On November 1, Chinese American screenwriter Dave Callaham was reported to have been hired by Marvel Studios to pen a mystery script. Well, mystery solved! Marvel Studios has fast-tracked a movie starring ‘Shang-Chi’ otherwise known as the Master of Kung Fu, with Callaham scripting and the studio is seeking an Asian or Asian American director to helm the film. Shang-Chi was previously rumored to have been lined up to appear on the Netflix ‘Iron Fist’ series, but that never happened.
Obviously, the inspiration for this project was this year’s massive smash ‘Black Panther’, directed by African American auteur Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole. The film featured an almost entirely African or African American cast. Just as ‘Black Panther’ built off of African and African America culture, Marvel seeks for both Asian and Asian American culture to inspire ‘Shang-Chi’. (The huge success of the almost all-Asian ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ probably helped solidify this decision.)
Callaham recently worked with Geoff Johns and director Patty Jenkins on the script for ‘Wonder Woman 1974’ and is signed on to pen the sequel to the upcoming ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’. Previously, he created ‘The Expendables’ franchise and created and produced the Amazon series ‘Jean-Claude Van Johnson’.
Very similarly to Luke Cage, Shang-Chi was introduced by Marvel Comics in the early ’70s based on a then-current pop culture sensation. Whereas Luke Cage was a reflection of the Blaxploitation film movement, Shang-Chi, who is often drawn to look like Bruce Lee, captured the spirit of Kung Fu movies which saw a boom in popularity at that time.
Shang-Chi was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, but the comic, ‘The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu’ (usually referred to simply as ‘Master of Kung Fu’) really saw a popularity spike after writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy took over.
The lead character is the son of wealthy Fu Manchu, who raised him in isolation to be his perfect assassin. However, after his first mission, he discovers that his father is truly evil and that he has killed an innocent man, and vows to take down Fu Manchu.
Unlike Luke Cage, however, Shang-Chi’s comic wasn’t so much a superhero spin on Kung-Fu as it was simply a straight-up Kung-Fu book. Shang-Chi possessed no actual superpowers, although in more recent issues of the ‘Avengers’ he gained the ability to create duplicates of himself. That change could very well have been made with the idea of a motion picture in mind.
Since this project has just been announced, it most likely won’t be out until 2021 at the earliest. Check back for updates!