If the cancellation of martial arts-heavy Marvel-Netflix shows Iron Fist and Daredevil bums you out, fear not, for Marvel has plans to keep fists flying and roundhouse kicks coming. Deadline broke the news that Marvel Studios has plans to fast-track a Shang-Chi movie, set to be the studio’s first Asian-led superhero franchise. In continuation with its inclusion push in front of and behind the camera for the MCU’s Phase 3 and beyond, Marvel has already tapped Chinese-American writer Dave Callaham to pen the script and is currently on the hunt for an Asian or Asian-American director to steer the ship. The goal is that Shang-Chi could do for Asian representation what Black Panther did for Black Americans, becoming a banner for inclusion on the way to making bank at the box office.
Callaham is a busy writer, with a number of superhero-skewing projects currently under his belt. He co-wrote Wonder Woman 1984 with Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns and is currently working on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 script. His fingerprints are also all over Zombieland 2, the Expendables franchise, the Godzilla reboot, and a number of TV series in development. The man clearly knows his way around both superheroes and action, which is Shang-Chi’s Venn diagram.
For non-comic book readers, Shang-Chi is something of an unknown quantity. Like Iron Fist, he was created in the midst of America’s love affair with Asian kung fu movies. Shang-Chi’s first appearance was in December 1973, right around the time of Enter the Dragon and Bruce’s Lee’s ascent to stardom. He was born in the Hu’nan province of the People’s Republic of China to criminal mastermind Fu Manchu. Raised in isolation and under his father’s tutelage, Shang-Chi was disciplined in a number of martial arts to unknowingly become his father’s greatest weapon. When he was sent out into the world to do Fu Manchu’s bidding, he learned that his father was not, in fact, the humanitarian he had professed to be but a supervillain hellbent on taking over the world (as supervillains do). And, uh, that Fu Manchu might also be immortal. Understandably not cool with his dad being, you know, freakin’ evil, Shang-Chi turned against his father and the two became sworn enemies.
Known as the Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi is often said to be the best pure fighter in the Marvel universe and the greatest practitioner of kung fu alive, surpassing other stellar hand-to-hand combatants including Captain America and Iron Fist. He’s so good that he has beaten numerous superhuman opponents in one-on-one combat. His mastery of chi energy allows him to achieve near superhuman feats despite only being human. On top of his mastery of unarmed combat, Shang-Chi is also a master of various weaponry including shuriken, nunchaku, katanas, staves, and eskrima sticks. So renowned are his fighting skills that when Spider-Man temporarily lost his precognitive Spider-sense, he turned to Shang-Chi to help him become a better fighter without it. The two created a new martial arts discipline based on Spider-Man’s abilities called the Way of the Spider – though, in typical Peter Parker fashion, the webhead always quippily refers to it as Spider-Fu. During his run, Shang-Chi has been one of the Heroes for Hire and an Avenger, fighting alongside characters like Cap, Iron Fist and Black Widow. He’ll be a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, bringing some of the street-level martial arts of the Netflix universe to the big screen.
The shame is that Stan Lee, who passed away on November 12, isn’t around to see this. Ever the visionary, Lee recognized the enormous potential for an Asian-led property. Back in the late ’80s, he pushed for a Shang-Chi TV series or movie franchise to be put into development with Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, as the star. Even though Brandon and Linda Lee, the late Bruce Lee’s wife, met with execs at Marvel a few times, it never came to fruition. Unfortunately, Stan’s dream of seeing Shang-Chi come to life in live-action was not to be. Still, even though it’s happening 30 years too late, at least it’s happening.
No official word yet on when the Master of Kung Fu might spin-kick his way into theaters, but with Marvel looking to fast-track it as one of their projects post-Avengers 4, it’s likely to be sooner rather than later.
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