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Film / Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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Spoilers for all Marvel Cinematic Universe works preceding it, specifically Iron Man 3, All Hail the King, and Avengers: Endgame, will be left unmarked.

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"You can't outrun who you really are."
Xu Wenwu: I always know where my children are. I gave you ten years to live your life. And where did that get you? Now it's time for you to take your place by my side.
Xu Shang-Chi: That's not going to happen.
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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a 2021 superhero/martial arts film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and written by David Callaham, based on the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi. It is the 25th theatrical film and the 29th overall entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the sixth installment of Phase 4.

The film introduces Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a skilled Chinese martial artist who's tried to create a normal life for himself in San Francisco. He finds himself forced to confront his past once his father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung) - the mythical basis of Aldrich Killian's "Mandarin" persona - tries to draw him back into his criminal organization, the Ten Rings, named after the magical combat artifacts he owns.

The cast also includes Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Ronny Chieng, Fala Chen, and Florian Munteanu. The film released exclusively in theaters on September 3, 2021, making it the first Phase 4 installment not to debut on Disney+ in any capacity. The film originally had a 45-day theatrical window before arriving on post-theatrical platforms, but the window apparently expanded when Disney+ announced that they would add it as part of a Milestone Celebration for the platform on November 12, 2021.

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Previews: Teaser, Trailer


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings provides examples of:

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    Tropes A to D 
  • Abled in the Adaptation: Razorfist in the comics has blades on both arms, which makes him incapable of doing anything other than fighting. In the film, he only has one blade arm, which leaves him a hand to do more mundane tasks out of battle. If he needs to fight two-handed, he'll just pick up a second weapon.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change: The Mandarin's rings are shown to work differently here than in the comics. In the comics, they are ten finger-rings each with their individual powers such as fire, ice, Black Light, wind, etc. In the movie they are ten arm-sized bracelets (probably to avoid similarities to the Infinity Gauntlet) and grant Super Strength, Immortality, Hand Blast powers, transformed into a whip, Explosion Propulsion for large leaps and called back after being fired at your enemy.
  • An Aesop: A twofer: Whether you like it or not, you are a product of both your parents. Shang-Chi must come to grips with this in order to save the day. This is best exemplified when he spends most of the film fighting like his father. It works against Mooks. But does little against Wenwu and The Dweller In Darkness. It isn't until he starts fighting like his mother (with some encouragement from his aunt) that he's able to beat his father, as well as Dweller In Darkness, and win the day. Also, while mourning a loved one who has died is acceptable, don't let that grief overcome you. Wenwu learns this the hard way when his attempts to bring back his wife nearly bring about The End of the World as We Know It via the soulless ones and their leader the Dweller-in-Darkness.
  • Affectionate Nickname: In a flashback, Li calls her daughter, Xialing, "Ling-Ling".
  • Age Lift: The comic book Mandarin was born in the 19th century, and Zheng Zu/Fu Manchu in the 18th. Xu Wenwu is a thousand years old.
  • All Part of the Show: Trevor recalls to Shang-Chi and Xialing that he thought that the gig he landed was to play a terrorist. He only later found out that his employer, Killian, actually was a terrorist, "and I wasn't playing a character at all, but what I now recognize to be a rather unflattering portrait of your father."
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The design of Morris, the faceless footstool with wings, can come across as a marketing ploy to sell more toys... if you don't know that hundun are an established part of Chinese mythology.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Bruce Banner appears in the first stinger with his right arm still in a sling but otherwise having returned to his human form again. What happened to his merged form with the Hulk from Avengers: Endgame isn't elaborated on.
    • It is not entirely clear from the second stinger whether Xialing is dismantling, reforming, or simply taking control of the Ten Rings.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: It is never made clear when in the MCU timeline the film takes place. Word of God confirms that the film takes place in the “present day of the MCU timeline”, putting it after Avengers: Endgame, which ended in 2023, further proved by the Blip getting a handful of references. But no reference is made to the events of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, or Spider-Man: Far From Home, making Shang-Chi's placement in regards to those installments unclear.note  Adding to the ambiguity, during the mid-credits scene, while Bruce's arm is in a sling like at the end of Endgame, he's somehow back to his human form instead of his Professor Hulk form, and Carol's hair is longer, not like the short haircut she had in Endgame.
  • Ancient Evil: The Dweller-in-Darkness, an Eldritch Abomination sealed away millennia ago.
  • And Starring: The poster's cast roll ends "with Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung". The film's credits add "with Ben Kingsley".
  • Antagonist Title: The second half of the title refers to the Ten Rings, the terrorist organization led by the Mandarin.
  • Anti-Villain: The movie manages to make the freaking Mandarin of all people into this. At the end of the day, Xu Wenwu is ultimately a very old man mourning the loss of his wife and his grief has allowed him to be manipulated by the Dweller-in-Darkness. He even performs a Heroic Sacrifice at the end to help Shang-Chi defeat the Dweller-in-Darkness.
  • Apathetic Citizens: During the battle on the bus, the citizens do absolutely nothing to help themselves or their situation, no-one calls the police or even alerts the driver to stop the bus, they just watch as a woman is assaulted and a man is almost killed in front of them. One passenger is even nonchalantly recording the whole thing as part of his livestream.
  • Appropriated Appelation: Xu Wenwu actually finds it rather funny that the American Government was almost toppled out of fear of a pretender naming himself after "a chicken dish and a piece of fruit", and has accepted (or at least tolerates) Mandarin as one of his numerous aliases acquired over his long life.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Shang-Chi's father is Xu Wenwu, who wants his son to rejoin him in the Ten Rings, while Shang-Chi wants none of it. While Xu Wenwu at most comes to view Shang-Chi as a speedbump to his end goal of bringing back his wife, Shang-Chi comes to decide to kill him because he blames his father for his mother's death.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Discussed. Katy says that usually, she would say Wenwu is delusional and needs therapy for believing that his dead wife is speaking to him, but given that she just saw a carving of a dragon magically create a map out of water, she has no idea what's normal or not.
  • Arc Number: 10. There's the Ten Rings and the ten years that Shang-Chi was allowed to live in San Francisco.note 
  • Armor-Piercing Question: While fighting his father, Shang-Chi asks that if he could bring his mother back, "would she want anything to do with" him now. Xu Wenwu responds by punching Shang-Chi so hard he fell into the water.
  • Artistic License – Cars: It's pretty much impossible for a bus to runaway with its (air)brake lines cut. The constant air pressure in the brake system is the only thing keeping the massive springs in each wheel from locking the brakes. If there's still enough pressure to keep the brakes from "dynamiting", then there's enough pressure for the brake pedal to work.
  • Artistic License – Sports: Once Shang-Chi doesn't recognize Katy's boast of being "the Asian Jeff Gordon", she replies he's the winningest NASCAR driver. Gordon actually ranks third, over 100 behind leader Richard Petty.
  • Asian Lion Dogs: Two flesh-and-blood versions fight alongside the human villagers in Ta Lo, wearing dragonscale collars.
  • Ass Kicking Pose: Shang-Chi makes such a pose inside a bus before tearing through four Ten Rings Mooks.
  • Atrocious Alias:
    • After his fight on the bus goes viral, Jon Jon introduces Shang-Chi at the fight club with the moniker "Bus Boy".
    • When discussing AIM's appropriation of the Ten Rings during Iron Man 3, Wenwu openly points out the ridiculousness of them naming their figurehead, intended to be a stand-in for himself, the Mandarin. He casually scoffs at the fact that the American government was nearly brought down by a false terrorist that shared his name with a piece of fruit.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The Dweller-in-Darkness's weak point is its massive throat that glows purple as it gains power through collected souls. Piercing it makes it greatly vulnerable.
