Each Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is important in terms of expanding the film franchise’s mythology, but the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is significant for an additional reason. Much like how 2018’s Black Panther was the MCU’s first Black-led move, Shang-Chi is the first MCU installment starring an Asian lead, with Kim’s Convenience star Simu Liu bringing the title character to life. However, before he was cast as Shang-Chi, Liu was actually almost disappointed that the martial arts extraordinaire was being brought to the big screen.
Simu Liu was officially announced as the MCU’s Shang-Chi at 2019’s San Diego Comic-Con, but the movie itself was first reported as being in development back in December 2018. Upon learning about this MCU project, Liu went online to research Shang-Chi, and he wasn’t jazzed about what he learned. As the actor put it to Men’s Health:
I was almost disappointed. I was like, how many opportunities do we have for Asian superheroes, and this one guy is, like, just a kung fu master? It just felt kind of reductive and, you know, not true to life and not anything that I could relate to.
Created in 1973 by Steve Engleheart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi capitalized on Bruce Lee’s popularity at that time, though between being the son of Fu Manchu (a problematic literary character) and speaking in broken English in his earliest appearances, those stories haven’t aged as well as other classic Marvel tales. Nevertheless, Shang-Chi has endured as a Marvel mainstay in the decades since, but Simu Liu was underwhelmed by Marvel Studios choosing a kung fu master as its first main Asian superhero rather than someone like Amadeus Cho or Namor the Sub-Mariner.
So what made Simu Liu change his mind about Shang-Chi? The more he read about the character, the more Liu realized that he actually shared a lot with Shang-Chi beyond what was shown on the surface. The actor explained:
I am that person that struggled with my identity my whole life. I am that person that’s always felt like he wasn’t enough. And those [experiences] are more core to Shang-Chi’s character than his ability to punch people.
All this isn’t to say that Simu Liu won’t take on another martial arts-related role anytime soon following Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as he acknowledged that this “wouldn’t be a good move.” However, given the MCU’s solid track record with popularizing more obscure characters, it’s logical to assume that Liu will be sticking around the franchise as Shang-Chi for some time, thus boosting his profile and broadening Shang-Chi’s fanbase. But beyond the MCU, Liu plans to work on something “that’s not distinctly Asian,” and he teased that we’ll see his name on projects he’s not acting in.
As far as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ story is concerned, the movie will follow our intrepid hero being pulled back into the Ten Rings organization by his father, Wenwu, a.k.a. the real Mandarin, played by Tony Leung. The movie’s cast also includes Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Fall Chen, Meng'er Zhang, Ronny Chieng and Florian Munteanu. Just Mercy’s Destin Daniel Cretton directed the feature and co-wrote the script with David Callaham and Andrew Lanham.
Following a few delays, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to come out on September 3. Find out what else the MCU is sending to theaters with our upcoming Marvel movies guide.