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Things We Want To See In Shang-Chi 2

Given that "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" stands as the biggest movie of 2021 at the domestic box office and the first title to crack $200 million in the United States since the pandemic started, per Business Insider, it was only a matter of time before the project received a sequel. Still, that didn't dilute the excitement around the buzzy development that the original film's writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton would be returning in those roles to develop "Shang-Chi 2." It's a testament to the work put in by Cretton and company on the first film that a relatively obscure comic book figure like Shang-Chi is now capable of headlining multiple solo theatrical movies.

It's still the earliest possible days on "Shang-Chi 2," but thanks to the positive reception surrounding the movie, there are tons of elements that people are dying to see in this blockbuster sequel. Some of these elements are plot details set up by the inaugural "Shang-Chi" installment, while others are concepts that have so far only been explored in the comics. No matter what, though, all the things we want to see in "Shang-Chi 2" reflect all the exciting creative possibilities of further exploring this remarkable corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Where did the rings come from?

The mid-credits scene of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" sees Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner discussing the ten rings that Shang-Chi now possesses and, specifically, where they came from. Considering that even experienced Avengers are confounded by these objects, it's obvious that these mystical entities are more powerful than even Wenwu could've imagined. Further problems reveal themselves once everyone in this quartet discovers that the rings are emitting some kind of signal. While no answers are provided as to where that signal is being sent, it's clear these rings will provide problems further down the line in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

This is doubly true if the filmmakers behind "Shang-Chi 2" opt to go the cosmic origin route for the rings from the comics when laying out the next chapter. Given that the feature film incarnation of Shang-Chi has shown a willingness to toss aside the source material in favor of new concepts, fans shouldn't be surprised if they see a new outer space birthplace for the ten rings. Maybe they're tied to alien forces we've already seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, like the Kree or Chitauri. Perhaps this is where alien species like the Badoon come into play in this franchise for the first time. Whatever the origin the filmmakers come up with, this mid-credits sequence needs to get paid off, and "Shang-Chi 2" has to deliver some answers as to where those ultra-powerful rings came from.

Who did Shang-Chi kill?

Towards the end of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," the titular superhero comes clean and reveals to his best bud Katy that he had previously lied to her. When his father sends Shang-Chi out on an assignment to kill the gangster responsible for killing his mother, he goes through with the murder. Used in the film as an indicator of just how messed up the relationship between Shang-Chi and Wenwu is, it's never stated who Shang-Chi killed — or if they may have relatives out there looking for revenge.

This plot thread could work just fine if left untouched and functioning just as a way of furthering the father/son strife. However, if the sequel to "Shang-Chi" is looking for additional sources of drama, someone coming around to mess up this superhero's life for killing their loved one could prove to be a perfect way of doing that. Plus, it could be another reminder for Shang-Chi that he can't just outrun his past. Much like he did with his dad and sister, he's going to have to confront it. Beyond that, utilizing this detail would give the next film a villain with an easily-explainable motivation, making it seems like a no-brainer to explore this storyline further in the sequel.

The continuation of Shang-Chi and Katy's friendship

In a welcome departure from the norms of both comic book movies and general American cinema, the male and female leads of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" remain friends to the end credits rather than getting shoehorned into a romance. Aside from one comment from Katy's grandmother, there aren't even observations from the other "Shang-Chi" characters about how the duo should become a romantic pair. Their rapport is allowed to exist on its own terms, which allows both Shang-Chi and Katy more time to get fleshed out as individual characters as a result. This departure from convention is something that a sequel to "Shang-Chi" should not deviate from.

No sequel should keep the entire status quo of its predecessor intact, as that would be boring. However, in this case, it'd be great for a prospective "Shang-Chi 2" to resist the urge to make Shang-Chi and Katy a couple. Even putting aside how their relationship is a welcome deviation from pop culture conventions, their dynamic is so much more fun as friends. It's not something that could be enhanced by seeing the pair smooching. More scenes that could only happen between long-time friends, like perhaps some late-night karaoke, would be more than welcome in "Shang-Chi 2." Awkward attempts to make the duo a couple, though, should never even make it into the first draft of the project's screenplay.

Where will Xu Xialing go next?

The second after-credits scene of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" reveals that, contrary to Shang-Chi's comments in the movie's final pre-credits scene, his sister Xu Xialing did not disband her father's criminal enterprise, the Ten Rings organization. Once upon a time, Xialing had to watch from afar as her dad trained only men to work under his command. This concluding scene reveals that Xialing has changed this status quo, as that she is now that she was in charge of the Ten Rings compound. As the camera pulls back from Xialing seated on her throne, the viewer can see that she was now employing people of all genders from around the globe. Rather than tossing away a criminal empire, Xialing appears to be reforming The Ten Rings into her image.