  • Badass Driver: Both Shang-Chi and Katy, who picked up those skills as valet drivers. They manage to steer a runaway bus through the hilly San Francisco streets with minimal casualties, and later, Katy maneuvers their car through the tree maze, driving at full speed and taking hard turns.
  • Badass Family: Ying Li, along with her sister, her husband, her son, and her daughter, are all master martial artists.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: After Shang-Chi agonizes about how to dispatch his Archnemesis Dad for much of the film, the Ancient Evil Dweller-in-Darkness does the work for him by feeding on Wenwu's soul.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Due to Shang-Chi putting on a dress shirt and tie, we are led to believe that Shang-Chi is the man exiting a flashy sports car in the beginning of the movie. However, once the camera pans out, we see that it's actually some random dude while Shang-Chi is actually his valet. (There's a bit of Five-Second Foreshadowing in that the rich dude is not wearing a tie and his collar is unbuttoned.)
    • We’re lead to believe that Wenwu and the Ten Ring’s intentions with Shang-Chi, Xialing, and their pendants were nefarious. His intentions turn out to be a (misguided) attempt at being a fair father - he just told his men to screw with them.
    • At the fighting ring, Jon Jon points to the Abomination and Wong squaring off. The camera focuses on the Abomination, who has an edge at the moment, so Jon Jon seemingly has a strong preference for him before declaring that he always bets on Asians, referring to Wong.
    • The second Stinger has Xialing in her room, taking down items, seemingly clearing up after shutting down the Ten Rings. Then Razor Fist and Jon Jon lead her into what appears her old club... and then it turns out she's taken over the Ten Rings headquarters to restart it.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A flashback reveals that Ying Li died fighting numerous members of the Iron Gang, who had grievances against the Ten Rings, but she sustained no visible injuries.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Invoked by Shang-Chi in his Calling the Old Man Out speech.
    Shang-Chi: You trained your son to be a killer. Is this what you wanted?!
  • Behemoth Battle: The film climaxes with a fight between the Great Protector, a giant water dragon, and the Dweller-in-Darkness, an even larger monster that looks like a cross between a dragon and an octopus.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Xu Wenwu is the most prominent and personal threat of the film, responsible for Shang-Chi and Xialing’s warped childhoods due to his grief over the loss of his wife. In the present day he hunts his children down so he can return to Ta Lo and wipe out the village, believing that they've trapped Li. The Dweller-in-Darkness is the greater threat to the world at large, tricking Wenwu into releasing it by posing as his wife before escaping to continue feeding on souls near the end of the climax.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The subtitles for the many Mandarin Chinese scenes do a serviceable enough of a job translating the gist of what's being said but often times miss out on the subtlety or cultural connotations of metaphors.
    • Shang-Chi and his sister Xia Ling's names. "Shang" and "Xia" are homophones (same sound different Chinese characters) of "up" and "down", respectively, in Chinese.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Katy admits her Mandarin is not great, and responds in English when people speak to her in it. This is in contrast to Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Wenwu who are fluent in both and often switch between them.
  • Blow You Away: The Great Protector bestows members of Ta Lo with the power to move air. Ying Li uses gusts of wind during the confrontation between her and Wenwu to knock him around, and her sister Ying Nan uses similar techniques (including swirling leaves) while demonstrating to Shang-Chi.
  • Bookends: Near the beginning of the film, Shang-Chi and Katy get drunk and sing karaoke together rather than rest up for the night. In the mid-credits stinger, they do it again, with the added bonus of Wong joining in.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: While in a high-speed chase out of the Ten Rings compound, Shang-Chi's group approach a heavy gate that requires a hand scan on the dashboard to open. They grab a downed Ten Rings mook and press his hand on the scanner in time, opening the gate, and then press the "close" button so the car tailing them crashes into it.
  • Brick Joke: Shaun's telling of how he and Katy met has her coming up to some jock who looked like he was about to beat the stuffing out of Shaun and started singing "Hotel California" until he backed off in confusion. Later, when the pair are attacked by the Ten Rings and she finds herself facing a ninja, she starts doing the same thing. The ninja pauses for a moment but then nearly throws her off the building. The-mid credits stinger ends with her, Shang-Chi, and Wong in a karaoke bar singing "Hotel California".
  • Brought Down to Badass: Ying Li is forced to give up her supernatural powers when she marries Wenwu. She's still an expert martial artist capable of handling multiple opponents.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The Iron Gang was well aware of how dangerous Wenwu is given he nearly destroyed their organization, but emboldened by his retirement they decided to get revenge by killing Ying Li. Wenwu's response was to systematically hunt down and slaughter the gang over the next decade.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • The Ten Rings make their first major appearance in the MCU since All Hail the King, with their leader the Mandarin having a main role in the movie.
    • Abomination has returned fighting in an illegal underground tournament, after his last appearance all the way back in 2008's The Incredible Hulk.
    • Trevor Slattery reappears for the first time since All Hail the King.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: The Big Bad of the movie is an ancient Sealed Evil in a Can who attempts to get out by pretending to be a would-be-releaser's deceased loved one. The guy who finally pulls it off naturally suffers a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness fate.
  • Call-Back: Wenwu mentions how his image had inspired the creation of the Mandarin who nearly toppled the American government a decade ago. Later, Shang-Chi, Katy and Xialing encounter the actor who portrayed said Mandarin, Trevor Slattery; he proceeds to recap his personal tale, including how the man who hired him to become the Mandarin was killed by Iron Man (though technically it was Pepper who finished Killian off) and how he eventually was broken out of jail by the Ten Rings themselves.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Par for the course with a film about an Archnemesis Dad. The most notable is in the climax, when Shang-Chi screams at Wenwu for putting the Ten Rings above his own children after their mother's death, saying that he neglected them when they needed him most.
  • The Cameo:
    • Wong and the Abomination appear as fighters in Xialing's fighting ring, in what seems to be a prearranged fight. The fighting ring also features an Extremis user and a Black Widow among their fighters.
    • Wong then returns for the mid-credits stinger accompanied by Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner.
  • Canon Foreigner: A few characters such as Katy Chen and Jon Jon have no counterparts in the comics and were specifically created for the film.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • At the end of the movie, Shang-Chi and Katy are regaling their adventure to a couple of drinking buddies, who assume they're taking the piss; it takes Wong conjuring a portal in the middle of the bar and addressing the pair by name for their story to pass.
    • The people of Ta Lo try to warn Xu Wenwu that he's being deceived and opening the gate will only lead to ruin. Because he still holds a grudge against them for refusing to let him live with them, he doesn't listen.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In Shang-Chi's room is a poster for Kung Fu Hustle, where Yuen Wah had a major role as the Landlord of Pig Sty Alley. Yuen plays Ta Lo resident Guang Bo in this film.
  • Celestial Deadline: The way to Ta Lo is through a path in a bamboo grove that only forms one day every year. However, there are numerous much smaller pockets moving around the maze, so a knowledgeable Ta Lo resident can get in without waiting for that day.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Xialing abandons her brother when the Ten Rings have found them. She returns just in time to save Katy. When Shang-Chi complains about it, she responds that now he knows how she felt.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The first MCU entry to feature this title format. Shang-Chi is the name of the character, the noun phrase is Legend of the Ten Rings.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in the bus sequence, there's a shot with a fire extinguisher on a pole. When Shang-Chi's at the driver's seat trying to fend off Razor Fist and steer the bus at the same time, Katy runs up with the fire extinguisher and wallops Razor Fist with it.
