When asked to address the criticisms of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that were coming from China, Kevin Feige went to great lengths to explain that neither Simu Liu’s title hero or Tony Leung’s Mandarin were at all reflective of their outdated and often offensive early comic book portrayals.
For a while, it looked as though the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 25th installment was on track to score a theatrical release in the country, before resurfaced comments made by Liu in 2017 appeared to end those hopes. There was no chance that Shang-Chi was going to even acknowledge the Asian stereotypes that were prevalent when the character first debuted in December 1973 to intentionally piggyback off the popularity of Bruce Lee, nor would his origin as the son of Fu Manchu ever be considered a possibility.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, writer Dave Callaham admitted that reading a lot of the old comics inspired him to ensure he did the project justice, even if he additionally revealed that he’d get notes back from the studio telling him to actively avoid certain storylines or plot points.
“I was not familiar with Shang-Chi as a character. They gave me a bunch of comics as well. A number of the older ones, the origin story ones, are pretty problematic in terms of Asian stereotypes. It became a process of figuring out, ‘What speaks to me the most about this character and story and putting an Asian face onscreen?’. Every now and then you’d get too close to something. He can’t tell you what it is. He’d say, ‘Ehh, stay away from that genre. That’s in another room right now’, without ever exposing too much. Other than that, they’d let me do my thing and let me know when they thought it was cool and when it was ready for Kevin, and then I pitched Kevin and the crew and away we went.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been an unqualified pandemic-era success, with box office takings set to fly past the $200 million barrier by the end of today, and it boasts the highest Rotten Tomatoes audience score the MCU has ever seen. Not bad for a hero that was largely unknown to general audiences as recently as last year.