Big week for Marvel Studios. In addition to the buzz about the new trailer for Captain Marvel, word is out that the House of Feige is developing a tentpole film featuring Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu.
Deadline first broke the story, reporting that scribe David Callaham has been tasked to write the screenplay. Callaham, who’s Chinese-American, hasn’t really had too many notable credits under his belt other than The Expendables and its sequels, although he currently is a very in demand writer, at present working on Wonder Woman 1984, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2, Mortal Kombat, and Zombieland 2, among others.
Feige is said to be on the hunt for a director who’s either Asian or Asian-American in an effort to duplicate the successful formula of Black Panther. As far back as the production of Iron Man 3, Marvel has made efforts to make their films more successful in China, with mixed results following criticism that scenes specifically added to the Chinese cut were superfluous and obvious marketing ploys.
The Shang-Chi character was rumored to be joining the Iron Fist production at Netflix, according to a report by That Hashtag Show back in March 2016. That obviously never materialized, although the two have teamed up in the comics a number of times. Created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi first appeared in December 1973, just months before Danny Rand’s debut in May 1974. Originally, Marvel tried to obtain the rights to adapt the television series Kung Fu, but were unsuccessful, opting instead to work with the rights to the pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu, created by Sax Rohmer.
Shang-Chi is the son of Fu Manchu, who is likely to be reimagined to avoid early Hollywood stereotypes. The Deadline report has Fu Manchu listed as a “China-based globalist” who raises his son in isolation, training him in martial arts before sending him out into the world to do his bidding. When Shang-Chi learns of his father’s true not-so-nice persona, they become enemies. (Grace Randolph speculates the emphasis on the father in the press materials may mean there might be quite a bit of focus on the relationship for the first film. Would this possibly set up a trilogy arc for a final confrontation similar to what we saw in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy?)
Also absent from the Deadline report is confirmation as to whether this film would be part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or if it stands outside that continuity. Given Feige’s involvement in this film as well as the new content being created for Disney’s new streaming service, it’s likely Shang-Chi will be part of the MCU; perhaps he’ll get his own series on Disney+ as Feige adds those wooden blocks to his toy box.