A Marvel Studios producer promises "the best action [Marvel has] ever done" when Simu Liu's master martial artist punches, kicks, and flips his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Under director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, Just Mercy) and supervising stunt coordinator Brad Allan (Rush Hour 3, Ninja Assassin, Kingsman: The Secret Service), the action-packed Shang-Chi draws inspiration from the wushu style of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and energetic Jackie Chan-starring action comedies when Shang-Chi squares off with the world's most dangerous assassins ruled over by his warrior-king father Wenwu (Tony Leung), also known as the feared Mandarin.
"I think this is the best action [Marvel has] ever done," Jonathan Schwartz, Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development and a co-producer on Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, told Entertainment Weekly. "Every punch is meaningful, every fighting style is meaningful, and the story is told visually in such a great way."
At the heart of Shang-Chi's flurry of kung fu action is an intimate and smaller-scale family drama grounded by the titular hero's relationships with his criminal father and his sister Xialing (Meng'er Zhang).
"The core of Shang-Chi's arc in the comics is really a family drama," Schwartz said. "That was something that Destin keyed into really early on in our conversations, the idea of taking this broken family and this really dark, even abusive family background and seeing what that does to a child over time."
The film's creators, including screenwriter Dave Callaham (Mortal Kombat, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2), have described Shang-Chi as a "modernized" portrayal that avoids Asian stereotypes when the "Master of Kung Fu" makes his MCU debut.
"When you look at the character of Shang-Chi through the comic books going back to the '70s and '80s, the fact that he existed and the fact that he was an Asian character was amazing," Liu told EW. "But at the same time, there are aspects of that portrayal of him that maybe could feel a little stereotypical. So when we first started to map out who this character was and what his journey was going to be over the course of this film, we were all very sensitive to not have it go into stereotypical territory."
Added Cretton: "Remember, the Asian culture is so diverse. I grew up in Hawaii, [and] Hawaiian food is like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hawaiian, Filipino, all mixed together. That is kind of what our crew was: It's like this big mix of Asian cultures coming together and responding to the script and [saying things] like, 'Oh, that doesn't feel quite right.' All of that helped contribute to what I think is a really beautiful update to what started in the comics a few decades ago."
Starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi's friend Katy, Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan, as well as fellow MCU newcomers Fala Chen, Meng'er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, and Ronny Chieng, Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releases only in theaters on September 3.