Shang-Chi trailer breakdown: 5 biggest moments, explained

From a Bruce Lee homage to an ominous foreshadowing to a giant dragon, here are five things we learned from the trailer to 2021’s coolest Marvel movie.

The Master of Kung Fu has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the first teaser trailer for the upcoming Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, out in theaters September 3, Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu) emerges out of hiding to confront his father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), the leader of an ancient terrorist organization called the Ten Rings.

But there’s oh so much more going on. Here are five huge things from the trailer to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and what they mean.

First, before we begin, let’s make sure you’ve watched the trailer — for the first time or the tenth time. Doesn’t matter, as long as you’ve seen it!

That’s the stuff. OK. Onto the biggest moments!

5. One Inch Punch

The trailer to Shang-Chi opens with an homage to martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

YouTube.com/Marvel Entertainment

From the top, Shang-Chi pays homage to martial arts film legend Bruce Lee with Shang-Chi imitating one of Lee’s most famous techniques, the One Inch Punch.

In 2018, Inverse reported that Stan Lee hoped Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, would play Shang-Chi in a film or TV project. The project never materialized beyond Lee’s wishes, and Brandon Lee died during filming of the 1994 superhero movie The Crow.

4. Wenwu and the Ten Rings

Tony Leung as “Wenwu” in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

YouTube.com/Marvel Entertainment

In the comics, Shang-Chi — a kung fu master created by Marvel writers Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin — was the son of literary villain Fu Manchu (from a time when Marvel had access to English author Sax Rohmer’s pulp universe). Over the years, Marvel sidestepped the use of Fu Manchu to create a semi-new villain, “Zheng Zu.”

In the MCU, another Chinese villain from Marvel Comics, the Mandarin — famously a nemesis of Iron Man — is being rewritten with Fu Manchu’s elements. The result is “Wenwu,” played by Hong Kong screen legend Tony Leung. Wenwu is the head of the Ten Rings, an ancient organization that’s existed in the MCU via Easter eggs in movies like Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 3 (2013), and Ant-Man (2015).

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, producer Jonathan Schwartz says Wenwu is a totally new character and that “the Mandarin” was only one of his many names. “I think people hear ‘the Mandarin’ and expect a very specific kind of thing, and that may not be the thing they're getting,” Schwartz said. “They're hopefully getting a more complex and layered take on the character than that name would lead you to.”

“This is not a ‘Luke, I am your father’ twist,” Kevin Feige told EW. “He knows who his father is, and he's decided to leave that world behind before he's pulled back into it.”

3. Razor Fist and Death Dealer

Razor Fist, played by Creed II actor Florian Munteanu, appears in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

YouTube.com/Marvel Entertainment

No superhero movie is complete without superhero fights. And Shang-Chi will deliver with at least two big muscles serving the Ten Rings and going after Shang-Chi. There is the bladed assassin “Razor Fist,” played by Florian Munteanu (who played Viktor Drago in Creed II), and the masked “Death Dealer,” whose actor is currently not publicly known. You can see an image of the Death Dealer below.

Both characters originate from Marvel’s original Master of Kung Fu comics. Both were created by writer Doug Moench, though artist Paul Gulacy collaborated on Razor Fist (in Master of Kung Fu #29) while the underrated Gene Day co-created Death Dealer in Master of Kung Fu #115.

While Razor Fist and Death Dealer serve as physical obstacles for Shang-Chi, the mystery of who is behind the mask of Death Dealer should be table-setting for a plot twist in the movie.

2. Jiang Li and a history of magic

“Death Dealer,” a mysterious antagonist from the comics, pursues Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

YouTube.com/Marvel Entertainment

Shang-Chi takes place in a contemporary, likely post-Blip world of the MCU. But littered throughout the trailer are instances of magic and a look into an ancient China when Wenwu most likely gained his mystical “Ten Rings.” (Which aren’t finger rings but ringed bracelets that Wenwu wears on his wrists. Again, see below.)

In the comics, the “Ten Rings” came from an alien spaceship that granted the Mandarin superpowers. But in the MCU, the Ten Rings may be more mystical in nature. The trailer includes several moments of an ancient war being waged with giant beasts, and it is in those scenes that the Ten Rings are actually being used. (At 1:03 in the official trailer.)

That’s not all. The character Jiang Li, played by Fala Chen, is seen in the trailer having an anime-like martial arts fight with none other than Wenwu himself. Making any speculation on her is difficult because Jiang Li is a completely new character invented for the film with not a trace of her anywhere in the comics. Who Jiang Li really is and what purpose she serves is a mystery. Could we be looking at Shang-Chi’s mother?

1. “You just woke up the dragon.”

The origins of the Ten Rings may be revealed in Shang-Chi.

YouTube.com/Marvel Entertainment

Hidden in the trailer, but more obvious when you isolate the music, is a line in the unidentified song’s lyrics: “You just woke up the dragon.” While the song is currently an unknown piece with an unidentified singer (I will personally flip out if it’s the Higher Brothers), the song does have lyrics that seem to summarize Shang-Chi and his world.

And the lyrics “You just woke up the dragon” could be a big foreshadowing to the awakening of the Great Protector, a giant dragon who may or may not be from the comics (Fin Fang Foom?) but will definitely have a place in Shang-Chi.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will hit theaters on September 3.

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