As Marvel’s first female-led superhero adventure, Captain Marvel, blasts through the box office in its first week of release, the studio is already looking ahead at its next cinematic accomplishment. Word broke late last year that development had begun on a movie based on Shang-Chi, a Chinese martial artist hero. Now, Marvel has announced they’ve tapped Destin Daniel Cretton to direct the project.
Cretton already has a few connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having directed Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, in Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle, and worked with Black Panther helmer Ryan Coogler on the TV series Scenes for Minors. He’s currently finished up the biopic Just Mercy, which reunites him with Larson alongside Black Panther baddie Michael B. Jordan.
Shang-Chi, known in Marvel Comics as the Master of Kung Fu, is a half-Chinese, half-American character created in 1973 by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin. Considered one of if not the greatest empty-handed fighter in the world, Shang-Chi is also an expert in wushu, a weapons-based martial art utilizing everything from nunchucks to swords to guns. Though he is not usually depicted as having “superpowers,” he’s so highly skilled that he’s able to dodge bullets. In more recent stories, Shang-Chi was granted a superpower: the ability to create duplicates of himself.
It’s unknown whether Shang-Chi the movie will involve that cloning ability, but it almost certainly will rework the character’s backstory. In the comics, Shang-Chi was originally the son Dr. Fu Manchu, the infamously problematic pulp villain who played into stereotypes of the Yellow Peril paranoia during the early twentieth century. This was later retconned to make the character Zheng Zu, an ancient sorcerer who had unlocked the secret of immortality. Both versions have their cultural issues, and Marvel has already taken some dings for its handling of Asian characters in its Netflix series like Daredevil and The Defenders, so expect screenwriter Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984, Amazon’s Jean-Claude Van Johnson) to update Shang-Chi’s history.
Shang-Chi signals Marvel’s continued focus on diversity. The studio’s first black-led superhero film, Black Panther, earned Marvel’s first-ever Oscars. Production chief Victoria Alonso recently said a gay superhero would also soon be coming to the MCU, with rumors suggesting one of the leads of the in-development Eternals would be an openly gay actor.