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Lines In Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings That Mean More Than You Realize

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is finally in theaters worldwide, and Marvel fans are breathlessly excited about this latest chapter in the unfolding, epic saga of the MCU — one that this film, perhaps more than any other in recent memory, develops for the immediate future.

Like any great Marvel movie, it works on multiple levels. On one hand, "Shang-Chi" is an origin story and tale of epic adventure, building a world around new characters who seem destined to become fan favorites. On the other, there's plenty of heavy-lifting to be done in addressing the aftermath of Thanos, the next incarnation of the Avengers, and tying into storylines that stretch back more than a decade to films like "The Incredible Hulk" and "Iron Man 3."

Which is why, quite often, the lines in these films are written with a precise dual meaning. Writers and directors must appeal to the in-depth, world-building knowledge of die-hard Marvel fans who recognize Trevor Slattery with an approving grin, yet at the same time make the lines breezy and plot-friendly enough to embrace the first-timer making "Shang-Chi" their introduction to the Marvel universe.

With that in mind, below are a half-dozen spoiler-heavy lines in "Shang-Chi" that mean far more than you might realize when you first hear them. Go watch the film, then come back here after you think you know all the secrets — and expand your purview like a wide-eyed visitor setting foot for the first time in the hidden city of Ta-Lo.

"I speak ABC"

In the film, Jon Jon (Ronny Chieng) says this line to Katy (Awkwafina), which many viewers might take as just a cute way of saying "I speak English." In actuality, "ABC" is an abbreviation for "American-Born Chinese."

"Our conversation behind which languages should be spoken was always rooted in the logic of the characters," writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton said just before the film's release, at a press event attended by Looper. "That conversation started in the writer's room, and then once our actors came in, it was always a dialogue with them: Is this character bilingual, trilingual, quadrilingual? Characters could speak whatever made sense at the time."

As for the ABC line, Simu Liu (who plays Shang-Chi) said the exchange feels very real. "I really loved that moment where [Jon Jon] is talking to Awkwafina's character and she's like oh, no, my Chinese isn't good," he said. "And [he's] like: 'No worries, I speak ABC.'"

"That was a really big moment," Awkwafina added. "Culturally, you just never see that."

"ABC, of course, means American-born Chinese," Liu explained. "It's the first time that you see in a movie someone just calling that out, but it's a lived experience."

"We're living in a world where any minute, half the population could disappear."

Spoken early in the movie, at an unguarded moment when the characters are just living their everyday lives, this line not only alludes to the wider MCU universe whose plotlines revolved around Thanos and his infamous Snap, but also to the mindset of ordinary humans still grappling years later with the ramifications.

As we've seen in shows like "WandaVision" and movies like "Spider-Man: Far from Home," the Snap didn't only leave a lasting impact on those who vanished and were later brought back through the heroics of The Avengers. Marvel characters from the famous (T'Challa, Nick Fury, Spider-Man) to the more obscure (Betty Brant, Sharon Carter, Maria Hill) were gone for five years, just long enough for loved ones to attempt to move on, only to have them return.

Although "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" doesn't add any new names to known victims of the Snap, the event touched everyone, and it does make clear that the Sword of Damocles is still hanging over the heads of every person on the planet.

According to writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton, this movie is set after the Blip that brought everyone back. This timeframe, and the general unease of the populace, is backed up by a support group poster that can be glimpsed next to the door Shaun enters when he's visiting Katy's family. It reads: "Post-Blip anxiety? You are not alone."

"Give me the pendant, and no one gets hurt."

This seemingly straightforward line represents the final moment of Shaun's innocence. For more than a decade, he has been working to build himself a new life in San Francisco, one far away from his Chinese upbringing. But as we're about to see, he hasn't been neglecting his physical fitness.

When the robber makes that statement, Shaun could have just handed over the jade pendant, shrugged his shoulders and Katy would likely think no less of him. But that wouldn't make much of a movie, would it?

"Does he look like he can fight?" Katy protests to the unsympathetic toughies. "Come on, bro."

