There was a long gap without Marvel big-screen offerings at all, but that drought is now well and truly over with the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings following hot on the heels of the recent Black Widow.
The much-anticipated blockbuster brings some sorely needed Asian representation to the massively popular film franchise, with sitcom star Simu Liu (Kim's Convenience) portraying the eponymous martial arts expert.
He'll be joined by the likes of Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery) and Fala Chen (The Undoing), and he recently explained to RadioTimes.com that "it doesn’t get more fairy tale" than playing the lead role.
He also paid tribute to the film's stunt boss Brad Allan, who tragically passed away earlier this year, saying, "It was, you know, a huge shock to all of us. But he was such an incredibly dedicated director.
Keep scrolling for all your essential information on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, while you can also check out our guide to the Marvel movies in order as well as upcoming Marvel movies you should be aware of.
And if you've already seen the film, be sure to check out our explainer of the Shang-Chi post-credits scene, read out what Simu Liu has to say about the possibility of a Shang-Chi sequel, and find out all about the action sequences that were cut from the final film.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings release date
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released on 3rd September 2021, after being delayed twice due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
And indeed star Simu Liu revealed that at one point he was worried the film might not make it to cinemas at all due to the pandemic, telling RadioTimes.com, "We shut down our production in March, barely two months after we started shooting. There was definitely a time when we weren’t sure if, you know, we would finish making this movie.”
Thankfully they did finish – and the much-anticipated martial arts flick bcomes the second feature film in Marvel phase four, taking the baton from July's Black Widow and to be followed up by Spider-Man: No Way Home in December.
Unlike Black Widow, Disney has confirmed that Shang-Chi will not be available on Disney Plus Premier Access, and will instead be exclusive to cinemas for a shortened 45-day theatrical window, as opposed to the typical 90.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently said that the film will be “an interesting experiment for us” due to this new release strategy, but this comment attracted criticism from Shang-Chi star Simu Liu.
He tweeted: "We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the f**k up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US."
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige then addressed the tweet at the Shang-Chi premiere, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the controversy was the result of "a misunderstanding".
“[Liu] is not a shy man,” Feige said. "I think in that particular tweet you can see, and I think everyone does, a misunderstanding. It was not the intention.
"The proof is in the movie and we swing for the fences as we always do. With the amount of creative energy we put in and the budget, there’s no expense spared to bring this origin story to the screen.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings cast
Simu Liu will play the title role of Shang-Chi, who has previously been known in the comic books as the Master of Kung Fu, an expert martial artist trying to escape his past.
It should come as little surprise that Marvel has big things planned for the character, with producer Kevin Feige telling Extra that he will be reappearing "soon" in another project.
He said: "We know we have a success on our hands when we do a test screening and people come out and ask 'When are we gonna see Shang-Chi again?' or 'When are we gonna see the numerous other characters in this movie?' The answer is soon."
We'll also meet his formidable father, Wenwu, better known by his super villain pseudonym The Mandarin, who is set to be played by veteran actor Tony Leung, one of Asia's brightest stars.
"A character like Wenwu could have easily been a one-dimensional villain with no heart," Cretton told Entertainment Weekly. "Tony opened this character up [so] this is an antagonist who has a deep ability to love."
Meanwhile, comedy star Awkwafina (Nora From Queens) will play Shang-Chi's friend Katy, Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery) will play his aunt, Jiang Nan, while heavyweight boxer Florian Munteanu also stars as comic-book villain Razor Fist.
"She doesn't do a lot of the heavy lifting," Awkwafina told EW of her character Katy. "But at the end of the day, she has a real heart, and she has a loyalty and dedication to her friendship with Shang-Chi. She's super brave."
In April 2021, it was reported by Deadline that Dallas Liu (Pen15) had joined the cast of the film in an undisclosed role, joining Fala Chen, Meng'er Zhang and Ronny Chieng in the supporting cast.
In terms of cameos from established characters, Kevin Feige has confirmed that sorcerer Wong (Benedict Wong) and Hulk villain Abomination (Tim Roth) will be appearing in the film, with the two seen duelling in the second trailer.
“When Shang-Chi was happening, I was so pleased that it was happening but I was a little kind of crestfallen I wasn’t a part of it,” Wong told SYFY Wire. “Then the call [from Marvel Studios] came. And I was like, ‘Yes!’ You know, I’m super thrilled… to be sat at a table of Asian excellence, it was amazing.
"I’m a big fan of all of those artists. Tony Leung [Chiu-wai] is a massive idol of mine.”
This is Roth's first MCU appearance since 2008's The Incredible Hulk, with fans noting that the design of the Abomination has evolved considerably in the 13 years he's been away.
In August 2021, it was confirmed Ben Kingsley would be returning to the MCU in Shang-Chi, but it's currently unknown who he will play.
Shang-Chi comic book origin explained
Shang-Chi is a Chinese superhero who first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15, released in December 1973.
