There's still over a year until Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters worldwide on February 2021. But some online rumors circulating geek media indicate some of the film's supporting characters, as well as some vague plot details that indicate what kind of Shang-Chi audiences will meet in the movie.
Taken as a whole, all these bits of rumors — and let's be clear here, they are unconfirmed rumors — indicate a very different introductory movie than fans come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
On Friday, popular Marvel leaker Charles Murphy wrote on his blog Murphy's Multiverse that the 2021 film Shang-Chi will include a handful of supporting characters from the classic Master of Kung Fu comics. Murphy writes the film will feature Leiko Wu, Clive Reston, and Black Jack Tarr. All three characters are agents for MI-6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service in the UK. All three assisted Shang-Chi in his fight against his father, Fu Manchu, in his popular Marvel comics books from the 1970s.
Murphy further claims to know the actor ages Marvel is looking for: Caucasian men between the ages of 45-50 for Clive Reston; Caucasian men between the ages of 30-49 for Black Jack Tarr; and Chinese women between 26-39 for Leiko Wu.
Additionally, Murphy offers some insight into the overall story of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He writes that the film will feature Shang-Chi already having worked for MI-6 but has since left the agency. Reston and Tarr are old friends of Shang-Chi, while Leiko Wu harbored romantic feelings for Shang-Chi but is now married Reston. Murphy says the studio has already cast actors for these characters, "though I was unable to get responses from representatives of several actors."
Taking Murphy at their word, all of this illustrates a different "origin movie" for Shang-Chi. While the film is his MCU introduction, it seems the movie will zip past Shang-Chi meeting and growing with his friends, à la Guardians of the Galaxy. That also means Shang-Chi has already defected from his father, the master criminal known as the Mandarin (played by Tony Leung) who rules the mysterious organization, the Ten Rings. So you can rule out that entire origin story being a predominant focus for the movie, and instead maybe see it condensed in a prologue or montage.
Once again, none of this information is confirmed by Marvel Studios. But knowing that Marvel is now in its twelfth year producing movies for this particular franchise, it's a wise decision to eschew the tired, familiar structure of the superhero origin story, as seen in movies like 2016's Doctor Strange and as recently as 2019's Captain Marvel.
Still, it will be interesting to see if Marvel can pull off an introductory superhero movie without the introduction part; unlike other first-time solo movies, like 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming and 2018's Black Panther, Shang-Chi did not make his first appearance in an ensemble movie. Unless there are surprises in store for WandaVision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+, Legend of the Ten Rings will be everyone's first time getting to know Shang-Chi. And if Marvel does its job right, he'll already feel like an old friend.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will open in theaters on February 12, 2021.