'Shang-Chi' Release Date, Cast, and Villain for Marvel's Landmark Movie

So much Shang-Chi news was shared during SDCC 2019.

There wasn’t a wasted moment during Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con 2019 presentation and that includes when Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige turned everyone’s attention to Shang-Chi. During this portion of the Phase Four presentation, Feige revealed the film’s official title would be Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. That wasn’t the only news, though because Feige confirmed actors Tony Leung and Awkwafina would be joining the cast and director Destin Daniel Cretton introduced actor Simu Liu as the man playing Shang-Chi.

Originally created in 1972, Shang-Chi was a superhero conceived by Marvel during the height of interest in kung-fu films in America as popularized by actors like Bruce Lee. In the comics, Shang-Chi is an extremely skilled martial artist who was trained to be a villain but instead chose to fight for good. Proficient in weapons, marksmanship, various fighting techniques, and considered a strong ally by other Marvel heroes, it’s about time that Shang-Chi got a movie of his own.

Here’s everything we know about Shang-Chi, from the release date to the plot to who will play Shang-Chi, who will play the film’s villain, and when the film will be released.

Shang-Chi as seen in Marvel Comics
One version of Shang-Chi from the comics

When Is the Shang-Chi Release Date?

Shang-Chi will be released during the MCU’s Phase Four on February 12, 2021.

Phase Four begins with Black Widow, which will be released February 2020, and run through 2021. It will also include the four MCU shows headed to Disney+, including Hawkeye, WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki.

Who Is Directing Shang-Chi?

Destin Daniel Cretton was announced as Shang-Chi’s director in March 2019. Cretton was initially considered a surprise choice because a majority of his directing credits, to date, have been on indie or low budget films, with the exception of the Brie Larson/Woody Harrelson vehicle The Glass Castle.

But when you crunch the numbers on Cretton it becomes clear that he’s a solid choice for directing what will be another landmark film in the MCU. Cretton has written and directed nearly all of his feature-length films (I Am Not A Hipster, Short Term 12, The Glass Castle, and the upcoming Just Mercy). He has also earned acclaim for his directing choices, especially with Short Term 12, meaning he can not only lead the way on a film but he can lead it to success. Cretton also has a strong working relationship with Brie Larson and we’d bet that Larson may have put in a good word on his behalf for the Shang-Chi gig.

Shang Chi comics fight scene
Shang-Chi in fight mode

Who Will Play Shang-Chi?

As Marvel’s SDCC 2019 panel, it was confirmed that actor Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) would play Shang-Chi. As reported by Slashfilm, Liu told the SDCC 2019 crowd he had auditioned the Sunday before Comic-Con, was cast two days later on that Tuesday, and then was flown out to San Diego for the special announcement. It’s unknown who Liu beat out for the role but we’d love to know who the competition really was.

The first character being cast by Marvel is an Asian male, 40-60 years old, who is being described as “wise, old statesman,” and who is “the leader of his people.” The other character is an Asian actress in her 30s or 40s who is described as “one of the leader’s most skilled warriors.”

On that last note: that female character breakdown sure sounds a lot like Awkwafina, don’t you think?

Who Is the Villain in Shang-Chi?

The villain of Shang-Chi will be The Mandarin, played by Tony Leung. Previously in the MCU, a false Mandarin was introduced in Iron Man 3. That fake Mandarin was apprehended by the real Mandarin and his organization, the 10 Rings, so he could be removed and the real Mandarin later step into the limelight. Now, it seems the time is right for the real Mandarin to step forward.

The Mandarin has never been traditionally associated with Shang-Chi; he’s more of an Iron Man villain. The Mandarin and the 10 Rings will undoubtedly figure into Shang-Chi, it’s just a matter of how the enemies will be connected.

One option: Shang-Chi could retcon the relationship he has with his father, criminal overlord Fu Manchu, so that the Mandarin becomes his father but takes on Fu Manchu’s backstory. In the comics, Fu Manchu (based on the literary character created by author Sax Rohmer in 1916) is an immortal sorcerer and crime boss who raises Shang-Chi to be an extremely skilled fighter. Shang-Chi learns of his father’s criminal dealings and chooses to take down his empire piece by piece instead of fighting for him. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect set-up for a villain, then we don’t know what does.

What Is the Plot of Shang-Chi?

No plot for Shang-Chi has been confirmed yet. The film will most likely be an origin story since Shang-Chi has not been introduced or hinted at in previous MCU films.

Shang-Chi early version in comics
Don't mess with Shang-Chi.

How Will Shang-Chi Fit Into the MCU?

Shang-Chi will take most likely take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame but may feature flashbacks if the film goes the origin story route as a way to condense exposition. Otherwise, the film will most likely entirely be set after the defeat of Thanos.

It’s still unclear if there are any plans to incorporate other MCU superheroes into the Shang-Chi world. For now, Shang-Chi’s only connection to the rest of the MCU is through the inclusion of The Mandarin, who is (for the most part) an Iron Man villain.

Will Any Other Marvel Superheroes Show Up in Shang-Chi?

In the comics, Shang-Chi encounters tons of Marvel heroes and teams up with them from time to time. The biggest examples:

  • Shang-Chi briefly teamed up with Iron Fist
  • He joined Daredevil’s task force to help take down the Punisher
  • He helped train Spider-Man when he lost his spider senses
  • He fought alongside the Avengers
  • He teamed with the X-Men to fight Kingpin.

No plans or hints have made their way to the internet to confirm if any other superheroes who have appeared in past Marvel/Netflix shows or past Marvel Studios or Fox films. Even though Fox is now a part of the same corporate family as Marvel Studios, no plans have been made for Fox properties like The X-Men to crossover into MCU films, so it’s unclear if those streams would suddenly cross in Shang-Chi. That said, there could be Easter eggs or references to the wider superhero world in Shang-Chi, as it often the case in the MCU.


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be in theaters February 21, 2021.

Media via Marvel., Inverse