In a heartbeat, Shaun launches from mild-mannered bus patron to full-on Shang-Chi, pulling out acrobatic, environment-embracing, ass-kicking moves that would make Jackie Chan sit up and applaud. In a matter of moments, he doesn't just shatter half the windows on the bus, but also his remaining anonymity (a live-streamer catches it all on his phone, leading to viral fame as "Bus Boy") and any pretense of normalcy with friend Katy — who watches the whole thing with her jaw open before finally regaining enough sense to hop behind the wheel and drive the bus.

By the time the scene is over, everything has changed. Shaun has revealed himself to Katy as Shang-Chi, his old life has dragged him back in, and he must go to China confront his past. Also, the city of San Francisco has a really big mess to clean up.

"From sun up to sun down, I was taught every possible way to kill a man."

Movies have employed training sequences for decades. But it's another thing to show — and explain in raw detail — how day after day, month after month, year after year, you were raised to be a killing machine. If you can watch the scene where Shang-Chi looks at the support beam he would punch as a child until his knuckles were raw with blood and not grab massage your own knuckles, you must be paying too much attention to your popcorn.

Some movies have the hero adept in martial arts from the get-go, as if it's just something they picked up; others allude to the training, but don't truly depict the full dedication it requires. But by the time you're finished hearing the tale of Shang-Chi's upbringing under the tutelage of his father and the mysterious, makeup-heavy Death Dealer, you fully realize how he was able to mow down those baddies on the bus as if he were a weed whacker and they were dallisgrass.

Keep in mind, for almost the entirety of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," Shang-Chi does not have even one ring. In essence, he's an unpowered would-be hero relying solely on his training to battle a wide array of threats who have everything from super powers to — at the bare minimum — a machete hand.

So yes, Shang-Chi is a trained killer, and Simu Liu is talented enough to sell you on all those years of training. Of course, by the end of the movie, Shang-Chi does come into possession of the Ten Rings — so, just imagine how powerful he'll be the next time we see him in action.

"America was terrified — of an orange."

There is so much going on in this exchange with Wenwu (Tony Leung) that some in the audience may have no clue what the wearer of the Ten Rings is talking about, while a second group appreciates the surface story — and a third, final group understands the behind-the-scenes drama it all addresses. It began, oddly enough, with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."

Robert Downey Jr. (the first major star to ever sign on to this MCU experiment) starred in the underrated 2005 comedy/crime drama written and directed by eccentric, enigmatic Shane Black — the man behind such classics as the "Lethal Weapon" series and guilty pleasure "The Last Boy Scout." When he became Tony Stark and his career (and star power) shot higher than Iron Man flying a nuke through a space portal, he remained so impressed with Black that he got the filmmaker to do uncredited work on the original "Iron Man" (paying him in salmon and blueberries), and then helped him formally land the "Iron Man 3" gig. Black's trademarks include hard-boiled characters, Christmas settings and a tendency to mess with audience expectations — so it was no surprise that the lead-up to that film had Downey promising "complexities within complexities."

Sure enough, Black stewarded such ideas as setting up "Gandhi" himself, the legendary Oscar winner Sir Ben Kinglsey, to be the "pretend" bad guy the movie teased as an ominous threat, only to reveal as a dim actor hired to be the face man for a terrorist organization. Audiences buying tickets to "Iron Man 3" in 2013 thought they were going to see Tony Stark square off against arguably his arch enemy in the comics, "The Mandarin." Instead, they got Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian as the man behind the man.

At the time, some loved the bait-and-switch; others were were disappointed or even flat out angry. As the years went by, a third narrative became the loudest: By teasing a Chinese character and instead giving audiences a white one, coupled with "The Ancient One" from "Doctor Strange" and the blowback from 2017's "Iron Fist" that had many wanting an Asian actor cast in that role, Marvel seemed to be perpetuating a shameful Hollywood tradition of co-opting and whitewashing the Asian experience. Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige became determined to not only address such concerns, but take back The Mandarin.

