The new teaser trailer for Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings came out this week. I watched it and found I didn’t have a lot to say about it because it doesn’t say much about the movie. There were a few points I could make, certainly less than all the reactions and Easter Egg hunters on YouTube had to say. Figuring out why was easy, making this commentary best serving as double duty.
For the record I am not well-versed in Hands Of Shang-Chi: Master Of Kung Fu, the comic series that introduced the title character. Like Luke Cage, Shang-Chi exists to take advantage of trends at the time. In the 1970s badly dubbed martial arts movies from China were kind of the rage among the less snobbish members of cinema fandom. While I do have one issue of the comic, and a couple of appearances in other Marvel comics, I didn’t follow the man as much as, for example, the late and missed Brian Snell of Slay Monstrobot Of The Deep. His website was even named after a panel from that comic and it’s a shame he didn’t live to finally see Shang-Chi leave the comic page. He never even appeared in a cartoon before now.
While I know just enough to have a few issues with the trailer, the fact that it’s only a teaser brings up a few issues with teaser trailers…mainly that we really don’t need them.
It’s 2021. I don’t expect Shang-Chi to be walking around shirtless and shoeless through the streets of New York City. That would just be silly. However, here’s what I know about the character’s history. Shang-Chi was originally envisioned as the son of Fu Manchu, back when Marvel was still licensing the novel villain created by Sax Rohmer. He ends up killing his father for his crimes and then going on the run from his followers. He also aided the FBI (or maybe CIA…you’ll see in a moment why I’m not researching this on purpose…the fact that I looked up Manchu’s creator was already pushing it on this one), fought some street level Marvel villains, a giant sea monster robot (going back to Snell’s site name), and Fu Manchu’s followers the Si-Fan, which would also mean fighting his own mother at one point.
Looking at this teaser however, Shang-Chi’s dad seems alive and well. This could just be an origin story but when Leroy from The Last Dragon acts more like Shang-Chi from the comics, and Leroy is a kid whose character arc involves not taking on a cartoonish view of what it means to be a martial artist, maybe you’re doing something wrong. Then again, we only see parts of his life before fighting the bad guys and we don’t know which is which. Seeing him in a party situation and laughing does feel a bit off to me, but again I don’t know the character super well.
There are two problems with using Fu Manchu of course. One is that he is not owned by Marvel and I don’t think he’s currently in public domain either. This is why writer Ed Brubaker (and this one I just stumbled upon–though it is Wikipedia so question the source) treated it like an alias and our hero’s dad was Zheng Zu, a sorcerer who would also discover the secret of immortality…which must not have worked too well considering he’s dead. The other is Fu Manchu is often tied to outdated, borderline if not outright racist depictions of Chinese people. While I don’t believe have a Chinese villain reflects on all Chinese people any more than having a white villain reflects on anyone of European ancestry considering depictions of the day you’d be hard-pressed to update him and maybe it’s best we don’t bother.
So from what I’ve heard the new daddy is going to be the Mandarin, longtime enemy of Iron Man Tony Stark, who to my knowledge has never met Shang-Chi before. Why not use Zheng Zu? I don’t know. Why use the Mandarin here after the messed up take of Iron Man 3? Modern racism. They’re both Chinese so of course they need to fight each other and Mandy is more famous than Zu, a character I only found out about on accident. The Mandarin has appeared in at least two previous Iron Man cartoons and technically appeared in the direct-to-video movie kind of sort of. Yeah, sorry, no–Mandarin is Iron Man’s arch enemy not because he’s Chinese (in fact Mandarin’s goal is often to conquer China and remake it to his liking) but because he utilizes advanced technology as well as the alien rings that grant him different abilities. Great as Shang-Chi is he’s not more powerful than a dude in high-tech super armor and even Tony has barely survived the ten rings (which are supposed to be on his HANDS and contain 10 different powers) of the Mandarin more than once.
Of course this doesn’t come from the teaser. In fact very little comes from the teaser because teasers tell you nothing whatsoever. While some full trailers tell you too much because the nitwits in marketing don’t care about twists, ruining the best jokes, or character development is all they care about is getting people in the theater and not caring if they’re disappointed that the best parts are ruined since their bosses already have your money, teasers go to far the other way. They tell you nothing. In the case of action movies like this all you get are some flashy visuals. Nothing about the story nor is Shang-Chi isn’t named once. We know if the guy in the chair is the Mandarin, Zheng Zu, Fu Manchu, or the guy from Big Trouble In Little China. You know why these useless bits of “hey, we’re making this thing” exist?
Because people desperate for any news will do the promotion for them on the free. Reaction videos, Easter Egg hunts, even articles like this will build up hype for the movie that may not even be finished yet. Teasers tell us nothing about the movie beyond that but for some reason people get hyped to be told absolutely JACK. I see a few things that don’t feel like the comic characters but Marvel Studios as slowly lost their way on adaptation for a while now, and only Spider-Man was done by force thanks to the Sony deal. And yet people start talking about it, YouTubers try to get more views by feeding on that and end up feeding the teaser beast itself. I’ve done it before and frankly if it wasn’t for this paragraph I wouldn’t have bothered…and even then I was just trying to come up with a topic for tonight.
I’ve decided that I don’t want to discuss teasers anymore. Maybe they’ll show up in the daily quick post but I’m not going to do a review like this unless it’s for a full trailer, which is meant to actually help you decide if you want to see a movie or not. Teasers only exist to build up hype without spending any time and money of their own to do it. You’re supporting lazy cheapskates with all these speculation videos and articles. Stop falling for it!