Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four Re-Watch. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

It’s been a year since I last did a rewatch, ending Phase Three with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that the Infinity Saga is over and Thanos has turned to dust, our surviving heroes have moved on… with various degrees of success. Phase Four incorporates both cinematic releases and television programs. For the television programs, I am limiting each article to three episodes each

Title:  Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Director:    Destin Daniel Cretton

Writer:    Destin Daniel Cretton, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham, 

US Release Date: September 3, 2021 

Characters created by: Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom, Jim Starlin, Sax Rohmer, Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, Phillip Tan, Stan Lee, Don Heck, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Roy Thomas, and Gene Colan

Returning characters: Wong, Trevor Slattery, Emil Blonsky, Bruce Banner, Carol Danvers, and Helen

Budget: $150–200 million

Box office:$432.2 million

Summary:  Around a thousand years ago, Xu Wenwu discovers the mystical ten rings which grant immortality and godly powers. He establishes the Ten Rings organization, conquering kingdoms and toppling governments throughout history. In 1996, Wenwu searches for Ta Lo, a village said to harbor mythical beasts. He travels through a magical forest to the village entrance but is stopped by a guardian, Ying Li. The two fall in love, and when the Ta Lo villagers reject Wenwu, Li chooses to leave with him. They marry and have two children, Shang-Chi and Xialing. Wenwu abandons his organization and locks away the ten rings.

When Shang-Chi is seven years old, Li is murdered by Wenwu’s enemies, the Iron Gang. Wenwu dons the ten rings once again, massacres the Iron Gang, and resumes leadership of his organization. He makes Shang-Chi undergo brutal training in martial arts but does not allow Xialing to train with the others, prompting her to secretly teach herself. When Shang-Chi is 14, Wenwu sends him to assassinate the Iron Gang’s leader. After completing his mission, a traumatised Shang-Chi runs away to San Francisco and adopts the name “Shaun”.

In the present day, Shang-Chi works as a parking valet with his best friend Katy, who does not know about his past. They are attacked on a bus by the Ten Rings, who steal a pendant that Li gave to Shang-Chi.

Shang-Chi flies out to meet his sister, fearing that the Ten Rings will go after her matching pendant. He reveals his past to Katy, who insists on helping him. They find Xialing at a secret fight club in Macau, which she founded after escaping from Wenwu at sixteen. The Ten Rings attack the fight club, and Wenwu arrives to capture Shang-Chi, Katy, Xialing, and her pendant.

They are taken to the Ten Rings’ compound, where Wenwu uses the pendants to reveal a mystical map leading to Ta Lo. Wenwu explains that he has heard Li calling and believes she has been held captive in Ta Lo behind a sealed gate. He plans to destroy the village unless they release her. When his children and Katy object, he imprisons them. The three meet former actor Trevor Slattery, whom the Ten Rings imprisoned for impersonating Wenwu, and his hundun companion Morris, who offers to guide them to Ta Lo.

The group escapes and goes to Ta Lo, which exists in a separate dimension with various Chinese mythological creatures. They meet Ying Nan, Li’s sister, who explains the history of Ta Lo: thousands of years ago, the universe containing the village was attacked by the soul-consuming Dweller-in-Darkness and its soul eaters, but was saved by a Chinese dragon called the Great Protector who helped seal the Dark Gate to the Dweller’s world. According to Nan, the Dweller-in-Darkness has been impersonating Li so that Wenwu will use the ten rings to open the Gate. Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy join the villagers in training and preparing for Wenwu’s arrival, using outfits and weapons crafted from dragon scales.

Wenwu and the Ten Rings arrive and attack. Wenwu overpowers Shang-Chi, pushes him into the nearby lake, and attacks the Gate with the rings. The act allows some of the Dweller’s soul eaters to escape, and the Ten Rings join forces with the villagers to fight them. The Great Protector revives Shang-Chi and bears him from the lake to battle the soul eaters.

Wenwu and Shang-Chi fight once more, and Shang-Chi gains the upper hand but chooses to spare Wenwu. The Dweller-in-Darkness escapes the weakened Gate and attacks Shang-Chi. Wenwu saves Shang-Chi, bequeathing him the rings before the Dweller-in-Darkness kills him. Shang-Chi, the Great Protector, Xialing, and Katy slay the Dweller-in-Darkness. Afterward, Shang-Chi and Katy return to San Francisco, where the sorcerer Wong summons them to Kamar-Taj.

In a mid-credits scene, Wong introduces Shang-Chi and Katy to Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers while researching the rings’ origin. They discover that the rings are acting as a beacon to something. In a post-credits scene, Xialing becomes the new leader of the Ten Rings, training women alongside men, despite having told Shang-Chi that she would disband the organization.

Changes from the Comics: Wenwu is a combination of multiple characters. In the original comics, Shang-Chi was the son of Dr. Fu Manchu, which was a character created by novelist Sax Rohmer. Marvel had the licensing rights to the character at the time, but later lost it. They renamed the character Zheng Zu. None of these comics from the 1970s are available on Marvel Unlimited.

The character of The Mandarin was a frequent opponent of Iron Man, and his source of power comes from Ten Rings that he adapted from a crashed alien ship. In the comics, each ring has a different power and is worn on a specific finger.  In this film, the rings were revised to be Hung Gar iron rings worn on the forearms (five on each arm). These rings are traditionally used in martial arts training to strengthen the arms/fists. Both characters are regarded as negative Asian stereotypes.

In the film Iron Man 3, the Mandarin was the principal antagonist, however an actor named Trevor Slattery who was impersonating Wenwu in order to distract from Adrian Killian’s illegal activities. In the short All Hail the King, Slattery is kidnapped by Wenwu’s men to punish him for abusing the organization’s name. Wenwu also states that he really never used the name “Mandarin.”

Easter Eggs: Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing runs the Golden Daggers club in Macau. In the comics, the Golden Daggers were a criminal organization led by Shang-Chi’s sister (who was named Zheng Bao Yu in the comics), who established them as a rival empire to her father’s.The ten rings were created by the Makluan alien race, and each contains the soul of a long dead Cosmic warrior, director Destin Daniel Cretton has hinted the “beacon” mentioned in the mid credit scene is summoning the Makluan race for a future MCU appearance.

MCU Connections: A few MCU characters appear at the underground fight club, including Wong, Emil Blonsky, Helen, one of the Black Widows from the Red Room, and a fighter enhanced with the extremis treatment Iron Man 3. Wong later appears with Bruce Banner, whose arm is still in a sling after injuring himself using the Infinity Stones, and Carol Danvers. A poster is scene advertising services related to the Blip

My take: There is something refreshing about a character who just wants to hang out with his friend and sing karaoke. I also like the idea of antagonist who tries to change his ways, but tragedy causes him to despair and revert back, to his old self, making him a much more interesting character. The action scenes were well done and it had the right amount of humor

Next: Eternals