    • During dinner, Wenwu brings up how his character was used by western terrorists as a front for their agenda, naming their version of Wenwu "the Mandarin". When Shang-Chi and the others are imprisoned, they encounter Trevor Slattery, the man who portrayed the Mandarin.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: We first see Wong in the fight club and at first it seemed more like a brief cameo than anything else... then he comes over to bring Shang-Chi and Katy over for the mid-credits scene.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Katy's Badass Driver credentials have quite a few uses, from getting the bus under control after the bus driver is downed, to getting into Ta Lo.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Trevor Slattery, especially since he does not seem to have the excuse of being drunk this time. He genuinely believed that the actors in Planet of the Apes were trained apes.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Of the many names that Wenwu has had over his lifetime, he points out that the Mandarin was not one of them. When Aldrich Killian appropriated the Ten Rings to cover up his experiments, he invented the Mandarin name because he didn't know Wenwu's true identity.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Trevor asked his mother how the "monkeys" in Planet of the Apes could ride horses, she explained that it wasn't real, and they were just actors. He interpreted this as meaning that the monkeys couldn't really ride horses, but they could act as if they were.
  • Company Cross References:
    • Shang-Chi and Katy can be briefly seen singing karaoke to "A Whole New World". Both Aladdin and the MCU are Disney properties.
    • Trevor Slattery mentions watching Planet of the Apes as a young boy. The Planet of the Apes franchise was acquired by Disney with their purchase of 20th Century Fox.
  • Composite Character:
    • Xu Wenwu combines elements of the comics' Mandarin (the ten rings) with the Marvel version of Fu Manchu (Shang-Chi's father).
    • The "heart of the dragon"/Hidden Elf Village elements of Shang-Chi's origin seem to have been borrowed from Iron Fist.
  • Conflict Killer: Once the demons arrive and start stealing souls, the Ten Rings and Ta Lo warriors quickly put an end to their battle to face the greater threat. The fact said demons can easily shrug off the Ten Rings weaponry helps.
  • Confusion Fu: Katy once interrupted a fight Shang-Chi was about to start by jumping in between him and the adversary singing "Hotel California", which she says "has a great effect on idiots". She tries it again when cornered by a Ten Rings goon, but it doesn't work long.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • There is a mention of how they live in a world where "half the population can suddenly vanish", and a bulletin board has an ad for post-Blip depression.
    • The man livestreaming Shang-Chi's fight inside the bus is the same guy who shouted "Do a flip!" while filming Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
    • In one of the cages at the fighting ring, a Black Widow is fighting a man who took Extremis.
    • When Wong opens a portal to the Abomination's prison, there appears to be a glass cage on the other side similar to the ones built to contain the Hulk in The Avengers.
    • In The Stinger, a very-much human Bruce Banner is still wearing a sling on the arm he used to snap the Nanotech Gauntlet.
    • The idea that actual physical dragons exist in the modern MCU, sometimes take on the task of protecting small human communities, and can bestow magical powers on others through their own hearts, were all established in Iron Fist.
  • Creative Closing Credits: As is Marvel tradition. This time, the credits take the form of flowing water reshaping itself in the form of various scenes and characters from the movie.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Sparing your enemy's children, while noble, really is going to backfire on you when your still living enemy has a thousand years of experience on how to train them into an assassin to get revenge.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: The four notes of dies irae are very prominent in Wenwu's theme. Possibly an allusion to Iron Man 3, which also used the notes for Slattery's Mandarin persona.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Ying Li was by all accounts a warm and loving mother to her children, Shang-Chi and Xialing. While Wenwu gave up his criminal empire to be a husband and father for the first seven years of Shang-Chi's life, after Ying Li's death, he rebuilt the Ten Rings and put his son through brutal training regimen to become a killer. Shang-Chi and Xialing have nothing but good to say about their mom and are wary at best and hateful at worst of their dad.
  • Disappointing Older Sibling: Xialing is pretty pissed that she waited years for her older brother to return after he promised to return after three days only to realize he'd abandoned her.
  • Disposable Pilot: Averted. During the fight scene on the bus, the driver is knocked out during the chaos, but he's later seen back on his feet and completely okay.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The "Legend of the Ten Rings" title allude to not only the terrorist organization that Xu Wenwu / the Mandarin leads in the MCU, as well as the powered rings that he wears on his arms. The end of the film implies that for the first time ever, the two are separately wielded by brother and sister, Shang-Chi having the physical rings and Xialing running the organization.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Katy initially seems this way, but actually knows how to handle a vehicle.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Katy's family apartment has a traditional Chinese altar for Katy's deceased grandfather, with Katy's "waipo" leaving behind offerings to take with him into the afterlife. The rest of the family find it rather interesting that among her offerings are cigarettes, booze, and Funyuns, but she brushes it off since he's in Heaven, he can get whatever he wants.
    • The temple in Ta Lo features a much more elaborate series of memorial shrines, among them being an altar for the late Ying Li. During the final battle, Wenwu stops by and gives a quiet prayer with lit incense before commencing his business.
    • In the aftermath of the final battle, the residents of Ta Lo and Ten Rings members float paper lanterns down the lake in remembrance of the kin they lost that day. Among them are Shang-Chi and Xialing, wishing their father's soul peace, and hoping he reunites with his beloved wife some day.

    Tropes E to L 
  • Eating the Eye Candy: When Shang-Chi is stripped shirtless for his fight at the underground club, Katy does multiple eye takes looking at his chiseled physique.
    Katy: What happened to your shirt?! [flexes]
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Ten Rings' headquarters is a mountainside lair with underground tunnels and garage exits.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Katy's native tongue is English and admits her Chinese sucks. While normally brash, she struggles to even say her Chinese name.
  • Enemy Mine: The Ten Rings and the Ta Lo denizens are battling each other, and then the Dweller-in-Darkness's minions emerge and force both groups to join forces.
  • Evil Overlooker: In the poster, Xu Wenwu (Shang-Chi's Archnemesis Dad) leers above everything else from the topmost part.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: At the club, Xialing snaps that she never wanted to see her brother again. Shang-Chi asks if that's the case, then "Why did you send me a postcard?", showing it with the club's address. A confused Xialing says she never sent a postcard... at which point, the lights go out as gunmen break into the club.
  • Eye Scream: In the final battle, a soul sucker latches onto the Great Protector's eye socket, and more join in the attack. Xialing assists her by killing them with her rope dart.
  • Failure-to-Save Murder: Wenwu at one point snaps that Shang-Chi's weakness is partly to blame for Ying Li's death, as all he could do was stand there and watch.
  • Fantastic Foxes: On the way into Ta Lo a large white nine-tailed fox (huli-jing?) is seen with a three-tailed cub.
  • Fight Clubbing: Shang-Chi discovers the Macau address from which a postcard came from is an underground fighting compound, with many simultaneous booths and a cage where he fights the owner... his sister!
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In their fight Ying Li is able to control some of the Ten Rings when Wenwu attacks her with them. Shang-Chi also does this later in the film.
    • The song A Whole New World sung by Katy and Shang-Chi in a karaoke clearly foreshadows their journey in Ta Lo.
    • Shang-Chi is shown to be willing to kill Death Dealer, with quick-time flashbacks indicating he does so out of vengeance for Death Dealer's part in his Training from Hell, and even before that he has no compunctions about throwing Ten Rings operatives out of the bus in San Francisco or off of a building in Macau to their likely deaths. This is a hint at him having killed before - despite what he told Katy, he did assassinate the leader of the Iron Gang ten years prior.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The Dweller-in-Darkness is a soul-devouring monster from another dimension that nearly destroyed Ta Lo and sought to invade Earth to feed on souls before being sealed away in the mountain. But other than that, there's little else to the demon. At best, it could manipulate others with mimicry of their lost loved ones, but the beast itself doesn't show any personality other than an immense hunger for souls. In a sense, it's an allegory for Wenwu going back to his old ways and unwittingly destroying everything he once loved.
