Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings is a movie Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has been wanting to make ever since he joined the company. Only the second movie to release as part of the MCU’s Phase 4, Shang-Chi is the first film to get a theater-only release, seeing as Black Widow also debuted on Disney+ through the service’s Premier Access.
Not only is Shang-Chi the first Asian-led Marvel superhero film, but its martial arts also introduces a new part of the franchise to audiences, one that had only been glimpsed on TV with Iron Fist. So far, MCU fans have seen gods, aliens, monsters, and wizards, with some heroes exhibiting unique fighting skills; however, nothing has been on the same level as Shang-Chi‘s martial arts. And now, Marvel can explore this new corner of the MCU throughout Phase 4, 5, and beyond.
Screen Rant spoke to Kevin Feige about Shang-Chi ahead of the film’s release about what the movie would’ve looked like had it been released years ago and where the story goes next.
WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for Shang-Chi.
Screen Rant: From what we know, Shang-Chi had been in development, or at least planned, for a very, very long time, but obviously it didn’t happen for a long time. So what do you think this film would’ve looked like had it been released all those years ago?
Kevin Feige: I don’t know. We had a wish list and we still do – characters and stories that we’d love to bring to the screen – and Shang-Chi had been on that list for as long as I’ve been at Marvel, as were lots of other characters that we’ve now since brought to screen. I think it would’ve been different. It’s a good question, actually – a ‘what if’ scenario that is interesting to think about. But I don’t know is the answer, because this movie is the result of the people that made it. Would Destin [Daniel Cretton] have been able to make the movie? Would Simu [Liu] have starred in the movie if we made it 10 years ago? Of course not. So, like all of our movies, I’m lucky enough and very thankful that we made the movie when we did, so we could make it with the people that we did.
With this film – obviously, Black Panther was a massive success and Captain Marvel was a massive success – so what are your hopes with Shang-Chi in terms of cultural impact and franchise impact?
Kevin Feige: I have the same hopes and dreams for this movie that I have for all of our movies. And I feel very good by the initial response from people who’ve seen the movie at press screenings, at the premiere – we did some fan screenings yesterday, and so far, so good with the response to what Destin has done.
In this, Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery plays a bigger role than I would’ve expected – I thought it would’ve just been a cameo. Was that a conscious effort to try to… not necessarily to redeem him, but give him more of a shining light from who he was and not playing a role as the Mandarin?
Kevin Feige: Yeah, it was an idea early on as we were developing this incarnation of the story for Shang-Chi, that the Ten Rings has a history going back to the very beginning of the MCU. And we thought it would be a fun way to acknowledge the twist in Iron Man 3, the fake version of the Ten Rings leader when we meet the actual leader of the Ten Rings, which is his father, Wenwu, in this. And if you get the opportunity to continue working with Sir Ben Kingsley, you want to find every opportunity to do that.
To jump forward to the credits scene; it’s a pretty big credits scene – you have Captain Marvel and you have Bruce Banner there. But he’s Banner, not Smart Hulk…
Kevin Feige: Interesting… And his arm is in a sling. He’s Banner, and his arm is in a sling, if you noticed that.
Kevin Feige: You’re the first person to ask me that question, by the way. I know you won’t talk about it until after the movie comes out. But you are the first person to pick up on that.
Really? On Banner being Banner?
Kevin Feige: Since the movie’s been screened, yes.
So why is he back to being in a human form? Does this have anything to do with his future in She-Hulk?
Kevin Feige: All good questions, sir. All very good, very observant questions. …You will find out why that is the case. And thank you for noticing. Mark Ruffalo thanks you for noticing.
To go back to the beginning of the film with Wenwu; the Ta Lo village decided not to allow him in. In my mind, with What If…? going on, I think that would be a perfect idea of what if they did allow him into their village. Like, how would that have changed him and his story? Is that something you think could be told in a What If…? season 2 or 3?
Kevin Feige: Another good question. You’re kind of low-key – but the questions are very on-point and I’m very impressed. But… that’s the fun thing about having the What If…? series now; we can explore questions just like that. And I will say, just as season 1 is tapping into films and storylines from the MCU that you’ve seen up to this point, season 2 will definitely incorporate movies from Phase 4. So I don’t want to say any more than that, but yet again, another very good question, sir.
Spinning off of that, a lot of the stories being told on Disney+, particularly, are about the Multiverse. While Shang-Chi has an alternate dimension, the story is still quite grounded and personal. So where do you see his story falling in the grand scheme of things going forward?
Kevin Feige: I think, as with every Marvel superhero that we bring into the MCU, all of them are important and integral in the future, and their characters are what shape the future of the MCU. And now that people have met and seen the origin of Shang-Chi, it is safe to say he will have a great influence on the future. The notion of dimensions and Ta-Lo, that again is the gift of the Marvel Comics – that you have not just other planets, not just other dimensions, but other universes, other realities, and it’s a fun to be at a point now, 25 movies in, 6 or 7 TV series in that we’ve shot, that we’re able to really start playing with the full canvas that the comics have brought to us.
Now that Shang-Chi has come out and introduced this whole new corner of martial arts into the franchise, where do you see things going next – not just with new Shang-Chi stories, but with other characters?
Kevin Feige: You know, I think the sky’s the limit on the type of characters that we can bring to the screens. What I’m most excited about is that we’ve finally been able to tell the story of Shang-Chi, and that audiences are finally going to be able to meet not just Simu’s portrayal of Shang-Chi but the entire cast of characters, all of whom I think are fascinating and audiences will I hope – I think – will want to see more of.
Katy and Shang-Chi’s friendship – everything they say and do throughout the film – felt very relatable in a way that other superhero movies and even other Marvel movies just haven’t been able to do, because although he has these powers, he’s a very grounded character. Even the bit with Katy’s grandmother asking when they’ll get married; that’s something that I, as a minority, have experienced from my own family. Was there a concerted effort in developing that in this film or did it come more naturally?
Kevin Feige: I think both, but I think that’s primarily what our screenwriters, with Destin who’s a screenwriter and David Callaham, who was the first writer to start building the story for us, wanted to bring those personal elements into the story. And it’s been remarkable in screenings. At that very moment with the grandmother, you can hear the audience relate to that and respond to that. So I do think it was very much a conscious effort on Dave and Destin’s part to bring that to the screen, and I hope with all Marvel heroes, it is their humanity that makes them relatable. Shang-Chi is probably a more universal story than a lot of them because of the family element and because of the cultural specificity in which that family exists.
At the very end of the film, you have the card that says the Ten Rings will return, not Shang-Chi will return. What was the reason for that?
Kevin Feige: To be honest with you, I think the intention of the first tag makes it very clear that Shang-Chi will return, so we didn’t have to say it again. The end of that second tag was more about the organization itself, the Ten Rings, which it seems, over the course of the movie, that it’s been dismantled and you learn otherwise in that spoiler-filled tag. But that was the idea; one, we just didn’t want to put a card… (Did we even talk about that, Jonathan? We didn’t even talk about putting in a card for both.) But we think that it’s very clear after that first tag that Shang-Chi is returning.