With the closing text "The Ten Rings will return," it's clear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not done with either this organization or the character of Xialing yet. But where will she go next? Will Xialing use her Ten Rings influence to become a heroic figure? Or could she go down a different path? Will she become just as antagonistic as her father? Certainly the Ten Rings, up to this point, only has negative connotations in the MCU. Will that rub off on Xialing? Wherever her moral trajectory, it'll be fascinating to see where Xialing goes next in whatever plot "Shang-Chi 2" conjures up.

Agents of Atlas set-up

In 2019, Marvel Comics refashioned the Agents of Atlas name from Atlas Comics to become something new and exciting. Now, the Agents of Atlas are a superhero team comprised of Asian-American superheroes from all across the Marvel Comics pantheon, led by Jimmy Woo. Shang-Chi has been an on-again/off-again member of the group in the comics, with other key members including Luna Snow, Silk, and White Fox. Given that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, judging by the existence of "Guardians of the Galaxy," "The Avengers," and "Eternals," loves ensemble superhero team movies, it's impossible for the Agents of Atlas to be totally off the radar for Marvel Studios.

Thus, it doesn't seem far-fetched to imagine that the Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration of Shang-Chi could join a version of the Agents of Atlas somewhere down the line. Now, it's doubtful "Shang-Chi 2" will transform into an extended commercial for an Agents of Atlas film. However, given that crucial characters on the team like Woo and Kamala Khan have either been or will soon be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it does feel like the dominoes have been set up for Agents of Atlas to come into this sprawling saga eventually. "Shang-Chi 2" could be a perfect opportunity to start teasing the group's existence, perhaps with an appearance by a character like Woo. As the "Justice League" poster wisely noted, you can't save the world alone, and that's just as true for Shang-Chi as anybody.

Appearances by other Marvel martial artists

One good martial artist superhero deserves another. Now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought Shang-Chi into the fold as a prominent part of this franchise, it's time for other notable martial artist characters from the comics to make their way to the big screen. Iron Fist, the most famous of these other individuals, is still too mired in the toxic reputation of his Netflix program to work as a viable cohort, but he's far from the only option on the table. Any incarnation of White Tiger and their fighting skills, for example, would be a welcome addition to the cast of "Shang-Chi 2."

Meanwhile, Iron Fist's regular companion Colleen Wing could even serve as a solid addition to the cast. If the creators wanted to tie "Shang-Chi 2" into the mutant mythology, Psylocke could also work as a new character for Shang-Chi to scuffle with. The history of Marvel Comics is littered with larger-than-life martial artist superheroes. The follow-up to "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" should try its hardest to work in whichever of these figures it can into the plot. Now that the floodgates have opened for such superheroes, it'd be a shame to clog them up again!

Maintain standalone nature of the original Shang-Chi

What's delightful about "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is how much of a standalone affair it is. Sure, Wong and Abomination show up for a cameo in the middle of the movie, and their momentary appearance can work fine for viewers who didn't see prior Marvel Cinematic Universe titles. Ditto the supporting presence of "Iron Man 3" character Trevor Slattery. "Shang-Chi" is primarily concerned with fleshing out its corner of this fictional franchise, which allows the audience to get to know its principal characters and not get distracted by the extensive setup for future Disney+ Marvel Studios shows.

However, seeing that the mid-credits scene for "Shang-Chi" has established that Shang-Chi and Katy are rubbing shoulders with the Avengers, it could be tempting for the creative team behind "Shang-Chi 2" to ramp up the connections to the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe. The deft handling of Wong and Trevor Slattery in the original film shows that it isn't impossible for the "Shang-Chi" movies to feature explicit connections to other MCU properties, but it's imperative that "Shang-Chi 2" remain a largely standalone affair. Marvel Studios should avoid the temptation to set up future seasons of "Loki" or "Hawkeye" here and instead focus on diving deeper into established mythology from the original "Shang-Chi." To overwhelm this sequel with MCU tie-ins would suffocate the standalone qualities that made this character's first movie work so excellently.

More action set-pieces in the real world

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" makes a highly entertaining detour at the start of its third act by shifting the action from the real world to the realm of Ta Lo, which is home to otherworldly creatures, demon monsters, and Michelle Yeoh. It is an extraordinarily vivid and colorful place to visit, and it is impressive how director Destin Daniel Cretton is able to maintain the emotional tangibility of the central father/son relationship even in this stylized domain. However, it might be a smart idea to embrace more environments set in the real world when it comes time for "Shang-Chi 2."

