'Shang-Chi' Release Date, Actor, and Villains for Marvel's Landmark Movie

Shang-Chi in Marvel comics

We’re still processing Avengers: Endgame, but Marvel is already moving forward on production for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s of its Phase 4 movies. While much of the studios plan is shrouded in mystery, we do know about a few upcoming project, and that includes Shang-Chi. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Asian-led superhero film will hopefully be as much a landmark film as Black Panther was for black audiences back in February 2018.

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’s being cast as the lead actor and who the villains might be.

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 4 but a specific release date is still unconfirmed.

Phase 4 will begin after Spider-Man: Far From Home (out July 2, 2019) and presumably July 29, 2022. It looks to be comprised of eight movies released during some major movie-going weekend in the coming years. Those reserved dates are:

  • May 1, 2020
  • July 21, 2020 (previously August 7)
  • November 6, 2020
  • May 7, 2021
  • July 30, 2021
  • November 5, 2021
  • February 18, 2022
  • May 6, 2022

If we had to guess, based solely on the fact that we know casting on Shang-Chi has already begun, we’d say the likeliest release dates would be either May 7 or July 30 in 2021. Considering Shang-Chi will likely be an origin story and something wholly original in the MCU, it’s easy to envision a scenario where Marvel Studios would want to turn it into a big summer movie and let it thrive on that momentum.

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?

There’s no word on who will play the titular Shang-Chi yet, although the casting process has begun as of late May 2019. The GWW reported on these casting developments and included breakdowns for two characters who don’t appear to be Shang-Chi, but could be other lead characters.

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.”

Who Is the Villain in Shang-Chi?

There is no confirmation on who the villain of Shang-Chi is or who will play him.

There are plenty of villain options to choose from for Shang-Chi. In the comics, Shang-Chi has a long list of enemies, including Cat, Doctor Doom, and Namor. Kevin Feige has also confirmed that Iron Man 3 villain The Mandarin would come back.

However, if Shang-Chi is an origin story then chances are good the film’s villain will be his father, Fu Manchu. 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?

There are no details yet on when exactly Shang-Chi will take place in the context of the established MCU timeline. If it’s an origin story, then it might take place before the events of Avengers: Infinity War. If the film chooses to focus on Shang-Chi in full hero mode with flashbacks to his origins, then it’s possible the film will be set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, continuing forward in the timeline just like Far From Home will.

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 loses 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.

Media via Marvel.