As we enter Phase 4 of the MCU, casting aside our beloved avengers, Kevin Feige and the crew at Marvel introduce a brand new character into our world with the first Asian Superhero Shang-Chi, and boy does he emerge with an explosive baptism of fire with its entry ‘Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings’. Not only do we get to see what this so-called normal joe can do when up against a few bad guys but as always has tenuous links back to the beginning of this cinematic world.
Starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, he must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The film also stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan, as well as Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng.
There is no doubting Feige has done wonders for the Marvel brand since taking over the helm back in 2007, and he has never shied away from taking a risk or two. During the global press conference for the film, Feige revealed the biggest risk he ever took in kickstarting this universe was hiring Robert Downey, Jr.
“The dream was to bring that to the big screen. So, that is what we were doing, and I was lucky to be involved in early Spiderman films and X-Men films, Iron Man movie. And I do think still the biggest risk which seems outrageous to say now, was, casting Robert Downey, Jr. it was both the biggest risk and the biggest, the most important thing in the founding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without Robert, We wouldn’t be sitting here today.
“Everybody knew he was an amazing actor, but he hadn’t been an action star. He wasn’t a marquee star necessarily. Jon Favreau really had that vision for that movie and for Robert in that role and that decision and the success of that decision, I think, empowered us with further risks and further choices.”
With this latest movie both the future of the franchise and the representation of the Asian culture is at the forefront of the story both Feige and director Destin Daniel Cretton confirmed you can’t have one without the other, making them both as important as the other.
Feige said “My producing partner on this film, Jonathan Schwartz, has worked on this movie for a long time. We wanted to do it for both of those reasons. To bring this specific character into the MCU, but just as important to bring representation of another kind to this film. And that was really what Destin, brought in his pitch. Which was yeah, action, cool, Marvel, but it was really the story of this father and son that someday you should put that presentation out into the world, actually that he put together, it was as beautiful as the final film.”
Director Destin Daniel Cretton added: “I think what is extra relevant to the culture is that this is a Marvel film. And if we were not putting Shang-Chi shoulder to shoulder with all the amazing other Marvel superheroes that we’ve come to love in the past, that would be, to me, a big disservice to the culture and the character. So, both, I think, are equally important.”
For Simu Liu, having been cast in a Marvel, one in which he has to lead was a daunting prospect, and like many of us suffered from imposter syndrome, if it wasn’t for the all-star cast of the film and the chemistry he gained with Awkafina, we could have been watching a completely different film.
“Yeah, it was like imposter syndrome every single day. It was such a treat, and it was all I could do just not to mess it up, you know. When I was first cast, I did my final screen test with Nora, and she did such a wonderful job of putting me at ease. My nerves were sky-high. I was an actor from Toronto, and I really had never allowed myself to imagine being a part of the MCU. I mean, it’s the craziest dream that someone can possibly dream. And, Nora did such a great job of putting me at ease and just being in the moment with me and we had such a beautiful chemistry. We were like a bickering old couple, chemistry right from the get-go.”
If there is one familiar face that pops up in the movie, it would be that of Trevor Slattery actor, Sir Ben Kingsley. Having led the classic and iconic film of ‘Ghandi’, and he knows full well the social impact of this kind of storytelling revealed that director, Destin Daniel Cretton’s motives behind the story are not just beautiful but life-enhancing.
“When you hear Destin, you know that the motives behind telling this story are pure, crystal clear, lucid, pure motives. They are motives that are life-enhancing and they’re not patronizing because they do introduce in a beautiful way, memory, ancestry, loss, and families torn apart and reunited and reconfigured. All this is from Destin’s heart and Kevin’s heart and the writer’s heart. And if your motives are pure as a storyteller, the angels will come to assist you with that story. To quote, a great author, whom I admire greatly, to tell a story is to heal. And I think that this story because it’s so beautifully told and so rich, will ultimately be healing because it’s not propaganda. It’s just a really beautiful story.”
We rarely see platonic relationships in movies, although, Marvel has done a pretty decent job of it in the past. They have done it again here between Liu’s Shang-Chi and Awkafina’s Katy, although there is always that question in the air as to “will they ever get it on”? especially after Katy sees him without his shirt on for the first time, Destin Daniel Cretton felt keeping them as just friends was the natural way to take the story.
“Aren’t all friendships potential love interests? When I and one of our co-writers, Dave Callahan, were creating this relationship, we actually have a lot of friends who are not the same gender as us, and it is strictly platonic but also very intimate, caring, and you-we haven’t seen a lot of that on screen, and we’re really excited to create that relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy. it also just naturally felt like the only way to go with this movie because Shang-Chi is so deep in his own inner struggle. I don’t think there’s emotional space for anything else.“
As the rumours state, when Marvel first announced the Shang-Chi project, Simu Liu had fun tweeting at Marvel to cast him in the role. Feige confirmed he never actually saw those tweets and it was Liu’s talent in the audition process that won him the part, putting those rumours to bed.
“Unfortunately, Simu, it was not you’re tweeting. It was your acting ability, your constant professionalism, and then multiple reads and meetings that you did that got you the job. Now did Sarah Finn see that? Our casting director? I don’t know the answer to that question?”
Destin Daniel Cretton want on to reveal that Liu went full-on Black Widow pose in the audition: “As the closer to his first audition, He did-he did a backflip into the Black Widow kneel pose hair flip-up straight looking straight into the camera.”
“I mean, I thought it was like a good signature. It was like a-like a nice little calling card” Liu added.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN.
The movie also takes on a refreshing tone with the use of conversational Mandarin, We don’t always get to see that in Western cinema but it’s something we see in everyday life living in multicultural society’s. Daniel Destin Cretton revealed that having started the idea in the Writer’s room it ultimately evolved into a group decision.
“I can talk to the conversation behind which language should be speaking; it was always rooted in just the logic of the characters. And, who would naturally be speaking what language? That conversation started in the writer’s room and then once our actors came in it was always a dialogue that 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.“
Being good friends with ‘Black Panther’ filmmaker Ryan Coogler, it would be fair to say Cretton went to his friend for advice on working on a Marvel film. Although it’s a lot of pressure to get it right, that pressure evolves from yourself and not the studio itself. In fact, the whole crew had nothing but love for their Marvel family.
“The thing that Ryan said to me, which really eased my mind, was the pressure is hard. It’ll be the hardest thing potentially that you have done up to this point, but none of that pressure or none of those complications come from the people that you’re working with or for. And that’s what I found. This is like a very special place to work were, not to toot Kevin’s horn, but there is an environment of curiosity, of exploration that comes from the top down. There is no fear-based mentality at this studio which has really allowed us to take risks and chances and be able to instil that same fearless exploration with everybody involved in this film and I think that’s a huge reason that the movie turned out the way that it did.”
Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings hits cinemas on September 3rd.