When it comes to Asian superheroes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has left a lot to be desired. Eager to avoid a backlash by portraying the traditionally stereotypical Mandarin supervillain in Iron Man 3, the studio cleverly cast South Asian actor Ben Kingsley as a drunken English luvvie, Trevor Slattery, who only played the role of Tony Stark’s evil nemesis. . The only problem was that it was another role that did not belong to an actor of East Asian origin.
Then there were the Netflix Marvel TV shows, most notably Iron Fist. Although only weakly connected to the MCU, Iron Fist fell into the troublesome “white savior” trap by portraying Finn Jones as the kung-fu-kicking rich kid from New York, Danny Rand, a stereotypical white guy who surpasses the Asian martial arts experts game. The Rand race change would have been a departure from the original comic line, but that didn’t stop the studio from casting Tilda Swinton as a “Celtic” version of the traditionally Asian ancestral in Doctor Strange.
Continuing down this path was never going to go away after Black Panther demonstrated the box office power of a superhero movie populated almost entirely by actors of color. And now Marvel has “fixed” their “Asian problem” by announcing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first full trailer that debuted this week. Instead of Ben Kingsley as Slattery, we have the inimitable Tony Leung as Wenwu, aka the true Mandarin, while the even more grossly racist figure of Fu Manchu (who was the father of Shang-Chi in the original Master of Kung comic). From the 70s running) has been wisely banished from sight.
In part, this is because Marvel no longer owns the rights to novelist Sax Rohmer’s pulp villain. And yet it’s also clear that the studio is keen to deliver an authentically Asian-led story, rather than one in which Asian-born actors only move to play bad guys and cannon fodder. It helps that Leung, one of the greatest beasts in Hong Kong cinema, has signed on to play Mandarin, which gives the project immediate authenticity. And it’s not a bad thing that Marvel allegedly hired director Destin Daniel Cretton after offering the studio advice on how to avoid offensive depictions inherent in the source material.
“I didn’t think I was going to end up getting the concert.” Cretton told BuzzFeed. “I honestly thought that at best I could, through the process of meeting with them, just explain some of the things that would be offensive to me, and maybe guide him in some way just by making my voice reach his ear. someone”.
Rather than simply taking Cretton’s comments into account, Marvel hired the Hawaiian-born son of a Japanese-American mother and a father of Irish and Slovak descent to run the deal.
The hero of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been living carefree in San Francisco for a decade (in a sly nod to Bruce Lee’s life) when he finds himself drawn back into the nefarious sphere of his villainous father. . What does Mandarin want with Shang-Chi? And why is he only now bringing him back to the family fold after training him to superhuman martial arts levels as a child?
There are clues in the trailer. The appearance of the villainous Death Dealer hints at a 1974 comic book story in which Shang-Chi’s father attempts to steal his own son’s blood to help him achieve immortality, while there are also suggestions that our hero is being groomed for. appear in a movie. Enter the Dragon style tournament. Could the return of Shang-Chi be linked to the 10 rings of the title, represented here as sparkling bangles instead of the traditional finger rings? What is Michelle Yeoh’s Jiang Nan doing and why is she wearing a green and yellow outfit that resembles the traditional Iron Fists dress? Surely Marvel isn’t going to erase all memories of Rand and his Netflix adventures from existence?
If Marvel can succeed in delivering a superhero movie that harks back to the flamboyant and explosive brilliance of the ’70s kung fu era, few fans will complain. If the studio can do it and at the same time erase all memories of its past mistakes when it comes to Asian characters, the conclusion could be that Marvel president Kevin Feige must have somehow stumbled upon some rings of power. own magic.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism