Where Does ‘Shang-Chi’ Fall on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Timeline?

After 2020 passed with no new Marvel movies, the prospect of getting four films in a single year is an exciting one. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the studio’s second blockbuster to arrive in 2021, but it’s the first to throw fans into Phase 4 with gusto. While Black Widow revisited the Marvel Cinematic Universe of the past, Shang-Chi takes fans into the franchise’s future. But where, exactly, does the film fall on the MCU’s timeline?

‘Shang-Chi’ introduces a new Phase 4 hero

Marvel star Simu Liu at the premiere for 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.' He's wearing a white button-up shirt and black jacket. He's staring at the camera and standing in front of an image of his character, Shang-Chi.
Simu Liu | Ryan Emberley/Getty Images for Disney

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings sees Simu Liu making his superhero debut as the film’s title character and Marvel’s newest hero. The actor once campaigned on Twitter for the role, so seeing him embrace it on the big screen is a massive win. As for what his movie is about, it follows much of the traditional origin story. However, the film is unique in its ability to blend martial arts and magic.

Shang-Chi sees Liu’s character confronting his past, as well as his father’s role in an organization called the Ten Rings. Despite leaving that life behind, the hero finds himself wrapped up in it again. Check out the film’s official synopsis courtesy of IMDb below:

“Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.”

The movie’s plot promises to introduce a slate of characters into the MCU and set the foundation for the franchise’s next chapter. Apparently, there’s a lot of interest in what’s to come. Marvel’s Shang-Chi made $8.8 million at the box office on its opening night — not a bad number given the COVID-19 pandemic.

When does ‘Shang-Chi’ take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Those who haven’t seen Shang-Chi yet may be wondering when the film takes place on Marvel’s timeline. The easiest answer is that Liu’s debut occurs after the events of Avengers: Endgame. That’s established in the film itself, but beyond that, things get complicated.

Marvel’s Phase 4 messes with time and space in several of its projects, so it’s not always easy to know where things fall. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier both occur soon after Endgame, but Loki technically takes place outside of the so-called Sacred Timeline. Meanwhile, Marvel places Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man: No Way Home almost a year out from Endgame. So, where does Shang-Chi fall in Marvel’s Phase 4 lineup?

Judging by the film’s end-credits scene, it’s closer to WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier than the Spider-Man sequels. The state of the character who shows up during the film’s final moments suggests it’s the same year as Endgame. In fact, it’s probably only a month or two after.

Fans will get a clearer picture of Shang-Chi‘s place in the MCU when the film arrives on Disney+. The streaming platform organized all of its Marvel films into chronological order, so subscribers will soon get a visual of where the new movie falls. Of course, there’s still no way to compare it to the Spider-Man films, which aren’t on the streamer. Perhaps Marvel will clarify at some point.

Marvel didn’t want to film to focus on ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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Although Shang-Chi firmly places itself after Avengers: Endgame, the creatives behind Marvel’s new film didn’t want to focus too heavily on the previous Avengers team or what happened with Thanos. Several other projects have delved into the world post-Blip, including WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. However, Shang-Chi attempts to keep fans looking toward the future.

Marvel Studios producer Jonathan Schwartz told The Direct that the studio intentionally tried to distance the story from the last two Avengers movies:

“I think the idea was that we wanted to orient the audiences so that people know the movie is taking place after Endgame , but we also don’t want to dwell on the events of Endgame too much. There’s so much story to tell with Shang-Chi, there’s so much to get the audiences into that’s unique to this movie, that we wanted to keep people’s heads in the story that was unfolding before them, and not then how it related to stories that have already been told.”

If nothing else, that’s a sign Marvel is headed into a new era with heroes like Shang-Chi. The studio’s going to have to construct a whole new timeline for them. In the meantime, fans can head to theaters and judge where Shang-Chi falls for themselves.