In the comics, he is a Chinese-American, born in the Honan province in China, who was trained in martial arts from infancy by his father Fu Manchu (who would later turn out to be evil).
He often teams up with fellow martial artist Iron Fist, though following the botched Netflix version of the character played by Finn Jones, it seems unlikely Danny Rand will make the crossover to the big screen anytime soon.
In this version of the story, Shang-Chi's villainous father will be classic Iron Man villain The Mandarin (Tony Leung), who has previously been referenced in Iron Man 3 via an imitator played by Ben Kingsley.
It seems the story will reimagine Shang-Chi as a man trained from childhood to be an assassin, but who declines to join his father's criminal empire as an adult.
"The most exciting thing about stepping into this character was that his backstory has never been told before," Liu told EW. "We know so many different versions of Batman's origin story, how his parents were murdered when he was very young. We know Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive spider, and he loses his uncle.
"Shang-Chi's story is very much unknown to most of the world, so we had a lot of freedom and creative liberty to make it the way that we wanted to."
In a red carpet chat with Variety, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige revealed that this film has been on the agenda for two decades and the team are thrilled that it's finally seeing the light of day.
He added: "It's important for people to be able to look up at the big screen – in a full crowd, hopefully – and see themselves represented. Everybody should have the opportunity to feel that."
Who plays Shang-Chi?
Canadian actor Simu Liu stars as the Master of Kung Fu in the upcoming film, previously known for his television roles in sitcom Kim's Convenience and horror series Slasher.
Liu was one of several actors in the running for the movie, including Power Rangers' Ludi Lin, and was reportedly confirmed for the role just days before his official unveiling at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.
Liu had previously lobbied Marvel Studios for the role on Twitter as early as 2014, a fact he shared once his casting had been confirmed.
Liu has revealed that long-term MCU star Tom Hiddleston – whose own show Loki aired shortly before the release of Shang-Chi – gave him some advice on how to handle joining such a massive franchise.
"I had a wonderful conversation with Tom Hiddleston the day that I was announced at Comic-Con," Liu told Variety. "And he was just so great. He's first of all just such a gentle human, the kind of perfect person to kind of just get your head straight.
"He was just like, 'You've got to enjoy it, you've got to just accept the good with all the other stuff, and just accept the fact that if you go on vacation somewhere to a random island, that people are still gonna know where you're from.
"That is how far-reaching and pervasive Marvel movies are."
Shang-Chi and Iron Man connection explained
Intriguingly, the eponymous Ten Rings refer to a classic Iron Man villain called The Mandarin, who used 10 mystical rings to give himself immense magical power and who faced off with Tony Stark many times in the comics.
In the first Iron Man movie, the Ten Rings were introduced as a terrorist organisation who abducted Robert Downey Jr's Stark to build missiles for them.
The Mandarin was later formally introduced as a menacing villain in Iron Man 3, portrayed by Ben Kingsley, before a shock twist revealed he was actually hopeless imitator Trevor Slattery.
At that time, Guy Pearce's super-powered Aldrich Killian claimed to be the "real" Mandarin, but a subsequent short film titled All Hail the King revealed that another version of the character was active in the MCU.
In the 15-minute short, Kingsley's Trevor was broken out of prison by the Ten Rings, who intend to take him to meet the one true Mandarin, who apparently isn't too pleased about the disrespectful impression.
It has now been confirmed that Kingsley will indeed be reprising his Trevor Slattery role in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, so we'll finally discover the outcome of that debacle.
In July 2021, a new promotional clip saw Feige explaining the history of the Ten Rings group in the MCU and hinting at their further involvement in Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings reviews
The reviews for Marvel's Shang-Chi are here and they paint a promising picture for excited fans, suggesting this will be another sturdy instalment in the ever-reliable Marvel Cinematic Universe.
RadioTimes.com awarded the film a four-star rating in our Shang-Chi review, describing it as "slick, funny and often heartfelt," with particular praise going to the family dynamic at the heart of the film.
That said, some criticism was directed towards the final battle which – in typical Marvel style – leans a tad too heavily on CGI spectacle and ultimately feels unsatisfying.
The movie has fared well on those all-important review aggregate sites, with a "certified fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a very respectable 71 on Metacritic, indicating "generally favourable reviews".
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An official teaser for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released in April 2021, showing off Liu's exciting action scenes (and plenty of character backstory) in what looks to be a battle-packed entry in the MCU. Check it out below.
A second trailer followed in June, showing more of the wider Shang-Chi world, which is now confirmed to include Hulk baddie the Abomination in a cage fight with Doctor Strange's Wong (Benedict Wong).
A shorter promo released in July delves deeper into the troubled relationship between Shang-Chi and his father, Wenwu, as well as giving us a better glimpse at the Ten Rings in action.
In August, Marvel Studios released a full clip from Shang-Chi, which sees the eponymous hero and his friend Katy escaping a skyscraper from some perilously high scaffolding.
And Marvel also released a featurette including insight from the cast and crew which you can check out below: