Shang-Chi is the moment. While Marvel’s rolling out three movies in 2021 (four if you count the Venom sequel), this one looks extra special — a superhero kung-fu movie with lots of fantasy, family drama, Awkwafina and, hey, holy smokes, is that a dragon?
Simu Liu, fresh off his complicated exit from Kim’s Convenience, takes on the mantle of Shang-Chi, a martial arts master trying to escape the legacy of his evil father. Tony Leung is Wenwu, a Marvel Comics villain known as the Mandarin. MCU die-hards may remember that Iron Man 3 introduced the Mandarin as a corporate puppet in a much bigger scheme. Evidently, the real Mandarin was out there all along, heading up a terrorist organization called the Ten Rings and being scarier than Ben Kingsley in a doofy accent.
We also get glimpses of Meng’er Zhang as Xialing, Chang-Chi’s sister; Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan; Fala Chen as Jiang Li; Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist; and a mystery actor as the Marvel character Death Dealer. Oh, and also, there’s that dragon which could be Marvel’s classic kaiju Fin Fang Foom. And we even get a glimpse of the Abomination, a character not seen in a Marvel movie since The Incredible Hulk back in 2008! Ahhhh, so much going on.
And at the helm of it all is Destin Daniel Cretton, who cut his teeth on excellent homespun drama like Short Term 12 and Just Mercy. Lately, Marvel’s been going all in on hiring directors who really know their way around intimate character moments, trusting the studio itself to handle the glitzy action sequences. That’s paying off pretty well, neatly mirroring the comic book method of getting a writer to handle plotting and dialog, while an artist takes care of the visual flair. We’ll see how this one plays out on September 3.