Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is here, but many are still not sure how to pronounce the titular hero’s name correctly. Following Black Widow, the first film in Phase 4 of the MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the second Marvel Studios film to be released in 2021. And it is highly anticipated for a number of reasons.
Shang-Chi was directed by Maui native Destin Daniel Cretton, whose previous projects have heavily tackled family tensions – a focal point in the new Marvel film. Furthermore, apart from introducing Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Marvel’s Master of Kung-Fu, to the MCU’s roster of heroes, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings also promises to shed light on the mysterious villain known as Mandarin, played by veteran actor Tony Leung. Other cast members include Awkwafina, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, and Benedict Wong. As the second film in Phase 4 of the MCU, Shang-Chi will reveal key characters and plot points in the MCU timeline. And because of its stellar cast, the film is also a big step for Asian representation in mainstream superhero cinema.
This is why Simu Liu has taken it upon himself to finally settle the debate on how Shang-Chi is properly pronounced. In a Twitter post by the Shang-Chi actor himself, Liu opens with, “Your friendly #AsianHeritageMonth reminder:” followed by a phonetic spelling of his own name: “SEE-moo LEE-ew,” along with a phonetic spelling of Shang-Chi: “SHONG-chee,” and a reference to his role in the series Kim’s Convenience: “Dad.” Liu tops it off by saying “Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.” Liu has made it clear that learning the proper pronunciation of Shang-Chi (SHONG-chee) is a matter of preserving the Marvel character’s Asian heritage.
This is even more crucial considering how Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is well-positioned to fix the way Iron Man 3 used the Mandarin as a villain. While Iron Man 3 avoided racial stereotypes by turning the Mandarin into a drug-addled actor portraying the villain, it also reduced the formidable Asian antagonist into a punchline. In contrast, Shang-Chi’s Wenwu, also known as the Mandarin, is a wealthy martial arts master who rules over a large criminal organization, and is also the father of Shang-Chi. This is much closer to the comic book origins of both Shang-Chi and the Mandarin. Moreover, Wenwu is also the wielder of the titular Ten Rings, some of the most powerful weapons in the MCU. While the Mandarin wields no such weapons in the comics, their cosmic origins are congruent with the villain’s ancient mystique. In the comics, the closest weapons in existence are the rings created by the dragon-like aliens called Makluans, who infused the rings with the souls and powers of renowned cosmic warriors. Many have compared the Ten Rings with Mjolnir, which suggests that the titular weapons – much like Thor’s legendary hammer – will have a larger role to play as Phase 4 of the MCU unfolds.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings might just be the MCU’s biggest movie this year. And pronouncing Shang-Chi properly is a simple way to honor not just the character’s history, but everything else that the new installment represents. Apart from the film’s loyalty to the martial arts master’s Marvel comics origins, this includes Shang-Chi’s mainly Asian cast, many of which are martial artists themselves whose input has been crucial to the film’s success. Indeed, if the reactions to the early screenings of Shang-Chi are any indication, it might be the best action movie that Marvel Studios has ever produced. This isn’t surprising, considering how the legendary Hollywood stunt coordinator Brad Allen was behind Shang-Chi’s fight scenes. Even before its official theatrical release, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been hailed as a game-changer – the least that everyone can do is to pronounce Shang-Chi properly.