While Marvel has gifted us many a superhero movie that’s quickly cemented itself as something of a pop culture phenomenon, there’s still much to be desired when it comes to diversity presented onscreen. For years, the stories that came out of the Marvel canon were ones centred around white men.
Yes, they were entertaining, but at a time where people around the world are taking part in protests against racial violence towards Blacks, Asian Americans and countless other minority groups that demand justice, there was an ever-growing chasm between the characters depicted on screen and those in the audience. Slowly, the Marvel storyline grew to include women, and eventually Chadwick Boseman came to lead a powerful and predominantly Black cast in Black Panther. Now, Marvel has released the first trailer for its upcoming movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, presenting the first Asian lead in the MCU.
Such a milestone can’t be underestimated. The film will be the first to focus on an Asian superhero, starring Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, alongside Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng. For such a cast to be put front and centre as the heroes of their own stories at a time when the world has been rocked by targeted violence against the Asian-American community is powerful. Actress Sandra Oh took part in a recent Stop Asian Hate rally, shouting to the crowd: “I am proud to be Asian,” and finally, audiences around the world can look to such a film and see themselves reflected in such strong roles.
It’s for this reason that Liu isn’t taking the significance of such an opportunity lightly. “I’ve heard the classic ‘go back to China’ more times than I can count,” he said in an interview with Variety last month. “The truth is that Asian people have been targeted and discriminated against for far, far longer than COVID has been around. These recent attacks, fuelled by racist rhetoric in the wake of the coronavirus, are yet another reminder that we are only seen as the foreigners, the unwelcome presence…the other.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will tell the story of Shang-Chi, who has been trained as an assassin since childhood by the Ten Rings terror organisation, when he tries to escape and live a normal life. It’s this quest to blend into society that presents a number of challenges and soon sees Shang-Chi drawn once more into the shady organisation.
Liu took to Twitter to reveal the poster for the upcoming flick, alerting his fans that the trailer would be dropping in a matter of weeks. But in support of their star and in celebration of Liu’s birthday, the MCU decided to release the teaser trailer, catching Liu off guard. You need only see his Twitter posts to understand that it’s a momentous occasion, both for Liu and the Asian community.
The film will shine a spotlight on a diverse cast and also champion martial-arts, which Liu had to master for the film with intensive training session. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the star said, “I want to sit here and tell you that I was pretty good at martial arts before. I had maybe worked a few days as a stuntman in Toronto. But really, my martial arts experience was like backflipping in my backyard when I was a teenager and doing parkour with friends.”
The film’s producer, Jonathan Schwartz, added: “I think this is the best action [Marvel has] ever done. Every punch is meaningful, every fighting style is meaningful, and the story is told visually in such a great way.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to be released in Australian cinemas on September 2, 2021.