  • Gilligan Cut: Katy promises to drive slowly in the sports car that she's just supposed to be parking. Cut to her peeling down the street and veering wildly.
  • The Gloves Come Off: Wong is going easy on the Abomination in their cage match until the Abomination punches him into a wall. He remarks that that really hurt, and he quickly wins the fight by opening a sling ring portal that causes the Abomination to knock himself out.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Wong is on friendly enough terms with the Abomination to spar with him in the Macau fighting ring. He addresses him as Emil and gives him fighting tips after the match.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Trevor Slattery, having been imprisoned in the Mandarin's compound for years, assumes the six-legged headless friend is an example of this. Seeing others acknowledge its existence brings great comfort.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: When Wenwu uses the Ten Rings, his energy is depicted as purple/blue whereas Shang-Chi's glows golden.
  • Graffiti Town: Xialing's bedroom and her arena in Macau look like this. She also does this to the Ten Rings compound when she takes over.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: In the fighting rings, Katy takes a moment to compliment one of the bettors' "spike-face". He turns and enthusiastically thanks her in Bahasa Indonesia. "Terima Kasih!"
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Dweller-in-Darkness' manipulations are the driving force behind Wenwu's campaign against Ta Lo, representing a far greater threat than anything the Ten Rings could. However, it only manages to escape as the Final Boss near the very end of the film's climax, and more focus is placed on Shang-Chi overcoming his dark past with his father.
  • Groin Attack: Xialing shows just how much she resents Shang-Chi by kicking her big brother hard in the crotch during their cage match.
  • Happily Married: Xu Wenwu and Ying Li seem to have lived a perfectly peaceful family life, until Ying Li got killed by gangsters.
  • Happiness In Minimum Wage: Shang-Chi and Katy, who work as valets at a hotel, live in modest homes (his being a garage apartment), and spend their nights at karaoke bars. Her mother complains on how both could do better, as she was a Berkeley valedictorian and he speaks many languages. And then we find out his father allowed him to live like this for ten years before demanding he take his place as leader of the Ten Rings.
  • Happy Flashback: There are several warm flashbacks to when Shang-Chi's mother Ying Li was still alive, and the four of them were a happy family.
  • Harmful to Minors: Shang-Chi watches his mother be killed in front of him at age 7. Wenwu then kills a man in cold blood in front of him as part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Headbutt of Love: Both Wenwu and Ying Li do this to their children as a sign of their affection. When Wenwu finally tracks down his son, a terrified Shang-Chi tenses up. In a flashback, this was Ying Li's final gesture to her children before she's killed.
  • The Heavy: Wenwu is the main antagonist of most of the film. The Dweller-in-Darkness is the true villain.
  • Heritage Disconnect: The Chinese-American characters often experience this, sometimes purposefully. Katy's grasp of the language is poor and identifies as American over Chinese. Shang-Chi purposefully abandoned his heritage of his father as leader of the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi and Xialing both get to connect with their mother's culture in Ta Lo.
  • He's Back!: Villainous, tragic version. After hanging up the Ten Rings to become a peaceful family man, the murder of his wife prompts Wenwu to take them up again. He demonstrates his return by stalking into a gambling den frequented by the Iron Gang and slaughtering half the clientele.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted in the final battle by Xialing. As Shang-Chi and Xialing are clinging for dear life on the Great Protectorwho is presently in the process of getting her soul sucked out by the Dweller-In-Darkness — Xialing genuinely considers letting go of Shang-Chi's free hand so he can save the Protector unimpeded. However, Shang-Chi refuses to let her go, as he will not abandon her a second time. With Katy landing a lucky shot at the Dweller-In-Darkness, freeing the Great Protector from its control, both of them remain to fight another day.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Ta Lo is in another dimension whose entrance is past a truly impenetrable forest, and harbors people with incredible martial arts, along with a number of mythological beasts.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Normal weapons are ineffective against the soul-sucking demons found in Ta Lo, so the inhabitants there coat their weapons and armor in the scales of a divine dragon.
  • Hope Spot: During the final fight, Shang-Chi finally manages to get through to Wenwu, convincing him to put his living children over the false hope of resurrecting his dead wife. But the very next second it turns out Wenwu's first couple hits weakened the barrier enough that the Dweller doesn't need any more help to smash through.
  • Hot Blade: Razor Fist tries to kill Shang-Chi with a heated blade on the bus, and later switches out his regular blade for a Dragonscale blade at Ta Lo.
  • How Dad Met Mom: The film opens with Ying Li telling the story of how she met her childrens' father, Xu Wenwu, to their son Shang-Chi. Wenwu had hoped to conquer her Hidden Elf Village but she was able to fend him off. Eventually they fell in love.
  • Improbable Age: "You ran from home and created an underground fighting ring at sixteen?!"
  • Instant Expert: It apparently took three days for Katy to become proficient enough at archery to be able to injure a Kaiju from a great distance (to be fair, it's really big, but she manages to hit the weak point). Even Katy herself lampshades this improbability.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Razor Fist declares that the Ten Rings don't need to work with the Ta Lo villagers to defeat the Dweller-in-Darkness and its minions. Before he can finish his statement, he's attacked by one of the minions and is rescued by Nan killing it with her staff. He states that they need to work together.
  • Instant Web Hit: In the span of a few days, Shang-Chi's fight on the bus goes viral on YouTube, racking up millions of views in that time.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Katy's story about her first meeting the Chinese Shang-Chi involves her coming to his aid after a bully compares him to PSY, and then gets irate when Shang-Chi responds that he's not Korean.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Wenwu acknowledges the time when the Ten Rings' name and image was falsely used by an American think tank passing off its failed experiments as terrorist attacks. He points out that the public façade they created of the Ten Rings, including the Mandarin name, blatantly misrepresented the real organisation and Wenwu himself.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: After an awkward dinner with their friends Shang-Chi and Katy decide to blow off the rest of the night at a karaoke bar instead of going home to sleep before work the next day. During the end credits they go back to the same bar but this time they bring Wong with them.
  • Killed Offscreen: We don't see the exact moment of Ying Li's death; we see her preparing to take on the Iron Gang who have come to take revenge on Wenwu, but the camera then focuses on a young Shang-Chi watching from the window in horror. We hear the battle that kills Ying Li, but we don't see it. The Iron Gang leader also counts as this, after Shang-Chi confesses to Katy that he indeed killed him.
  • Kirin: A small herd of them inhabit Ta Lo, one stops in front of the protagonists’ car and seems to stare at Trevor.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • In addition to the mentioned Shirtless Scene, Katy mentions that changing your name from Shang-Chi to the very similar Shaun isn't all that subtle. She even points out that it's no wonder his father found him so quickly!
    • The bus fight eventually leads to the streaming guy making a good case for Apathetic Citizens.
      Clev: Bus driver's down. I'm not gonna handle it. Every time I try to drive a bus I get yelled at.
  • Lancer vs. Dragon: Razorfist serves as the dragon to Wenwu while Xialing takes him on in the final battle while Shang-Chi and Wenwu have their Hero and Big Bad faceoff. Razorfist survives the movie while Xialing takes over the Ten Rings after Wenwu's Redemption Equals Death.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Xu Wenwu and Trevor Slattery both talk about how culturally inaccurate the fake Mandarin in Iron Man 3 was, with Slattery mentioning it was insensitive for a Caucasian man to portray an Asian-inspired character.
