Marvel’s new look on Diversity
Marvel’s latest film Shang-Chi looks set to be the powerhouse franchise’s first all Asian cast with many members of the Asian community excited by the prospect of having a hero that truly represents them as well as a complete film dedicated to Asians. Simu Liu, the Chinese Canadian actor, who takes on a lead role in Marvel's upcoming film, defines his passion for the role as follows. "The most exciting thing about stepping into this character was that his backstory has never been told before.’’ Moreover, the arrival of Shang-Chi is much needed after loyal fans of the franchise have had to say farewell to a significant number of characters after Marvel’s biggest film yet, Avenger’s Endgame in 2019. With regards to the original comic edition of Shang-Chi first published in 1973, Marvel and their late great Comics chief Stan Lee aimed to capitalize on Kung Fu and Martial Arts related films and saw potential in Shang-Chi entering mainstream popularity well before the official development of the acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe. The main story following that of epilogue of a young man who grew up under the influence of an assassin thus leaving to San Francisco in order to lead a possibly normal life but as his past resurfaces, he must use all the martial arts techniques he has learned in order to rise above the crime ridden underground and deception of his fathers obscure aspirations.
The upcoming film is set to have a significant impact on the MCU’s diversity status as Shang-Chi is set to host a 98% all Asian film cast as well as a more refined portrayal of the original Shang-Chi major antagonist, the Mandarin’s portrayal as the devious father as the character has been recast on numerous occasions as the original Ironman series postponed to release the Mandarin into the series until the third film by John Favreu due to possible concerns at the time of potential racial stereotyping. This however left some fans satisfied at the clever representation of the Mandarin by the ever impressive Ben Kingsley whilst others were interested to discover the original or true face of the Mandarin. The current production will see Tony Leung assume the role of Wenwu or the true Mandarin and father of Shang-Chi, who developed and aimed to introduce his son into the family business ventures, namely the Ten Rings however Shang-Chi refused his fathers ambitions and decided to leave for America. The backdrop of the film begins ten years preceding these events where Shang-Chi is brought into the criminal operations of his father with sparks set to fly between them and a family feud for the ages likely to take place.
Asian’s will get their first representation of a leading superhero in the MCU
The build up towards films being released from the MCU has been negatively impacted by the pandemic though 2021 has allowed for new opportunity to deep dive into comic book classics and showcase a bold revival, such titles including, "Black Widow’’, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as the Eternals and Liu never playing a lead role in a film series until this moment, impressively becoming the first Asian lead superhero simultaneously. Liu describing the process of taking on such a role and the support and advice offered by Destin Daniel Cretton in the following statement, ’it was very clear and very important to him that I go in feeling as free as possible.’’ While Shang-Chi will boast a wide range of fellow rising Asian origin actors such as Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh and Ronny Chieng in yet to be listed roles. Liu goes on to iterate how he had to up his training efforts and admits to having had to learn and develop his own series of stunts which involved learning martial arts and working out extensively to truly represent Shang-Chi’s flexibility and agile nature. The original film was set to feature the late Brandon Lee in 1994 after a tragic filming accident took his life, Liu emphasized that you can't take on a lead role of such an established actor without extensively practicing ideal moves. Moreover, the film drives on the artistic flair as Cretton makes reference of Shang-Chi to golden Kung Fu films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and even similar to the style of Jackie Chan’s more comedic action films. Cretton goes on to emphasize the importance of relatability and representation as he clarifies his thought process behind the plot as follows, "we wanted to make sure that Shang-Chi was just like any of us.’’
The rise of Asian film power and a new cultural acceptance amongst audiences
Differing perspectives however, remain over the film’s true cultural representation between international and Hong Kong based audiences as certain members of the public view the representation as superficial and a Western view of Chinese culture is more apparent whilst others are avidly anticipating the long awaited arrival of a new action film and superhero to the Marvel series. Getting into the details of the film, it features a profound series of cleverly executed action scenes strongly representing Chinese film elements paired with elaborate Kung Fu sequences that are accurate, symbolic and matched with a complimentary adapted soundtrack.
Shang-Chi may be what theatre needs alongside Marvel’s Eternals and Black Widow, to help the Hollywood Box office recover from the current rut it's been experiencing especially Black Widow which is set to be Marvel’s most anticipated film and a means of a financial upturn for both theaters and Disney itself.