With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings fast approaching release to theaters, there are still many questions that we have about the film. As an origin story, fans want to know how Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu) will be introduced and how the Marvel Cinematic Universe will interpret the character and his powers. Will Shang-Chi feel like he is ripped straight from the comics? Or will he have an entirely new spin to him, similar to Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or other characters who were changed up from their comic book iterations? Though when debuting a movie in such a connected universe, two of the most asked questions is when in the MCU’s timeline will the movie take place? And how will the film connect the greater Marvel world? Well, today we can answer exactly one of those questions.
Shang-Chi’s director, Destin Daniel Cretton spoke with Fandango’s Erik Davis recently (article published on 8/16/2021) and spoke about the film’s placement within the sacred timeline. He stated:
“Shang-Chi is set in the present day in the MCU timeline.”
When prompted for more information by the interviewer, Cretton does clarify that the movie is set “post-snap”, which does seem to narrow the timeframe for Shang-Chi somewhat. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, which to date is the farthest placed movie in the MCU timeline, the Hulk’s snap in Avengers: Endgame that brings everyone back is referred to as “The Blip”. So if Cretton was not playing coy about the time placement and if “present-day” is the same for Shang-Chi as it is for the viewers, the film will take place in 2020 or so. This means that the film could explore a time when half the population was gone and governmental and state powers worldwide were struggling to find a new balance. That would have been an interesting period of time to see, one that I feel would have had a huge impact on the Ten Rings organization as well as the remaining world population as a whole. I doubt that the Mandarin (Tony Leung) would be happy with potentially half of his forces gone in a snap. It would be a strong reason as to why he would want to hold a competition of the world’s best fighters. As Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has shown us, recruitment can be difficult among heroes and villains.
Although if Cretton was playing coy here, as many people involved in making MCU films are, present-day could mean that the film takes place around the time of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Similar to option one, this is a new and exciting time for a filmmaker to explore because it has been relatively untouched. Whatever comes to be during this time can impact everything else in the world in such a huge way. Whereas the time explored in 2020 can still be huge, but cannot change anything too drastically because we have already seen events that occur later on. Looking at some of the films and television shows that have already come in phase four, I think option one seems to make the most sense. Black Widow, the first film since the conclusion of Phase Three, explored a period of time between the end of Captain America Civil War and Avengers Infinity War. Even with having to fit within two bookends, it added significant storylines to the MCU without feeling constricted by the timeframe. As well, each show on Disney+ explored the time between Endgame and Far From Home. So perhaps an origin film for Shang-Chi would work as a retroactive look at a time that still has so much story left in it.
Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings kicks and punches its way into theaters on September 3rd.