice blast, psionic energy, electro-blast, flame control, gravity control, shadow control, disintegration, wind control, concussive force, and matter control. Basically, if you’ve got the Ten Rings, you’re a god on Earth.
Wenwu wants Shang-Chi to follow in the family business, and as such, the Ten Rings are destined to be his someday. However, folks like Death Dealer and other Wenwu family members might want their piece of the action. Shang-Chi’s “father” trained him to be the most powerful person on the planet so that his deadliest adversaries would be rendered helpless under Shang-Chi’s might. However, when you raise a weapon, you better hope they see you eye to eye. When Shang-Chi strays, that will cause Wenwu to unleash a terrible fury. He’s going to need some new backup.
Here we see Wenwu channeling the full power of the Ten Rings against an opposing army. Why would these warriors in red want to stop The Mandarin? These could be the protectors of The Valley of the Dragons. The Ten Rings are capable of awakening another all-powerful mystic force, Fin Fang Foom. This gargantuan dragon is a constant threat in the comics (having recently appeared in the new Beta Ray Bill miniseries from Daniel Warren Johnson — read that book now) and when partnered with Wenwu, the two are nearly unconquerable.
The lady in green is Jiang Li (Fala Chen). She’s the daughter of Jiang Nan (Michelle Yeoh). Curiously, the latter actress has already appeared in the MCU during one of the many mid-credits sequences in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In that film, Yeoh cameoed as the adopted sister of Sylvester Stallone’s Starhawk, Aleta Ogord. Yeah, do not expect these two characters to be related. It’s most likely just a case of double-casting. Michelle Yeoh, like Tony Leung, adds an incredible wuxia legacy to Shang-Chi.
Wenwu and Death Dealer are just two threats facing Shang-Chi in the film. Spotted in this cage match shot, we meet
Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi’s sister and Wenwu’s estranged daughter. There should be plenty of sibling rivalry dealt with here, but it’s also a good bet that Xialing could partner with her brother to help take down their diabolical father.
Back in America, Shang-Chi squares off against several goons inside a city bus. Most notably is Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu), who is possibly the coolest named henchman since Taserface. This sword-swinging ne’er-do-well has appeared as three separate people in the Marvel Comics, and sometimes he has one sword-hand, and sometimes he has two sword-hands. The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings version seems sensible in keeping the blade to one limb. It is worth noting that the Razor Fist in the Shang-Chi comics died and was replaced by two robot duplicates constructed by Doctor Doom. Could this guy be on loan to Wenwu from the Fantastic Four villain? Lol. I would absolutely love that.
As Shang-Chi tears his way through multiple goons, we hear Wenwu state dramatically, “You can’t outrun who you really are.” Dammit, the bad dad is totally right. Shang-Chi is not escaping his status as a supreme badass. The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailer ends with Simu Liu striking a mean pose. Within its two minutes and four-second teaser, the movie proves itself as a kung fu titan. Cretton is out here delivering an action flick of the highest order, hoping to define itself as something unique from the usual brand of MCU punching and kicking.
That being said, this is still a Marvel movie. Whenever they go hard, they also have to go silly. The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailer ends on a laugh dropped by Awkwafina. Having narrowly escaped death, she nervously declares that she and Shang-Chi “made a good team.” Katy is here to keep it light and never let the wuxia badassery run away into self-seriousness. Mission accomplished.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings charges into theaters on September 3rd.