'Shang-Chi' Is More A Journey Of Self-Discovery Than A Superhero Movie, Director Destin Daniel Cretton Says

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has drawn an enthusiastic response from those in attendance at the movie's world premiere. It's to be expected when you're dealing with a glitzy red-carpet event, not to mention the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Chris Evans, who has now officially ceded the headlining role in Captain America 4 to Anthony Mackie, once said Marvel's "internal barometer for what is good and bad is pretty on point."

Phase 4 of the MCU is going in new directions, and for Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton, that involved being led by a different narrative compass: namely, a "journey of self-discovery," not so much a simple superhero movie.

Our own Hoai Tran-Bui came back to us with this quote from Cretton at a press conference for Shang-Chi:

"I really personally connect with Shang-Chi's journey. I love that this is a superhero that doesn't get splashed with chemicals to get his superpower. That it is a journey of self-discovery, of growing up, of learning how to finally deal with pain that he has been running away from his entire life, and that when he is finally able to look inside into his past and embrace the good, bad, the joy, the pain and accept it all as a part of himself. That's when he finally steps into his big boy shoes, and I think that's kind of what we're all doing as humans in some way or another and so I really connect with that."

Cretton's Journey of Self-Discovery as an MCU Director

Shang-Chi is Marvel's first Asian-centered superhero film, but Cretton took some convincing — from director Ryan Coogler, himself Wakandan royalty — before he was ready to commit to the massive undertaking of this studio tentpole. The two filmmakers shared a similar indie background, with Coogler's Fruitvale Station having won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature back in 2014, the year the MCU started really shifting to deliver more top-tier Marvel movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Black Panther and Shang-Chi were barely a twinkle in anyone's eyes back then. Now, Marvel is on a more diverse superhero path. As for Cretton, he may not have an Oscar yet, but he did win the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Oscars' selfsame voting body, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You can actually read his winning script (and others, like Ehren Kruger's Arlington Road, made into a movie starring Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins) on the Academy's official website.

That script went on to become Short Term 12, Cretton's sophomore feature, led by Brie Larson. As we reported earlier, despite having worked with Captain Marvel herself in the past, Cretton was not initially keen on tackling a Marvel blockbuster like Shangi-Chi. In his pitch meeting with Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige, he even let slip that he had once told his manager or agent, "Don't ever let me do a Marvel movie."

He changed his mind, and now we've got Shang-Chi coming at us with its cage matches, rings of power, and underwater dragons. In the trailer, when Simu Liu exhorts, "Is this what you wanted?" you can almost hear a hint of Cretton's voice behind that line.

Shangi-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be in theaters on September 3, 2021.