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Marvel Announce Simu Liu and Awkwafina as Stars of Chinese Superhero Movie “Shang-Chi”

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Amid the whirl of cosplay, TV and film trailers, and China-influenced Top Gun jackets at this weekend’s Comic-Con, there’s little doubt that one of the most anticipated moments was Marvel’s “Phase 4” announcement on Saturday evening in Hall H. Details for some big new movies and TV shows were all confirmed, including for Shang-Chi.

It seems that the company’s first Asian-led superhero movie will play a major role in their plans for life after Avengers: Endgame, which incidentally just surpassed Avatar to become the top grossing film of all time worldwide.

And we now know who will be portraying the “Master of Kung-Fu” after Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu was unveiled as Shang-Chi’s lead.

Excitingly, he’ll be joined in the cast by Awkwafina (who you’ll know most recently from Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell) and veteran HK actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai as The Mandarin. The film will officially be titled Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, pitting our hero against the Ten Rings terrorist organization. But we’ll have to wait until February 12 2021 (New Year’s Day in China) to see the film in cinemas, it was announced.

The Chinese internet has been awash with speculation and hopeful messages regarding who would play the title role in the past week after Marvel was reportedly only entertaining casting someone with Chinese heritage for the part. Ashton Chen, Aarif Rahman, Huang Jingyu, Huang Zitao, and Eddie Peng have been among some of the most prominent names mentioned.

Liu was born in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin before moving to Canada aged five. You may have seen in him in Taken, the TV series spin-off from the Liam Neeson film franchise, as Mr Mitchell in Orphan Black, or as Jung in CBC’s Kim’s Convenience. He’s also set to join the Fresh Off the Boat cast in the new season.

Also the subject of online speculation has been whether Marvel would attempt to resuscitate the character of Fu Manchu as part of the film. The fictional villain, once portrayed by Christopher Lee, is widely seen as a racist caricature and it was thought that any inclusion of him would run the risk of considerable backlash against the movie.

Jim Starlin, the artist and writer responsible for Thanos, had noted earlier in Comic-Con that including The Mandarin would be a way for Marvel to avoid controversy over the character. “I suspect they will jettison Fu Manchu,” he said. “They could bring Mandarin back. Ben Kingsley is still out there, but you know that’s just speculation on my part.”

He went on to note that Shang-Chi‘s framing could be vital because, “there are about a million kung fu movies out there. You’re going to have to do something to differentiate it, and also work it into this universe. He’s probably the most out on the edge character that they’re going to have inside that particular universe.”

Related:

Marvel’s Chinese Superhero Movie “Shang-Chi” Now Has a Director

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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