Shang-Chi was a fairly obscure character created by Marvel Comics in the 1970s. When the Marvel creative team, led by producers Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, delved into the over 40-year-old comics, they were both inspired and challenged, launching Marvel Studios newest Super Hero into the ever-growing and evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In this origin story, the modern-day, re-imagined Shang-Chi has a close familial connection to the Ten Rings organization. The shadowy Ten Rings organization has been an underlying element of the MCU since 2008, when it surfaced to kidnap Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film. The person behind the Ten Rings organization was deceptively introduced in Marvel Studios’ 2013 film release, Iron Man 3, in the form of Iron Man’s archenemy The Mandarin, who had first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1964, a decade before Shang-Chi. In the film it was revealed that the person purporting to be the Mandarin was actually an actor named Trevor Slattery , played by Ben Kingsley, who was hired by the leader of the Ten Rings to impersonate him and promulgate his agenda.
The film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, whom we meet living in San Francisco and working as a parking valet, when a group of assassins takes a pendant that his mother gave him when he was young. Shang-Chi and his best friend Katy leave their safe lives and journey to Macau, to warn Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing that danger is coming for her as well. As the film unfolds, Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind. When he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization led by his estranged father, Shang-Chi realizes he must stop him and his Ten Rings cabal.
“Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is the story of a young man who realizes that his father is essentially one of the world’s greatest criminals,” says Kevin Feige, producer, “and Shang-Chi has to learn how to process that, and deal with it, in order to evolve beyond it. He must find the heroism needed to break free of his father’s legacy. But there are many sides to all stories. In our film, the world’s perception of his father and his perception of his father prove to be more complex than Shang-Chi initially thought. That was a great driving story for us that we wanted to explore.”
“While there’s incredible artwork and amazing action—things you’d expect from Marvel in the 1970s—Shang-Chi was also in need of a significant update,” says producer Jonathan Schwartz. “In 1973, Shang-Chi was brought to life by big fans of Kung Fu cinema who put the character at the center of a spy-espionage story, which was very much in vogue after the release earlier that year of the martial arts film ‘Enter the Dragon.’ Looking at it today, over 40 years later, and looking at how stories are told, Shang-Chi didn’t really feel right for modern audiences. We had to think about how we wanted that voice to be heard in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.”
In Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings audiences will learn the history of the real person who leads the Ten Rings—Xu Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father. The power of the actual Ten Rings, which are in Wenwu’s possession, allowed him to build the Ten Rings criminal organizaton.
Producer Jonathan Schwartz was conscious that bringing to life this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big, actioon film featuring martial arts was going to be an important first step. “There’s this deep wealth of martial arts–themed characters within the comics that we haven’t really been able to bring to screen yet,” he says. “Shang-Chi felt like a great way into that entire world, to bring the martial arts world that exists as characters in the comics to life in the same way that ‘Doctor Strange’ was able to bring the magic side of the universe to life and that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ was able to bring the galactic side of the universe to life.”
Producers Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, and executive producers Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso, wanted the film helmed by a director who could help draw out authenticity, and who could craft a story from the history of Shang-Chi that would take audiences by surprise and transport them to a unique Marvel world.
Maui-born director Destin Daniel Cretton, (The Glass Castle and Just Mercy), was initially wary of going down the superhero route, but when he heard that Marvel specifically wanted an Asian American director to bring an Asian American story to life, he became attracted to that idea. He gravitated towards the universality of the relationship between a father and a son. “The complications of the relationship between Shang-Chi and Wenwu was what really interested me,” admits Cretton. “What moved me from the comics was this complex relationship of a dad who trained his son to be a killer, and now his son is grown up, and he has to face him. That was really exciting to me.”
Maui-born Destin Daniel Cretton (Director/Screenplay by/Screen Story by) most recently directed Just Mercy and The Glass Castle (2017), Cretton’s feature Short Term 12, won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the SXSW Film Festival in 2013. He also wrote and directed I Am Not a Hipster (2012).
Dave Callaham (Screen Story by/Screenplay by) is a Chinese American screenwriter who grew up in Northern California and moved to Los Angeles in 1999, where he worked as an assistant before selling his first script, a thriller, in 2002. Since then he has written across multiple genres, including action films Godzilla and The Expendables; comedy/horror Zombieland: Double Tap; sci-fi Doom; and superhero projects such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2” (releasing in 2022). He has also written en and produced for television, creating the 2017 Jean-Claude Van Johnson for Amazon Prime.
Andrew Lanham (Screenplay by) is a winner of the Nicholl Fellowships and in 2019 was named one of Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch. He recently wrote The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik as well as Harbinger, based on the Valiant comic book series. With Destin Daniel Cretton he co-wrote Just Mercy as well as The Glass Castle. His film The Kid, was released in 2019.