Which is why, in 2014, Marvel released a "One-Shot" called "All Hail the King," which depicted a post-"Iron Man 3" Slattery in prison. Beginning with the King Lear quote "Come not between the dragon and his wrath," the short film has a reporter interviewing the former frontman; although predominantly played for laughs, it had the frequently-inebriated British actor (who blames his recruitment on "Three little words: Lovely drugs.") being told "your portrayal has angered some people ... [including] The Ten Rings, the terrorist group associated with The Mandarin ... evidence suggests they're becoming more active." At the end of the film the interviewer (who bears a Ten Rings tattoo on his forearm), reveals his true identity as an agent of The Mandarin and takes Slattery prisoner, saying "There's someone who wants to meet you. You took his name, and he wants it back."

Which brings us to "Shang-Chi," Wenwu's recounting of the story to his son, Katy and Xialing — and the later revelation that Slattery has been held prisoner ever since in the Mandarin's dungeon basement, his only companion a freaky Ta-Lo creature that appears to have no face and dual butts. "I was offered the role of terrorist ... I know, facile," Slattery says, giving his own recounting of the events. "The producer got blown up by Iron Man, and I served time in federal prison."

"If you aim at nothing, you hit nothing."

This is the advice given to Katy when she joins the battle at Ta-Lo and becomes more than just someone who can scream Don Henley lyrics at the enemy. On the surface, it's a line explaining the ideal mindset of an archer. But far beyond the character's immediate need to become a poor man's Hawkeye, Katy can find far greater application in the quote.

As we see at the beginning of the film, Shaun and Katy were leading a largely aimless existence. Valet parking cars for low wages, spending nights drinking and singing karaoke — as Katy's family were all too eager to point out, it felt like a roadmap to nowhere. But what she didn't realize is that her drinking buddy did in fact have a raison d'etre, even if he was actively working to suppress it.

Through Shang-Chi's embracing of his destiny — and her support as a loyal friend — the two characters ended the film with something to finally aim for: A future as superheroes, possibly as Avengers, and perhaps Katy continuing to embrace her skills as an archer and car chase driver.

"I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow," Awkwafina said of her training for the film at a press conference Looper attended. "I also went to a race track and learned how to drift. Which is fun, but probably not practical in any scenario that might involve traffic."

"Let's get started. We have a lot of work to do."

If you hang around until the very end of the credits, this is the sentence you'll hear Xialing (Meng'er Zhang) say, indicating the dawning of a new day for the character. For years, her father Wenwu (Tony Leung) had forbidden her from training, forcing the young girl to slyly study the men around her and resolve to be even more effective in her movements. Later in life, she'd become disappointed by another man, when brother Shang-Chi left her behind in China.

Now, after the heroes won the day at Ta-Lo and her father is no longer a threat to contend with, Shang-Chi has taken the Ten Rings and once again left — this time, for a new life of adventure in San Francisco and the Sanctum Sanctorum. This leaves Xialing alone to rebuild and rule over a new kingdom, which is where we find her in this end credits scene, surrounded by people training for battle.

Where will this new chapter take her? It's hard to tell, because in the comics there is no Xialing. Shang-Chi has five sisters — but you have to keep in mind that since the Shang-Chi character was introduced in 1973 to capitalize on the Bruce Lee/"Kung Fu" fad of the early '70s and spun off from Sax Rohmer's Fu-Manchu, problematic landmines abound in the series' source material. It is believed that Xialing is primarily based on Zheng Bao Yu/Fah Lo Suee, who was nicknamed "The Cursed Lotus."

In the comics, The Cursed Lotus was a gifted hand-to-hand combatant and seductress who longed to follow in her father's footsteps and led her own criminal organization called "The Oriental Expeditors." Although there's an extremely good chance that name will not be appearing in the MCU, it's possible that the people we see training under her tutelage are early Expeditors, and as we've already seen from Xialing's prominence in the underground fighting community, she knows plenty of tough folks who would likely be for hire.

We almost certainly haven't seen the last of Xialing — and Shang-Chi better be prepared for another smackdown with sis.