Critics often talk about the MCU having a formula, and that’s definitely true when it comes to the franchise’s tendency towards romantic subplots. Some of them are great — e.g. Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter — some are underwritten — e.g. Stephen Strange and Christine Palmer — but virtually every solo movie in the universe features some kind of love interest for the lead. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, however, bucks that trend.
Awkwafina stars opposite Simu Liu as the film’s female lead, playing Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend who goes with him on a wild journey to reconnect with his family. While there are hints that their relationship could progress to something more – Katy’s grandmother is certainly pushing for it – they’re still just friends by the end of the movie. While speaking with Variety‘s Adam B. Vary, director Destin Daniel Cretton revealed the reasoning behind this storytelling decision.
Cretton explained that it was something that was much discussed but ultimately he felt it was important to showcase a male-female platonic friendship.
“Weirdly, you just don’t see very much of that type of relationship, particularly movies like this,” Cretton said. “We kept going back and forth, because there’s an argument against doing that — you also don’t see Asian male romantic leads. But it just never felt right for this story to even dip into that. Because Shang-Chi’s drama is so deeply connected to his family and this pretty intense stuff he had to deal with, that romance always felt forced. A friendship like this — which feels very much like a lot of friends that I have, [where] it’s never been romantic but it’s also deeply caring and a very real friendship — was something that we don’t see very much of in movies. It felt very real to me, and I just didn’t feel like we needed to push it beyond that.”
Cretton’s comments that he didn’t want a romance to feel “forced” into the movie is something prior entries in the MCU are arguably guilty of, so it was definitely a wise decision not to go down a love story route with Shang-Chi and Katy. In any case, the movie does have a romance – a tragic one, told through flashbacks, between the hero’s parents, Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Ying Li (Fala Chen).
Interestingly, this makes two Marvel films in a row that haven’t seen the protagonist enter into a relationship after Black Widow – although Mason did have feelings for Natasha. Eternals is likely to make up for that, though, with its complex love triangle between Ikaris, Sersi, and Black Knight.
Catch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in cinemas now.