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As the first Marvel movie to premiere exclusively on the big screen since the pandemic first began, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had a lot of big shoes to fill as it not only introduced a whole new set of characters — and grappled with the MCU's complicated history with Asian representation — but also kicked off the cinematic wing of the next phase in MCU architect Kevin Feige's master plan.
However, since then the movie's gone on to beat Black Widow's box office numbers to become the highest-grossing MCU movie of 2021 so far, and earned itself a sequel less than a month after the film hit streaming on Disney+.
The movie follows the story of Shang-Chi (Kim Convenience's Simu Liu), a skilled martial artist and the once-heir to the shadowy Ten Rings organization, who is summoned back to his former life when his father, the Mandarin (Internal Affairs' Tony Leung) comes in search of him and his estranged sister Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhan). With the help of his best friend Katy (Ocean 8's Awkwafina), Shang-Chi must confront what it is he truly wants from his life, and fight for the chance to choose his own destiny.
And while there's plenty to look forward to in terms of the sequel, including all the incredible fight choreography that it will no doubt feature when writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton returns at the helm, here's five things we're especially excited about:
The return of Xu Xialing
As much Shang-Chi was about its titular character and his journey towards hero-dom, it also introduced audiences to his more-than-capable martial artist sister Xu Xialing, who not only taught herself the skills and training she'd been denied by their father, but has also went on to run an underground fighting ring, and then save the world alongside her older brother. But as one of the movie's two post-credit scenes reveals, Xialing has since taken over as leader of the Ten Rings, despite having lied and told Shang-Chi that they've been disbanded.
This places her in an interesting position going forward, as it's not fully clear what her intentions are — only that she now allows women to be trained as well, and that she's now working with her father's former henchman, Razor Fist (Creed 2's Florian Munteanu), who had a closer relationship with her father than she herself had as he'd come to view Wenwu as a father figure. But in terms of the larger MCU as well, Xialing joins the ranks of other shadowy figures including The Falcon and Winter Soldier's Power Broker and Black Widow's Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (AKA Madame Hydra). While it's still not clear what plans they might have up their sleeves, they're definitely making this new post-Snap existence more interesting. (Enough so, that fans are already hoping to see Xialing receive her own solo Disney+ TV spin-off, much like WandaVision's Agatha Harkness.)
Exploring the origin of the Ten Rings
Throughout the film, Wenwu demonstrates the Ten Rings' awesome powers as they grant the wearer incredible abilities as well as immortality, as evidenced by his centuries-long lifespan. But while Wenwu claims to have discovered the rings themselves in a cave, Wong (Deadly Class' Benedict Wong) confirms that their exact origin is unknown, as even his magical expertise as a sorcerer can't seem to place them. Bruce Banner (Thor: Ragnarok's Mark Ruffalo) and Carol Danvers (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's Brie Larson) have similar luck, as neither science nor alien technology can define their origins. Thus, the sequel allows for plenty of room to explore the rings' history, and perhaps even some guest appearances from Tony Leung, as Shang-Chi looks for clues from his father's time as the rings' bearer.
The rings could also serve as a connection to what might be the big bad of Phase 4 as one of the most popular theories so far is that the rings themselves are creations of the Eternals — Phastos, in particular as it matches the designs of his other mechanical inventions and tools. This would explain why no one else has encountered them before, especially since the Eternals' mandate required that they not get involved in human matters.
Let's be real, Wong has been a scene stealer since he first made his appearance in Doctor Strange back in 2016, and his appearance in Shang-Chi only solidified that, as they revealed more of what he gets up to when he's not having to supervise Stephen Strange... which turns out to be taking part in underground fights where he goes up against characters like Hulk villain, the Abomination, and going out for all-night karaoke parties.
More than that, these snippets hint at the fact that Wong does plenty of independent research and work all on his own, and establishes him as perfectly capable of joining other heroes on their missions and guiding them should they need it. It's enough to make fans hope that he also gets his own television spin-off.
More Ta Lo (and Morris!)
Part of Shang-Chi and Xialing's journey saw them return to the mystical dimension their mother, Ying Li (Fala Chen), had come from, which then allowed them to reconnect with their extended family, including an aunt played by Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek Discovery). While travelling towards the village, fans got to glimpse the various mythical creatures that lived there, eventually even beholding the dragon that serves as the realm's protector.
A sequel would hopefully see both siblings exploring this aspect of their roots as well, now accompanied by one of the cutest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in recent years (following Captain Marvel's Goose, and followed up by Hawkeye's Pizza Dog): the faceless, but no-less fluffy Morris.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently available to stream on Disney+.