    • The speech that Wong gives to Shang-Chi and Katy in the stinger on how everything they know is about to change can also be taken as announcing Phase 4 to the viewers, especially since this is the first entry of Phase Four to feature a new character as the protagonist.
  • Leitmotif: A prominent pentatonic scale can be heard whenever Ying Li fights against Wenwu at the start, which gets echoed later when Shang-Chi adopts her fighting style when fighting against Wenwu.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: During the climax, Shang-Chi and Xialing are hanging on for dear life while the Dweller-in-Darkness is overpowering the Great Protector, while the ground forces are getting hammered by the Soul Eaters...and it's Muggle Best Friend Katy who manages to hit the Dweller's weak point from long range that turns the tide back to the heroes.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: A downplayed example. Siblings Shang-Chi and Xi Xialing are booked into a fight against each other when the former is trying to warn the latter of an attack by Wenwu and the Ten Rings. Xi is not happy with Shang's betrayal of her when they were young and he was sent on an hit by his father but decided to run away instead. They reconcile after the attack.
  • Lightning Lash: The ten rings can form themselves into an electrified whip, though it seems to do more damage from blunt force than from electricity.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Katy and Shang-Chi's relationship seems to be very close (Shang-Chi delivers a Curb-Stomp Battle to anyone who threatens Katy), but purely platonic, despite what Katy's grandmother may think.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Shang-Chi, Katy, and Xialing are locked in a dungeon with Trevor Slattery and Morris, the latter of whom knows how to reach Ta Lo, and the former of whom is able to act as Morris' translator. On top of that, it turns out that Xialing had previously used a network of hidden tunnels to escape the complex, and one of them happens to be accessible from the dungeon.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The Dweller-in-Darkness, a giant creature with bat-like wings and numerous tentacles that grows stronger as it eats souls, serving as the true Big Bad pushes the film into this territory.
  • Lost in Translation: Several scenes featuring Chinese dialogue uses a rough English subtitle translation since the literal translation may not make as much sense for non-Chinese viewers. For example, before fighting the village elder at Ta Lo, a part of the dialogue Xu Wenwu says is subtitled as "I've lived ten of your lifetimes." The actual Chinese dialogue, "我吃的盐比你吃的饭还要多", literally translates to "I've eaten more salt in my lifetime than you've had meals" and is considered a classic phrase elders say about how much life experience they have.
  • Love at First Punch: Xu Wenwu began courting Ying Li after fighting her (and losing). Apparently they began to fall for one another even while fighting.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The Dweller-in-Darkness explodes into bloody pieces when Shang-Chi finishes it off.

    Tropes M to R 
  • Magic Staff: The inhabitants of Ta Lo use a staff covered in dragon scales at both ends as their primary weapon.
  • Making a Splash: Appropriately for a Chinese dragon, the Great Protector has water powers. During the fight with the Dweller-in-Darkness, she draws water from the lake beneath them to use against it.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Death Dealer wears a Chinese Opera-style mask and serves as a silent Brute in the Ten Rings. He hit Shang-Chi as a child whenever he stopped training and beating him served as one of the last tests of Shang-Chi's skill as a teenager.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard : Although abusive mentors, Death Dealer and Wenwu are victims of this as well as Katy's archery mentor Guang Bo. Averted with Ying Nan.
  • Minorly Mentioned Myths and Monsters: You might recognize the fenghuang, Asian Lion Dogs, Kirin, and huli jing, but when was the last time you saw Morris (a hundun) in popular media?
  • Misplaced Retribution: Shang-Chi ends up blaming his father for his mother's death since the gangsters wanted revenge for his Ten Rings days despite the fact that Wenwu had genuinely given up his criminal ways and obviously would have done anything to prevent her death given the insane lengths he's willing to go to bring her back. Wenwu returns the favor by criticizing Shang-Chi for not stopping Ying Li's murder, despite the fact that he was only 7 years old. Both characters are just taking out their immense grief on each other because they've already actually gotten revenge and that hasn't resolved their emotional issues or made them feel better.
  • Mobile Maze: The portal to Ta Lo is hidden within a bamboo forest that rearranges itself to open and close paths, crushing anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in the stalks or redirecting them off cliffs if they otherwise follow a bad path.
  • Monochrome Casting: Similar to how Black Panther had a predominantly Black cast, this film features a predominantly East Asian cast to complement the East Asian lead. The only white speaking roles are Trevor Slattery and some of Wenwu's Mooks bar Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers in The Stinger and the only black speaking role belongs to Klev, the bus rider live-streaming Shang-Chi's fight on the bus.
  • Mood Whiplash: Shang-Chi is somberly discussing his past with Katy, and they're interrupted by a flight attendant, who cheerily asks if they want vegetarian or beef in-flight meals (but they're out of vegetarian, so there's only beef).
  • Morality Chain: Ying Li was this for Xu Wenwu, convincing him to abandon his warlike ways to found a loving family. And it worked well until she was killed by gangsters whom he had wronged in the past.
  • Murder by Inaction: Shang-Chi is accused of this in the climax, as Wenwu blames him for Ying Li being killed by a rival gang by hiding and watching her die from the windows.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Wenwu's reaction when the Dweller-in-Darkness smashes out of its prison and makes him realize it was never his wife's spirit calling to him, but a monster tricking him into unleashing it.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The red suit Shang-Chi dons is an homage to one of his red and black suits in the comics, specifically the one he wore during his tenure as an Avenger during Jonathan Hickman's run.
    • The Golden Daggers club owned by Xu Xialing is an homage to the Golden Daggers sect her comic book counterpart led. Also the new logo Xialing uses for the Ten Rings is a skull and flower, a "Cursed Lotus", which was an alias Fah Lo Suee/Zheng Bao Yu used.
    • Wenwu says that he was once called "Master Khan", a name that the Mandarin used in the comics, can also be an allusion to Genghis Khan, an ancestor of the Mandarin, by showing that he is at least 1000 years old, he could be himself Genghis Khan in this reality.
    • While forced to fight his sister, Shang-Chi is shirtless and barefoot, like he was in his early comic book appearances.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The name Xu Wenwu is original to this continuity. In the comics, the Mandarin's real name is unknown. It is interesting to note that Xu Wenwu - perhaps intentionally - rhymes with Fu Manchu.
  • Near-Villain Victory: After getting a second wind thanks to the souls it consumed, the Dweller-in-Darkness begins to overpower the Great Protector and comes terrifyingly close to sucking her soul out. Thankfully, Katy lands a miracle shot with dragonscale arrow towards its neck that gives the Great Protector her own second wind, which also spared Shang-Chi and Xialing from the latter's attempt to sacrifice herself.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: By 2007, Wenwu had all but disbanded the Ten Rings, content to live a mortal life with the love of his life Ying-Li as an honest man, raising a happy family. Had the survivors of The Iron Gang, a petty triad cell that he once decimated, not come seeking revenge by beating Ying-Li to death in front of their children, Wenwu would not have re-forged his criminal empire in grief fueled vengeance. One year later in 2008, there would have been no Ten Rings Army to kidnap Tony Stark on his fateful weapon's demonstration in Afghanistan, tossing him in a cave with a box of scraps, and Iron Man would never have come to be, because he would have safely returned to America still a selfish, burger-munching womanizer. And no one would be there to stop Thanos' genocide of half of all life. Tragic though it may be, Ying-Li's murder at the hands of the Iron Gang is the very catalyst that inadvertently saved The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Of the fast healing variety. The high-tech weapons of the Ten Rings enforcers can't truly harm the Soul Eaters, which regenerate all the damage inflicted on them instantly.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Wenwu has his two wayward children and Katy eat with him in a simple dinner.
