Next weekend brings the release of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is a landmark moment for the franchise as both the 25th feature film installment, and first with an Asian superhero in the lead, continuing the brand’s desire to be at the forefront of an industry-wide shift towards a greater sense of representation and inclusion.
It also helps that the movie is said to be very, very good, with Destin Daniel Cretton’s martial arts fantasy epic holding a strong Rotten Tomatoes score as reviews name it one of the MCU’s best-ever origin stories. At the world premiere, Kevin Feige went to great lengths to explain that Shang-Chi had distanced itself as far away as possible from the outdated depictions of the Mandarin that were prevalent in the comic books, while writer Dave Callaham revealed in a new interview that there was an actual physical list of stereotypes that the creative team went out of their way to destroy one-by-one, before going on to explain how they put it into practice.
“It’s way easier to be violent or hateful to someone you don’t see the same as you. With the history of Asian representation in the media, it’s not just that we’ve been invisible for a long time. It’s beyond that. We’re the butt of jokes and stereotypes that are damaging. It’s not nothing.”
Tony Leung’s performance as Wenwu has been highlighted as one of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ strongest suits, with many critics singling him out as one of the MCU’s most complex and well-developed villains yet. After the backlash that greeted Tilda Swinton being cast as Doctor Strange‘s Ancient One, there was no way Marvel was going to open itself up to more criticism.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings might face an uphill struggle to succeed at the box office, but it’s set to have a major impact on the rest of the MCU’s Phase Four and beyond.