‘Shang-Chi’ Director Talks Film’s Use Of Mandarin Language In Script

They definitely made the right call.

Shang-Chi Simu Liu Awkwafina Ronny Chieng

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton discussed the use of the Mandarin language throughout the script.

Along with directing Marvel Studios’ newest film Shang-Chi, Destin Daniel Cretton co-wrote the screenplay with Dave Callaham. To give Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero movie more authenticity, a good portion of the film’s dialogue was written in Mandarin, in which the film’s titular protagonist played by Simu Liu was shown to be multilingual between his native tongue and English.

During a Shang-Chi press conference moderated by Ronny Chieng, Destin Daniel Cretton discussed the decision to allow certain characters to speak Mandarin and to have a good portion of the film presented with English subtitles:

“I can talk to the conversation behind which language should be speaking was always rooted in just the logic of the characters.  And who would naturally be speaking what language. And so that conversation started inthe writer’s room and then once our actors came in it was always a dialogue what these are all bilingual, trilingual, quadrilingual characters who could speak whatever made sense at the time.  So, we were constantly having the discussion of what made sense for the scene.”

Shang-Chi himself, Simu Liu brought up a scene in which Awkafina’s Katy and Ronny Chieng’s Jon Jon first meet, and how the interaction served as another example of authenticity for the characters. The three discussed the scene in question:

SIMU:  What I really loved is that moment where, I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but where, you know, your character is talking to-to Awkwafina’s character…


SIMU:  …and, uh, and she’s like “oh, no, my Chinese isn’t good.”  And you’re like, “no worries, I speak ABC.”  I mean it just…

AWKWAFINA:  That was really a-a big moment like when I-yeah.  

RONNY:  Oh, okay.  I appreciate it, yeah.  

AWKWAFINA:  No, I-I-it-it-I think like culturally, you just never see that. 

SIMU:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  

AWKWAFINA:  You never see that refer to it. 

SIMU:  So, they called-I mean, they called it out and ABC, of course, means “American-born Chinese,” but it’s just this-this-the first time that you really see in a movie, um, someone just calling out, you know, a lived experience.

The decision to present a portion of the film in Mandarin with English subtitles was one of the best creative choices made for the story and characters. Thanks to Destin Daniel Cretton and Dave Callaham’s approach, the actors involved found much appreciation in the script’s authenticity, adding more depth to the characters from the multilingual dynamics among other things.

Here is the synopsis for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

“Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi in Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.”

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a script written by David Callaham, the upcoming Marvel film stars Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung. The upcoming movie will hit theaters on September 3, 2021.

Stay tuned for the latest news regarding Shang-Chi and the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content!

Source: Shang-Chi Press Conference

Noah Villaverde

Noah Villaverde

Cinema lover. Saxophone player. Coffee consumer. Chronic complainer. Oh, I also write. #TeamHeroic