Journey into mystery.
Pick up your nun-chucks and a copy of Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster, because you’ve got time to practice before legendary warrior Shang-Chi makes his MCU debut in February 2021. As the dust begins to settle from Kevin Feige’s mic drop of content from Hall H over the weekend, Phase Four of the MCU really isn’t messing around post Endgame. To be directed by Short Term 12 talent Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang-Chi and The Legend of Ten Rings will feature Simu Liu in titular role. In true MCU fashion, Liu apparently met with Feige and co. for another meeting last Tuesday and signed on Thursday, just in time for SDCC.
Joining Liu will be Infernal Affairs and Chungking Express alumni Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as the already much discussed Mandarin (for real this time). While the mantle was assumed by Ben Kingsley / Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3, Leung will be portraying the true megalomaniac. Rounding off the cast so far is Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina in a role currently undisclosed (more on that later). If the cast and direction wasn’t exciting enough, there’s more.
Matrix Trilogy, Scott Pilgrim, Spider-Man 2 and Baby Driver (to name a few) cinematographer Bill Pope has signed onto the project, along with Matrix Trilogy costume designer Kym Barrett. This is absolutely thrilling to me and I’m wholeheartedly here for the MCU embracing the Wushu / 70’s Kung-Fu flick spirit of Starlin and Englehart’s work. With a character literally titled the “Master of Kung-Fu”, I can only dream of how Pope will capture the action.
But just what exactly does the world of Shang-Chi entail?
Modelled originally after Bruce Lee himself, the character is the son of Dr. Fu Manchu, a creation by British author Sax Rohmer bought by Marvel after being declined to the rights to adapt 1972 TV show Kung Fu into a comic series. Manchu as has appeared countless times over the last five decades in various incarnations, with Christopher Lee / Peter Sellers and even Nicolas Cage assuming the role at one point in time. With the rights to Manchu acquired, Shang-Chi was created to be an unknown son of Manchu. Trained by his father to be a master assassin, Chi was eventually rebel from his father’s ways, leading to adventures with other Marvel warriors such as Iron Fist, Colleen Wing and White Tiger.
While story details are sealed inside the Marvel vault, a jump in point that they could well take is that of the Secret Empire storyline. Involving Hydra’s take over of the United States (similar beats having already being hit in The Winter Soldier), it is revealed Chi was held prisoner by Hydra and freed by an A.I Tony Stark. While the inclusion of Stark might be too soon post Endgame, it wouldn’t be surprising if another retcon ala Quentin Beck were to happen.
With a cast of colourful and zany characters accompanying him, it could be assumed that Awkwafina will be playing Fah Lo Suee, daughter of Manchu and master of deception. Known to take on false identities and aiding her father’s criminal activities, there is room for an interesting family dynamic between Chi, Suee and Manchu. While the character hasn’t had any major relevance into the modern comic landscape since the early 00’s, just like fellow JumpCut writer Jeff Zoldy pointed out with the Guardians of The Galaxy in his Eternals breakdown, the MCU will no doubt ensure the character is a household name long after February 2021.