This shouldn't be seen as a complaint about Ta Lo, nor a sign that the follow-up should abandon this wondrous domain altogether. However, "Shang-Chi 2" should avoid just replicating its predecessor whenever possible, and that includes the backdrops for its story. Given that viewers have already seen characters come to Ta Lo, it'd be a shame to revisit that in a sequel. Perhaps this go-around the dynamic could be reversed, with more spectacular creatures and power from Ta Lo coming to specific and unexpected locations on Earth? Whatever the story ends up being, "Shang-Chi 2" should remember to set more of its action scenes and intimate sequences in Earthbound domains to help differentiate itself from the original film.

Criminal underworld ripple effects from Wenwu's demise

Wenwu isn't just the father of Shang-Chi, he is a criminal mastermind whose Ten Rings organization reaches far enough in influence to be involved in the kidnapping of Tony Stark back in the first "Iron Man." Now that Wenwu has perished, so too has a formidable figure in the criminal underworld of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It'd be a waste of potentially interesting storytelling to ignore the ways Wenwu's sudden absence would leave a gigantic hole in the domain of people who live above the law.

For example, what about the people who require Wenwu's actions to line their pockets? What happens to them? What about the people with a grudge against Wenwu, where will they channel their rage next? Not only could these and other concepts provide gripping drama for "Shang-Chi 2," but they'd also further Shang-Chi's journey of grappling with how his father impacted his life. Such an impact continues to reverberate well after the man has left this mortal world. That's only inevitable when your father is someone like Wenwu, who has had such a gigantic influence on the criminal underworld.

Seeing where Katy's life goes next

Katy starts "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" as someone without any ambitions greater than just being a valet. By the end of the movie, she learns to commit herself to something, to the point that she becomes enough of a skilled archer to prove indispensable in the final battle. Tossing an arrow into the heart of a soul-sucking demon is a fine way to put a tidy bow on this portion of Katy's journey. However, there's no way it's the end of the line for this character and where she goes as a person, especially since the mid-credits scene of "Shang-Chi" shows that she is now working alongside the Avengers.

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is as much an origin story for Katy as it was for its titular superhero, and that means "Shang-Chi 2" needs to continue to explore this character's life. Maybe the next step for Katy's journey is becoming a mentor figure to someone, much like Guang Bo was for her in the original movie. That's just one of the infinite places Katy could go next, especially since this character is an original creation not bound by her trajectory in the comics. If "Shang-Chi 2" wants to be a proper follow-up to its predecessor, it needs to remember to make ample screentime for Katy.

Further unexpected fight scene inspirations

Part of the fun in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is how each fight scene draws on a different creative inspiration. The first skirmish on a public bus, for instance, is as if "Speed" and "Nobody" had an action sequence baby on steroids, while the influence of classic silent movie comedians like Buster Keaton are felt during an extended fight on scaffolding. As for the climactic battle between good and evil, it's an elaborate set-piece that begins as a sequence reminiscent of a "The Lord of the Rings" inspired battle between two armies before concluding like the offspring of "Pacific Rim" and "How to Train Your Dragon."

For the sequel, it could be tempting to lean on these creative influences again when it comes to concocting the action sequences. However, it'd be much wiser to find new equally unexpected creative influences to mold these fights around. After all, nobody went into the original "Shang-Chi" expecting to get Chaplin vibes from the blend of punches and physical comedy. To repeat those influences would remove the element of surprise that made "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" such a delight. The next film should continue to embrace the unexpected and give fans even more incredible action for this follow-up.

Shang-Chi's duplication powers

For decades, Shang-Chi has been known as the master of Kung Fu. However, over the years, he's also garnered extra superpowers that have ensured Shang-Chi isn't just a knock-off of Bruce Lee. One of these new strengths came in the 2010s when an extended comic book storyline involving the Avengers saw Shang-Chi getting the unique superpower of creating multiple copies of himself. A gift previously attributed to Loki's mischievous powers or the mutant Multiple Man was now in the hands of Shang-Chi. Perhaps it's time for his Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation to also get the same superpower.

Granted, Marvel Studios may avoid incorporating this Shang-Chi ability if only because it has multiple characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that can make copies of themselves, including Sprite in "Eternals." However, just because this superpower has existed in this franchise before doesn't mean it couldn't be given new life in the hands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, giving him this unique gift that was absent from the original "Shang-Chi" could be a great way to have this superhero further differentiate himself from his late father. There are tons of intriguing ways Shang-Chi's duplication powers from the comics could manifest compellingly in "Shang-Chi 2."