Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Director Destin Daniel Cretton has made his most visionary, fantastical film yet with Marvel’s SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. The story tells the tale of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), who is forced to return to the homeland he fled in order to, not only rescue his fractured family, but also save the world from impending doom. This heartrending story opens the door for magnificent performances and dazzling, character-forward stunt work.

At the film’s recent virtual press conference, the stars and creatives shared a little about what into making this Marvel-ous picture.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton worked child-care at a group home for at-risk teens before becoming a filmmaker. It was this experience that directly informed his breakout film SHORT TERM 12. It also feeds into the backstory of hero Shang-Chi. He said of the transition, “That job affected my entire life, my world view. I feel like the stories that I am drawn to are a combination of humor, optimism but also not shying away from the very real darkness and pain that we all experience as humans. I think this movie really does encapsulate a lot of the things that I really believe in.” 

Ben Kingsley resonated with the heart at the story – and its compassion is where he rediscovered his character. “When you hear Destin, the motives behind telling this story are pure, crystal clear, lucid, pure motives. They are life enhancing and they’re not patronizing because they do introduce, in a beautiful way, memory, ancestry, loss and families torn apart and reunited and reconfigured. All this is from Destin’s heart and Kevin’s [Feige] heart and the writers’ heart. And if your motives are pure as a storyteller, the angels will come to assist you with that story. To quote, um, a great author, whom I admire greatly, ‘To tell a story is to heal.’” He continued, “We are actors together. We live on empathy and transformation – and this is our currency. All the rest is irrelevant. If we can demonstrate that energy, I think it will ultimately be soothing and healing and people will realize there’s very little difference in storytelling and very little difference in our hearts.”

SHANG-CHI is co-star Meng’er Zhang’s first film. An acclaimed theater actress, she was a little nervous about her first film set experience. She took the opportunity to soak up any and all advice from her colleagues. “Sir Ben, I asked him a lot of questions on set.  He said, so beautiful, ‘When we are on stage, we are landscape artists. And we are in front of a camera, we are portrait artists.’ That just gave me a very clear image. I literally took notes every time when I talked to Sir Ben.”  

Awkwafina learned how to drift cars and practice archery for her role. Sometimes being a best friend to the hero comes with a certain set of demands, including getting physical. The affable actress had to learn a few new skill sets to play Katy, Shang-Chi’s bestie. “I actually went to a race track and like learned how to drift. Probably not practical in any scenario that like in kind of traffic. I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow. 

It was NOT Simu Liu’s tweet that landed him the part. Believe it or not, it was his talent. Liu was also curious about this too and thought, “When you tweet at Marvel, you think it’s going to some 19-year-old intern with acne… No one’s gonna read that. No one cares what I have to say. But maybe they did.” Feige was quick to put this to rest, saying, “Unfortunately, Simu, it was not your tweeting.  It was your acting ability, your constant professionalism, and then multiple reads and meetings that you did that got you the job.”

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS opens in theaters on September 3.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.