6:45 pm EDT, July 28, 2019

Who is Shang-Chi? Everything to know ahead of his MCU debut

At San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Marvel announced a premiere date for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in February 2021. But just who is Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings?

Marvel’s SDCC panel was full of details about their Phase Four plans, from casting announcements, a schedule for both their movie and television plans, and some big surprises. Not least was that Shang-Chi will be making his big-screen debut, and far sooner than anyone might have thought! With Simu Liu already cast in the titular role, and Hong Kong acting legend Tony Leung on board to portray the Mandarin, we thought we would give a breakdown of everything you need to know ahead of the movie.

Who is Shang-Chi?

Shang-Chi’s origins date back to late 1972. After Marvel failed to acquire the rights to the wildly popular television series Kung Fu from Warner Communications, they instead acquired the rights to Sax Rohmer’s pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi was then developed and introduced as a master of kung fu, and Fu Machu’s son — though the former was not aware of his villainous heritage.

Throughout his childhood, Shang-Chi was raised to be adept at both martial arts and philosophy, unaware that it was with the aim of him joining his father’s villainous operations as soon as he came of age. He, instead, was brought up to believe that Fu Manchu was a benevolent humanitarian and that everything he did was in aid of his mission of peace.

Shang-Chi later crosses paths with his father’s arch-enemy during a successful mission to assassinate Dr. James Petrie. Sir Denis Nayland Smith tells Shang-Chi the truth of his origins and his father’s history. After he corroborates Nayland Smith’s story with his birth mother, Shang-Chi defects, and after several encounters with MI-6 agent Black Jack Tarr and Nayland Smith, eventually becomes an ally of the British intelligence organization.

Later, along with Tarr, Nayland Smith, and several other allies, Shang-Chi forms Freelance Restorations, Ltd., an independent spy agency, and continues to go up against his father’s dastardly operations.

Marvel no longer owns the rights to Dr. Fu Manchu, or the supporting cast of characters of Sax Rohmer’s creation, so we should expect some deviation to happen from the above storyline — perhaps even substituting in Tony Leung’s Manadarin for Fu Manchu.

What are Shang-Chi’s powers?

Unlike the current trend of Marvel movies, Shang-Chi doesn’t have any magical or otherworldly powers. Much in the same way as Clint Barton — a.k.a. Hawkeye — he is human and has no enhancements, just a carefully honed skillset.

Shang-Chi is considered one of the greatest martial artists in the Marvel universe. Having dedicated most of his life to honing his martial arts skills, Shang-Chi has mastery over his chi, using it to surpass the boundaries that might limit him. Over the years, he has utilized those skills to dodge bullets and has deflected gunshots with his bracers. Shang-Chi is also highly adept with a number of hand-to-hand weaponry, including swords, staves, kali sticks, nunchaku, and shuriken.

Shang-Chi has also been a sought-after teacher of martial arts and kung fu for several Marvel heroes, including Spider-Man.

Who are the Ten Rings?

The Ten Rings have already been hinted at in the Marvel universe, with the introduction of the Mandarin — or a version of him — during Iron Man 3. Instead of being physical rings, as they were in the comics, the Ten Rings were instead made into a terrorist organization, which operated under the Mandarin’s command. Though Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was later revealed to have been a fake face to the name, both the Mandarin and the Ten Rings are very, very real, as evidenced in the Marvel short “All Hail the King.”

In the early Marvel comics, the Ten Rings are actual rings, each with their own unique power: Remaker, Influence, Spin, Spectral, Nightbringer, Daimonic, Incandescence, Lightning, Zero and The Liar. It was later revealed that the rings were alien technology hailing from the Makluan race. They often seek out hosts, or wearers, who most embody the traits of each individual ring — all of which have power over emotions and reality.

In Iron Man Annual Vol 1 #2001, each of the rings was described as follows:

  • Remaker “shatters and reimagines relationships on a subatomic level”
  • Influence “creates various forces that cause a body to undergo change”
  • Spectral “winds up and warps the air itself”
  • Nightbringer “creates malleable darkness”
  • Daimonic forms “the irresistible urge that propels into the unknown. The compulsive. Creates loyalty. Creates Obsession”
  • Incandescence “contains the miniature heart of a star and scorches the air before it”
  • Lightning “creates a directable electronic impulse”
  • Zero “opens a beam of nothingness from the icy heart of outer space”
  • Spin “decelerates time for the wearer”
  • The Liar “creates world upon illusionary world”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may yet introduce the actual rings of the Ten Rings, stemming from the criminal organization, in Shang-Chi, especially with Tony Leung signed on to play the Mandarin. We should expect that the MCU will twist the story once more from the expectations set up in Iron Man 3.

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