  • No-Sell: The demons do this to any attacks from ordinary weaponry, simply regenerating from the damage instantly. Only dragon scale weapons and magical creatures seem able to truly harm them.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: When Shang-Chi and Katy meet Trevor in Wenwu's dungeon, they have a mild freak-out when Morris (a faceless winged furball about the size of a house cat) wanders in. When Trevor realizes why they're shouting "What's that?" he is overjoyed.
    ''"You can see Morris? Ho-ho-ho Morris! They can see you! You're real! All this time I thought I was hallucinating him!"
  • Oh, Crap!: Wenwu looks horrified as the Dweller-in-Darkness is freed, realizing that his wife really wasn't trapped behind the gate.
  • Old Shame: In-Universe, this is how Trevor views his role as the decoy Mandarin from Iron Man 3, calling it a facile, trite, unflattering portrayal of Wenwu.
  • One True Love: Ying Li for Xu Wenwu. Over a thousand years of conquest, and she was the one and only woman to have ever found a place in his heart. He loved her so much that he was willing to give up all his immense power and immortality just to grow old with her. When she died before they could really spend their lives together, he regressed immediately, returning to the Ten Rings to cope with his depression, and in the process made himself susceptible to the manipulations of the Dweller-in-Darkness.
  • Opening Monologue: The movie opens with a woman describing Xu Wenwu's backstory and how he first made his way to Ta Lo in 1996, at which point it's revealed that the narrator is Shang-Chi's mother telling him the story of how they first met. Notably, the narration and dialogue in the opening flashback are entirely in Mandarin, with no English being spoken until the movie skips forward to the present day.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: When Xu Wenwu is using the titular Ten Rings, his energy is purple/blue in color while Shang-Chi's is golden/orange.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Souls are shown as balls of light with a rainbow aura. The Dweller-in-Darkness and its smaller compatriots are able to suck souls out of the bodies of the living, killing their targets. Even after the Dweller is defeated, the souls it ate don't return to their hosts, meaning that Wenwu and other victims remain dead.
  • Outside-Context Problem:
    • The Dweller-in-Darkness is completely unknown until the heroes reach Ta Lo and learn about what lies behind the gate. Even then its origin is left unknown, with the only clear things being its malevolent nature and its ability to tempt people with their greatest desire.
    • The Ten Rings themselves (the artifact, not the organization) turn out to be this for the MCU as a whole. Wong says that them being claimed by Shang-Chi was felt by the Sorcerers of Kamar-Taj, implying a magical nature, but that there's nothing in the sorcerers' codex about them and that they don't match any style of magic he's seen before; Bruce Banner confirms that they're not made of vibranium nor come from any other scientific origin; and Carol Danvers states that they don't resemble any form of alien technology she's ever seen. On top of that, they're implied to be much older than the 1000 years that Wenwu owned them, and they're now sending out some kind of signal to... something.
  • Pet the Dog: The Ten Rings spared Trevor Slattery despite the fact he unwittingly made a mockery out of Wenwu with his role as the Mandarin for Killian, mainly because they found his Macbeth performance to be hilarious. Thus, they locked up him in a cell with a makeup studio and took him off of the drugs, letting him come out to perform for them as a sort of court jester. Far better than to be executed with ten bullets, and Trevor even made a new friend.
  • Pimped-Out Car: Katy ends up stealing a gaudy car belonging to Razor Fist.
  • Playing Possum: In the final battle against the Dweller-in-Darkness and its army, Trevor is shown lying among the corpses. Morris the hundun finds the body and begins to mourn, but Trevor admits to only faking being dead to avoid the enemy and urges Morris to do the same. Morris promptly rolls over and "plays dead".
  • Product Displacement: San Francisco's real-life MUNI buses are replaced with "SFT" buses with a similar color scheme.
  • Product Placement: Other than the bus, Shang-Chi and Katy are only seen driving BMWs.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: There's a scene where Shang-Chi explains to Katy how to pronounce his name, saying it slowly multiple times with the correct tones, even doing the tonal hand gestures.
  • Protagonist Title: The title begins with "Shang-Chi", the name of the main character.
  • Psycho Electro: Variation. The villainous criminal henchmen of the Mandarin wield electric weapons against the peaceful villages of Ta Lo in the climax.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Xu Wenwu is around 1000 years old, yet looks middle-aged. Used to humorous effect when he scolds a much older-looking man by essentially calling him a youngster.
  • Red Is Heroic: The mystical residents of the Hidden Elf Village of Ta Lo suit up in red armor to fight the Ten Rings, who are fittingly dressed in black. This makes distinguishing them in the climax much easier.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: The film serves to reinvision Shang-Chi and the Mandarin - two Chinese characters in Marvel Comics with considerable racist baggageinvoked - for the 21st century.
    • First, there is Shang-Chi himself. In his original 1970s comics, Shang-Chi was depicted as a Bruce Lee Clone who was the son of the Yellow Peril villain Fu Manchu. Due to both changing racial attitudes and the expired Fu Manchu license, Shang-Chi in the film is instead the son of the Mandarin, thereby allowing the film to do justice to Shang-Chi's Character Arc as the "heroic son of a villainous father''. The movie also fleshes out Shang-Chi's origins as a Bruce Lee Clone by focusing on his status as both the son of the leader of the Ten Rings and an Chinese immigrant in the United States.
    • Second, there is the Mandarin. The filmmakers at Marvel Studios were so passionate about modernizing the Mandarin - a classic Yellow Peril villain - that they drafted a list of Asian stereotypes that they wanted to avoid. As a result, Wenwu is portrayed as more sympathetic and complex than either of his comics counterparts (the Mandarin and Fu Manchu / Zheng Zu). The fact that this movie was directed and written by filmmakers of Asian descent and features a predominantly Asian cast likely helps.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Due to the use of Composite Character, the Mandarin is depicted as Shang-Chi's father instead of Fu Manchu, as Marvel did not have the rights to the latter.
  • The Reveal: Just before the climax, it's revealed that the man Shang-Chi was sent to assassinate when he was 14 was his mother's killer, and he did actually go through with it before running away.
  • Revenge: Ying Li's death prompts Wenwu to rampage across the criminal underworld looking for the men who caused it. Shang-Chi as a child agreed to support his father's "blood for blood oath" strategy, even personally murdering the man responsible at 14.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Morris, a faceless furball with wings who speaks solely in adorable chirps and trills.
  • Ring of Power: As referenced in his organization's name, Xu Wenwu wears ten rings that grant him supernatural power, though they are larger than the comics version and worn around his forearms instead of his fingers, likely to separate them from the other Marvel villain with deadly finger-based jewelry.
  • Rogues Gallery Transplant:
    • In the comics, the Mandarin is the Arch-Enemy of Iron Man and has no ties to Shang-Chi at all. Here, the Mandarin / Wenwu replaces Fu Manchu (a character with both significant cultural baggage and tangled legal usage rights), as Shang-Chi's father, and in fact that Iron Man died in Avengers: Endgame without ever learning the existence of , much less fighting, Wenwu. The fact that Shang-Chi takes place after the events of Endgame likely allows the former to reimagine the Mandarin / Wenwu as Shang-Chi's enemy.
    • The Dweller-in-Darkness is traditionally a foe of Dr. Strange in the comics, but in the movie serves as the true Big Bad for Shang-Chi.
  • Rule of Three: "Hotel California". First, the two cases in Confusion Fu. And then The Stinger has Katy, Shang-Chi, and Wong singing it at a karaoke.
