The Marvel Cinematic Universe looks to enrich itself not only in reaching into their vault and re-imagine new stories for the modern era, and while doing so, is to cultivate the cultures and backgrounds of these characters mindfully and authentically.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) director Destin Daniel Cretton and writer Dave Callaham are determined to bring a genuinely authentic story about Asian identity to life, and make the executive decision to distance themselves from Shang-Chi (Simu Liu)'s outdated comic representation.
"When you look at the character of Shang-Chi through the comic books going back to the '70s and '80s, the fact that he existed and the fact that he was an Asian character was amazing," Liu said in an interview about his upcoming Marvel debut to EW. "But at the same time, there are aspects of that portrayal of him that maybe could feel a little stereotypical. So when we first started to map out who this character was and what his journey was going to be over the course of this film, we were all very sensitive to not have it go into [the] stereotypical territory."
The Shang-Chi actor has publically spoken on anti-Asian racism and the stereotypes that are found in Hollywood portrayals. Shang-Chi is Marvel's first movie to feature an Asian protagonist, and the importance of telling an ethnic story means that representation is found both in front of and behind the camera. "Remember, the Asian culture is so diverse," Cretton said. "I grew up in Hawaii, [and] Hawaiian food is like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hawaiian, Filipino, all mixed together. That is kind of what our crew was: It's like this big mix of Asian cultures coming together and responding to the script and [saying things] like, 'Oh, that doesn't feel quite right.' All of that helped contribute to what I think is a really beautiful update to what started in the comics a few decades ago."
Awkwafina, the actress who will play the titular character's best friend, Katy, said that her experience on the Shang-Chi set was "was a level of Asian representation that I haven't seen, and I thought it was cool as an Asian-American to watch." She continued, "It definitely explores different levels of identity."
The film's first teaser trailer offered a sampling of the cast, the title character's complex origin story, a glimpse at a brand-new MCU villain, and will march the cinematic universe's fourth phase forward. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters on September 3, 2021.