The teaser trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is here and it is a short, beautiful pastiche of homages to classic Asian cinema ranging from Bruce Lee to Keanu. This is our first glimpse of Simu Liu in action as Shang-Chi and I am an even 50/50 on this teaser. There is a LOT that I like, but it also feels like Marvel is SUPER coasting on their reputation. Like, they’ve earned it, no argument, but you have to earn your audience every time out, you can’t take it for granted. Shang-Chi is not a character widely known outside of fairly hardcore comic fans, and the last time the MCU saw or even heard of the Mandarin, it was through Ben Kingsley’s fake-out character in Iron Man 3, a film that is eight years old. I know it’s just a teaser and they’re just trying to impart the flavor of the film, but I also wonder how the casual viewer is supposed to understand anything that is happening here.


But that is where the pastiche kicks in, because if you’re even remotely familiar with the broad strokes of Asian action cinema—which thanks to years of Hollywood cribbing notes, everyone kind of is whether they realize it or not—you can see shades of everything from Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu classics to Crouching Tiger and even a pretty sharp nod to Keanu and Speed. Shang-Chi himself may remain mysterious, but you DEFINITELY recognize this type of film. And it looks great! Simu Liu started out as a stunt performer before landing acting roles (most notably on the recently ended Kim’s Convenience), and that background really shows in his physicality. There is no trickery here, that is CLEARLY Simu Liu in the fight scenes. Having an actor that can do so much of the action makes a huge difference in how those scenes can be staged and photographed (see also: John Wick), and you can immediately tell the difference. Rarely has action in Marvel movies looked so clean and sharp and graphic, as in visual, not just punchy-kicky, as it does here. 


Shang-Chi comes from director Destin Daniel Cretton, who is best known for sensitive dramas like Short Term 12, The Glass Castle, and Just Mercy, and maybe we’ll get to see some of those roots, too, because underneath the fists of fury seems to be a story about a father and a son and generational disappointment. The ageless and peerless Tony Leung appears as the Mandarin—the real one this time—who trained Shang-Chi as a child so that he “could not be killed”. (Training someone NOT to be killed is vastly different than training them to kill, interesting the Mandarin draws that distinction.) He then gave Shang-Chi a ten-year break to “live his life”, but it seems all Shang-Chi has achieved is wage work and some Insta snaps with his friends (including the irrepressibly charming Awkwafina). I don’t think Daddy Mandarin will be super happy about that.



The crux of the troubled father-son relationship seems to be that Shang-Chi isn’t interested in rejoining the Mandarin’s organization of baddies, and THAT is where I expect to see Cretton’s deft touch with difficult family relationships. If Shang-Chi can thread the needle between the action stuff and that family drama hinted at here, it could be a good, maybe even great, first film for a new hero in the MCU. Honestly, I am just wishing good things for Simu Liu, who Secreted his way into the MCU, and now the teaser for his Marvel movie is dropping on his birthday. Whew, what a gift.