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    Tropes S to Z 
  • Satanic Archetype: The Dweller-in-Darkness. Not only does it look the part, it's an Ancient Evil that has been sealed away for millennia and tempts others with their greatest desires to release it. And it eats souls.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Dweller-in-Darkness is an ancient soul eating Eldritch Abomination that was sealed away millennia ago after destroying most of the world where Ta Lo is located, and would have done the same to Earth if it hadn't been stopped.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • In the mid-credit scene, Wong takes Shang-Chi and Katy back to the Sanctum. Here he, Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers analyze the Rings and discover that they are extraterrestrial in nature, are far older than they thought and that it is now sending a beacon, presumably to whomever it came from.
    • In the post-credit scene, Xu Xialing takes over as head of the Ten Rings, reforming it in her own image.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Shang-Chi's party line regarding Katy to her grandmother.
  • Shipper on Deck: Katy's grandmother asks Shang-Chi when his wedding with Katy will take place, even though their relationship appears to be purely platonic.
  • Ship Tease: While they're mostly Like Brother and Sister, Katy doesn't seem to mind seeing Shang-Chi shirtless. The ending of the film also sees Katy and Shang-Chi resting their heads on each other during the memorial, and Katy walking off taking hold of Shang-Chi's arm, which could be interpreted any way — and then immediately after, the song played during the Creative Closing Credits is very clearly a love song.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Shang-Chi mentions an incident where he almost got into a fight with a guy who called him Gangnam Style.
    • During the final scene of the movie, Katy mentions to her friend how Shang-Chi used the Ten Rings like a Kamehameha fireball. Shang-Chi does indeed make the famous hand motions of the move during the battle.
    • One of the songs Shang-Chi and Katy sing during their karaoke montage at the beginning of the movie is "Old Town Road", and at the end, they're back at the karaoke bar, this time singing "Hotel California" with Wong, which becomes the music for the end credits.
    • Shang-Chi's apartment is decorated with posters of The Warriors and Kung Fu Hustle.
    • Shang-Chi using his jacket as an Improvised Weapon in the bus fight scene was a deliberate reference to the fight choreography of Jackie Chan's films.
    • In her first fight with Wenwu, Ying Li throws her hat at him in a manner similar to Kung Lao. Her special martial arts stance also heavily resembles Airbending.
    • Trevor was fascinated by watching Planet of the Apes as a child... though he apparently never grasped that the apes were all just people in costumes.
    • The tunnel leading to Ta Lo shares a close resemblance to the Magic Railroad, from the dark road to the luscious green landscape once they emerge.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Wenwu has a memorial to Ying Li in his personal part of the Ten Rings compound. When Shang-Chi's group reaches Ta Lo they find another memorial to Ying Li alongside other shrines in the village's temple.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The Iron Gang was just another petty ring of loan sharks and meth-pushers you would would find in any gambling house in China or Hong Kong. Though vicious, compared to the likes of Hydra, The Chitauri and The Red Room, they are nobodies in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yet their revenge killing of Ying-Li, Wen-Wu's wife, was the inadvertent catalyst that saved the universe from Thanos.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Trevor Slattery, with the bonus that his actor was removed from the poster's billing block, while the actual credits have him in a prestige position.
  • Social Media Before Reason: During Shang-Chi's fight in the bus, a YouTuber named Klev (the "do a flip" guy from Spider-Man: Homecoming) happens to be sitting there and starts a livestream, filming and commenting the fight.
  • Soul Eating: How the Dweller-in-Darkness and its compatriots kill, as they do to Xu Wenwu and the Death Dealer.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Because it's long-established to be that way in the comics, Shang-Chi's name is romanized according to the older Wade-Giles system while other Chinese names are in the modern pinyin system. Else it would probably be something like "Shangqi". There's really no other reason why Wenwu isn't "Wen-Wu", for instance.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To BlackPanther. Both movies are the MCU's first movies to center of leads of color (Black for Black Panther, Chinese/East Asian for Shang-Chi), and both movies feature The Hero and the Big Bad be related (T'Challa and Killmonger being Clashing Cousins in Black Panther, Xu Wenwu / the Mandarin being Shang-Chi's Archnemesis Dad in Shang-Chi). Moreover, both movies have one of the main characters live in the United States before coming to their family's country (Wakanda in Black Panther, China in Legend of the Ten Rings). However, there are some crucial differences:
    • In Black Panther, Killmonger - the Big Bad - was raised in the United States and comes to Wakanda to claim the throne from his cousin T'Challa in retalation for the former's father N'Boku's death at the hands of T'Challa's father King T'Chaka, while in Legend of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi is an immigrant from China who seeks to avoid taking his place in his father's organization, the Ten Rings, and is raked with guilt over his own killing of the man who murdered Shang-Chi's mother Ying Li.
    • There is also an inversion of the dynamics in power and status between the hero and the villain: In Black Panther, the titular hero, T'Challa / Black Panther, utilizes the wealth, Vibranium-based equipment and mystical empowerments that his position as King of Wakanda affords him, while his opponent Killmonger, grew up with none of that until usurping the Wakandan throne and said resources that come with the position. By contrast, Legend of the Ten Rings has Shang-Chi, a Badass Normal hero who worked in the United States in minimum-wage jobs, going up against the Big Bad, Xu Wenwu /the Mandarin, a wealthy, immortal warlord who asserts his position as the leader of the Ten Rings with the titular ten powered rings.
    • Interestingly, both movies end with one of the main characters recognizing the flaws in their family's traditional ways, and seeking to change them: In Black Panther, T'Challa recognizes the merits of Killmonger's critiques of Wakanda's isolationist policies, and responds by having Wakanda play a more active role in global affairs by using its Vibranium-based technology for more benevolent purposes than Killmonger's more radical, self-serving goals, while The Stinger in Legend of the Ten Rings establishes that Xu Xialing, scorned with the Stay in the Kitchen attitudes of the Ten Rings under the leadership of her father Wenwu, takes command of the organization after his death, and reforms it to include more women in combat positions, with the moral compass of the Ten Rings being up for debate.
  • Start My Own: Xialing's catalyst for the fight club in Macau; Wenwu denied her the chance to join his criminal empire, so she ran away from home to build one herself. Subverted, as Xialing ends up taking over the Ten Rings in The Stinger.
  • Static Stun Gun: The Ten Rings really love their tasers. They have them in all their hook swords, batons and electric bola crossbows. Even when they're on a mission to burn down the village of Ta Lo, they're bringing these instead of something more destructive.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Subtly played. Wenwu denied Xialing a chance to train with Shang-Chi and the rest of the Ten Rings not because she was a girl, but because she resembled her mother and he didn't want to see her in pain. However, that claim is undermined by the fact that there are only men in the Ten Rings and Shang-Chi also resembles his mother, suggesting that he was being unintentionally sexist towards her. She's surprised and pleased when she goes to Ta Lo and is accepted as a warrior without question, with her auntie Nan even telling her that "we train as equals here". Katy is denied a place in Ta Lo's defenders at first for a justified reason — she's only been training for a day or so despite natural talent, so she's sidelined on grounds of inexperience, not gender.
  • Stock Wushu Weapons: Soldiers of the modern Ten Rings are shown to wield electrified shuang gou hookblades as their standard melee weapons. The new logo for the organization also features crossed hookblades.
  • Stop Hitting Yourself: In the Macau fighting ring, Wong opens two portals so the Abomination ends up punching into one portal and hitting himself exiting the other, knocking him out.
  • The Stinger:
    • The first one with Shang-Chi, Katy and Wong talking with Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel about the Ten Rings' origins and revealing that the rings might have sent a beacon. Afterwards, Shang-Chi and Katy take Wong out to a karaoke bar.
    • The second one showing Xialing taking over and reforming the Ten Rings.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Katy after she and Shang-Chi get back to his apartment after the bus attack, livid that he's been holding back a lot as long as she's known him.
