Shang-Chi, the kung fu Marvel superhero hitting the big screen in 2021, might be a little different than readers of the original Master of Kung Fu comics remember. In fact, Marvel Studios could surprise is with his biggest change yet.
In some mysterious leaks that came as an "exclusive" to a blog, plot details for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings paint a Shang-Chi who isn't the offspring of the main villain, and may participate in a tournament that's been described as "Marvel Mortal Kombat." But what do these changes mean for the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Here's everything we know about the leak, and how much we should believe them.
What leaks? — On Tuesday, FandomWire published alleged plot details of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Production on movie, scheduled for May 7, 2021, is currently paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but several weeks of shooting have been completed. So it's possible some plot details could have been leaked by the cast or crew.
FandomWire claims the story of Shang-Chi will introduce its title character (played by Simu Liu) who was raised in an orphanage run by the ancient terrorist the Mandarin (Tony Leung). The Mandarin runs this orphanage to train fighters and followers of his cult. A mystical martial arts tournament in which the winner is granted the power of the ancient "Ten Rings" is held, and the Mandarin forces Shang-Chi — now an adult who broke free of his influence — to fight and win the tournament in order to obtain the Ten Rings for himself.
FandomWire also reports that Awkwafina's role (thus far undisclosed) will be Fah Lo Suee, who in the comics was Shang-Chi's sister. "But in this new updated version," FandomWire writes, "Awkwafina will be playing the Mandarin's daughter, as well as a potential love interest for Shang-Chi." (Um, ew.)
Finally, FandomWire describes the tournament in Legend of th Ten Rings as "Marvel-infused Mortal Kombat" and "will have new characters from all corners of the MCU that include wizards, aliens, fighters, and well known comic book characters." The site claims to know a few but doesn't want to "spoil" them. It also claims that Shang-Chi has the power to clone himself, a relatively recent superpower Shang-Chi gained in the comics in 2013 (in Avengers #38).
The Big Change to Shang-Chi — Taking FandomWire's leaks at face value, it appears that Marvel is completely rewriting Shang-Chi.
In the original Master of Kung Fu comics, Shang-Chi was the son of Fu Manchu, the very same pulp villain created by novelist Sax Rohmer. (Because the rights to Fu Manchu reverted to the Rohmer estate, Marvel has replaced Fu Manchu with its own Yellow Peril-inspired villain, the Mandarin.) In discovering his father's villainy, Shang-Chi rebelled and escaped into the outside world, vowing to defeat his father and rid the world of his evil. In embarking on his journey, Shang-Chi developed allies in MI-6, who also sought to take down Fu Manchu.
Being the direct offspring of the bad guy has been Shang-Chi's defining story, like Luke Skywalker being the son of Darth Vader. It practically defines Shang-Chi's essence. It's the thing that compels him to venture outside and hone his fighting skills. But FandomWire's leaks reveal that the movie might rewrite Shang-Chi unrelated to the Mandarin, which will make it harder to predict some plot points because of its divergence from any previous Master of Kung Fu storyline.
The Inverse Analysis — It's may be unwise to put too much stock into these leaks, as there's one big contradiction to what we already know and is established about the movie: The Ten Rings.
In Iron Man, the Iron Man 3 short film All Hail the King (which confirmed the existence of a real Mandarin), and Ant-Man (via an Easter egg no one found until Kevin Feige pointed it out at San Diego Comic-Con), the Mandarin is the leader of the Ten Rings, a terrorist organization/cult who've laid dormant for years. Ten Rings are not another power source like the Infinity Stones, as FandomWire describes.
While FandomWire could still be right — the Ten Rings could be named after the power source and be on a mission to get it back — the leaks still contradict what we actually know about the Ten Rings in the MCU, all while raising some very weird questions about the rest of the movie.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released in theaters on May 7, 2021.