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Marvel Has Just Begun Its First Asian-led Superhero Movie “Shang-Chi”

Ever since the roaring success of Crazy Rich Asians, the first Asian-dominated movie of this century, talks have gone under way of further integrating the role of Asians in the film industry. While these new movies have mostly stayed within the rom-com genre such as Always Be My Maybe, they’ve begun venturing into other categories such as Disney’s live-action Mulan. Now, it seems that Marvel is partaking in these efforts to bring more representation as well. After a  slew of Box Office hits in the DC Extended Universe, the production of Chinese superhero Shang-Chi has appeared to take off and is highly anticipated by Marvel fans and Asians alike.

Courtesy of Kofi Outlaw

Shang-Chi is one of the more obscure Marvel figures, unfamiliar to most people, however comic fans will know that he sports a set of abilities that are not to be reckoned with. His childhood consisted of rigorous training to become an impressive martial arts assassin and a master of kung-fu as well as handler of a myriad swords and weapons. Despite his brutal upbringing, groomed to follow the footsteps of his globalist father Zheng Zu and become an assassin, Shang-Chi evaded the path of iniquity to choose his own way of life.

Moreover, his other powers include an uncanny control over his body — he can dull pain receptors, impede the spread of poison in his blood and slow his bleeding. These preternatural abilities come in handy in combat, indicating an acute level of concentration and observation that allows him to win. Shang-Chi is a versatile character who’s been featured in many adventures with Dare-Devil, Iron Fist and Spider-Man, making him a possible contender to appear as a sidekick in more Marvel movies after his debut.

Shang-Chi, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and written by Dave Callaham — both of Asian descent — is supposedly seeking out actors to play this superhero. According to Variety film reporter Justin Kroll, “Marvel is putting out test offers for a group of men in their 20s for its Shang-Chi movie,” and that they “have also been been adamant to reps offering up their clients for the role that they have to be of Chinese ancestry, no other Asian ancestry accepted.” Marvel may be embarking on the discovery route for the actor, and it’s also been reported that Marvel is considering Donnie Yen and Aquaman actor Ludi Lin for unidentified roles.

Donnie Yen (Courtesy of AFP/Justin Tallis)

Ludi Lin (Courtesy of Umberto Gonzalez)

Needless to say, the Marvel audience is thrilled by the prospect of this movie, both by the addition of another propitious film to this beloved franchise and by the exposure of an Asian in a mostly white line of superheroes. “Half of the highest-grossing films of all time right now are superhero movies,” said Preeti Chhibber, author of Spider-Man: Far From Home: Peter and Ned’s Ultimate Travel Journal. “What that means is these are accessed by a huge number of people in the population, they shape popular thought and they impact who is seen as powerful or important enough to be included.”

She elaborated on the significance of Shang-Chi, “Of course, Asians deserve to be represented on screen in something that has become a cultural behemoth. By excluding Asians from the narrative, the implication is that Asians aren’t a part of that space — and not only does the Asian community pick up on this, but so does the non-Asian community. It’s like having Riz Ahmed in a Star Wars movie, as a South Asian viewer, all of a sudden we exist in this space that had previously written us out. It’s validating.”

Shang-Chi is still in its early stages of development, however it’s clear by the enthusiastic responses that this movie will be received with much celebration. Looking at this announcement as an Asian-American myself, I can say two things with absolute confidence: I’m ready, and it’s about time.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Gemmill

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