    Katy: I've known you for half your life. I know you don't like to talk about your past, and I never wanted to press...BUT A GUY WITH A FREAKING MACHETE FOR AN ARM JUST CHOPPED OUR BUS IN HALF! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!
  • Sue Donym: Shang-Chi's cover name while living a life in San Francisco is simply Shaun. Katy lampshades how painfully flimsy the alias is.
    Katy: I wonder how your father found you. [...] It's like "hi, my name's Gina, I'm gonna go into hiding, my new name's Gyna!"
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Ying Li's graceful, Tai Chi-esque fighting style also comes with the ability to manipulate the wind as long as she's in Ta Lo.
  • Swallowed Whole: The Great Protector gets rid of dozens of minions with this method. Doubles as Eaten Alive.
  • Take That!: Destin Daniel Cretton is so annoyed by electric rental scooters just being left randomly on city sidewalks that he added a bunch of them to the bus scene just so he could demolish them.
  • Tell Me How You Fight: Being a Wuxia inspired film, fighting style is massively important to characterizing everyone.
    • Xu Wenwu's style is very heavy and all brute force. Usually it's associated with the bad guy's huge henchman.
    • Ying Li's style is clearly drawn from Tai chi, appropriately associated with balance and peace.
    • Shang-Chi's style starts off as a more finesse-based version of his father's style. It's very Shaolin inspired. Later on he incorporates his mother's too.
    • Xu Xialing's style is quite modern and incorporates a lot of grappling which is rare in Chinese martial arts. In the way she moves she's also the most Bruce Lee Clone of the cast, again it shows her independence and lack of ties to the past.
  • Time-Compression Montage: The Opening Monologue features the Ten Rings going on covert operations from their origins when Xu Wenwu founds them on to the present day.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Ying Li's pendants, which her children carry after her passing. They also act as a MacGuffin that reveal the way to her home of Ta Lo; one shows the path through the bamboo maze, the other shows the one day of the year the path is effective.
  • Training Montage:
    • In flashbacks, Shang-Chi's childhood training is covered extensively, showing him learning "every possible way to kill a man", with such scenes including getting caned for keeping poor posture and practicing his punches until his knuckles bleed.
    • Along with various sequences where Shang-Chi and Xialing endure training under Wenwu, after getting to Ta Lo, both train with the locals (and Katy goes to the archery range) to prepare for the Ten Rings' arrival.
  • Treacherous Spirit Chase: The Dweller-in-Darkness tricks Wenwu into setting it free by projecting the voice of his deceased wife, Li.
  • True Companions: Shang-Chi and Katy's friendship is unshakable. Katy learns the truth about "Shaun" after being attacked on a bus by Razor Fist and his goons, and what does she do? She goes to Macau with him to find his sister even though he clearly intends to go by himself.
    Katy: You can explain on the plane, Shaun!
  • Truer to the Text:
    • Abomination has evolved into a redesign that looks more accurate to his comic book counterpart compared to what was seen in The Incredible Hulk — he now has the character's trademark "fish ears", as well as a look of bony plates on his arms.
    • The Mandarin himself, despite lacking his Badass Beard or ever even meeting Tony Stark prior to the latter's death in Avengers: Endgame, is much closer to his comics self than either impostor depicted in Iron Man 3, being a deadly martial arts expert and criminal mastermind of Chinese origin who wields ten powered rings that grant him quasi-mystical powers, rather than a washed-up actor pretending to be a diabolical terrorist leader or a jilted Tony Stark fanboy turned Corrupt Corporate Executive who steals the iconography of said terrorist leader for his own selfish goals.
  • Tyke Bomb: Shang-Chi is trained from age 7 after his mother's death to be a killing machine capable of defeating the best the Ten Rings can throw at him. It's eventually revealed that it wasn't just forced onto him, Shang-Chi actively agreed to do this to get revenge for his mother's death.
  • The Unreveal: The face of Death Dealer is never shown, even after his soul is absorbed by the Dweller-in-Darkness.
  • Unseen No More: After having been alluded to during the first Iron Man movie, replaced with a fake in Iron Man 3, and confirmed to exist in the short All Hail the King, the Mandarin appears.
  • Unwitting Muggle Friend: Katy. Shang-Chi kept her in the dark about his identity for ten years and would have kept it that way if not for Razor Fist and a bunch of Ten Rings members attacking him on their bus to work.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Wenwu dispatches Shang-Chi to kill the leader of the Iron Gang that killed his wife and ended the happy family life they had, clearly so that his son could get the revenge he promised he would be able to exact on those who killed Yin Li. Shang-Chi agrees in order to avenge his mother, but while he succeeds in doing so and it's indicated he also takes down the Iron Gang for good, it doesn't actually do anything to heal the emotional pain and grief he felt over her death. He's still a traumatized teenager and now is disgusted with himself, having killed people, some of whom may even be innocent in his mother's death, for apparently nothing at all.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: Explained away as Wenwu is Shang-Chi's father, and by his words, a good parent should keep touch with their family. Specifically, it's revealed that the postcard Shang-Chi received that directed him to Xialing's location was actually sent by Wenwu, specifically so it'd be easier to bring the two back to their original home. Before that point, he allowed them to enjoy their lives away from the Ten Rings even knowing they ran away, and it's all but directly stated that he was fully aware of both Shang-Chi and Xialing's whereabouts all that time just in case he needed them for important business.
  • Volcanic Veins: When Xu Wenwu powers up his rings, they cause his arms' veins to glow purple. When used by Shang-Chi, his veins glow orange instead.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's unclear as to Trevor Slattery's whereabouts are after Shang-Chi and Katy return home.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Xialing is angry at Shang-Chi for abandoning her and never telling her his whereabouts. She brings it up during their match at the fighting ring and elaborates on it to Katy once they're all in the Ten Rings compound.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Back in Macau, Shang-Chi had sent quite a few Ten Rings enforcers falling off the scaffolding of a highrise. Shang-Chi does hold one back for a High-Altitude Interrogation, but then Xialing knocks that guy off, saying that America has made Shang-Chi soft.
  • When Trees Attack: Ta Lo is guarded by a carnivorous forest that lures travelers in with a seemingly open path before closing in and devouring them, with a path through only opening once a year at dawn. Or if you have a Ta Lo native who can guide you through the open pockets that run through the forest.
  • "Will Return" Caption: After the second stinger, the Ten Rings symbol appears with the overlaid text, "The Ten Rings Will Return".
  • Would Hit a Girl: Downplayed. Shang-Chi does hit back in his cage match against Xialing, but not too much — his problem is not fighting a woman, just said woman being his sister.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Iron Gang agree not to harm the children when they arrive to get revenge against Wenwu's family.
  • Wuxia: The first time the MCU films have tackled the genre, high-flying martial arts and family drama rooted in Chinese culture are at the core of Shang-Chi.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The whole point of the defense of the village against Wenwu and the Ten Rings is to stop him from opening up the gate to the Dweller-in-Darkness. Did anyone really think that with a set-up like that, the defense would succeed and thus avoid having the Final Boss appear?
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once Xu Wenwu releases the Dweller-in-Darkness, the latter doesn't waste any time before consuming his soul.
  • Your Heart's Desire: An aural example when Xu Wenwu wears the Ten Rings and hears Ying Li pleading for him to free her from the gate at Ta Lo so they can be a family again. In truth, this is an ability of the Dweller-in-Darkness to trick the Rings' holder into breaking the gate so it can escape.
  • Zerg Rush: Ying Li is a skilled warrior even after being depowered, but against several dozen Iron Gang members she was eventually overwhelmed.


"Is this what you wanted?!"

Alternative Title(s): Shang Chi

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