Shang Chi: A Breakthrough in Cinema?

Hana Lee, Opinion Editor

It wasn’t until this past September when the first Asian superhero film finally made its way into theatres all around the globe. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu, a rising Canadian-Chinese actor, explores the mysterious origins of the legendary ‘Master of Kung-Fu’, a character first introduced to Marvel Comics in December of 1973. Cheers of triumph resounded all throughout the world when Shang-Chi graced the screen; it had been the moment Marvel fans were waiting for—the first official Asian superhero. Previously, Mantis and Wong—played by Pom Klementieff and Benedict Wong respectively—two characters of Asian descent, have been featured in the MCU, however they were merely thrusted into the role of the trusty side-kick. Because of the constant demotion of Asian characters to the position of side-kick, it left many wondering if people of color weren’t ‘worthy’ enough to be protagonists. Then in came Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which broke numerous records since its release into theaters, one of which being the Labor Day box office record. The film brought in a whopping $94 million over the three-day weekend! It’s also currently sitting at the #1 spot in the 2021 domestic box office so far. 

Simu Liu’s fantastic, and quite monumental, portrayal of Shang-Chi has no doubt opened up the opportunity for many other Asians, and other people of color, to star in forthcoming MCU films as iconic characters. In fact, the end credit scene may have suggested that Xialing, Shang-Chi’s sister, may play a bigger role, not only in the Shang-Chi films, but in Phase 4 of the MCU. Not to mention, more and more characters of color are set to make their debut in the MCU very soon. In the upcoming Marvel movie the Eternals, Gemma Chan, a British-Chinese actress, Don Lee, a Korean-American actor, and Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani-American actor, portray three of the main characters in the film, which is a huge milestone when it comes to ethnic representation in a group of superheroes. Other notable MCU projects starring Asians, that have yet to be released, are Ms. Marvel, starring Pakistani-American actress Iman Vellani, and The Marvels, featuring notable South Korean actor Park Seo-Joon. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will not only remain a masterpiece because of its stunning cinematography and beautiful execution of the story, it will remain emblematic as the first Marvel movie that sparked the inception of Asian superheroes.