Marvel Is Giving One Of Its Greatest Martial Arts Heroes Their Own Movie

Shang-Chi comics

As longtime comic book fans and many moviegoers know, just because one is classified as a superhero doesn't necessarily mean they have special powers. Some of these heroes fight the forces of evil with their own natural, non-super skills. Over in the Marvel universe, one of these folks is Shang-Chi, martial artist extraordinaire, and today brings word that he'll be getting his own movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios is reportedly fast-tracking a Shang-Chi movie, which would make this the first superhero blockbuster project to star an Asian protagonist. The Expendables writer David Callaham has been tapped to write the script, and apparently Marvel is already looking at a number of Asian actors to bring Shang-Chi to life and Asian directors to helm the picture.

Deadline also reports that the goal with this Shang-Chi movie is to "introduce a new hero who blends Asian and Asian American themes, crafted by Asian and Asian American filmmakers," similar to what Black Panther did with its nearly all-black cast and its exploration of African and African-American cultures.

As far as writing talent goes, Shang-Chi is fortunate to have someone who already has some experience in the superhero realm. David Callaham co-wrote the Wonder Woman 1984 screenplay with director Patty Jenkins and DC Comics heavyweight Geoff Johns, and he'll also be penning the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Callaham's other credits include creating the short-lived Amazon series Jean-Claude Van Johnson and the upcoming Zombieland 2.

Unlike most prominent Marvel heroes, Shang-Chi has barely had any exposure outside of the comics, only popping up as a playable character in the mobile game Marvel: Future Fight. However, this isn't the first time that a Shang-Chi movie has been publicly discussed. Way back in 2006, just two years before the MCU launched with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, Shang-Chi was among the Marvel properties that Paramount Pictures was looking at developing for the big screen. Obviously nothing ever came of that, but over a decade later, now Shang-Chi is getting another shot at cinematic glory.

Shang-Chi, created by writer Steven Englehart and artist Jim Starlin, was introduced in 1973's Special Marvel Edition #15 and revealed to be the son of criminal mastermind Fu Manchu (yes, based off the same-named literary character). Raised and trained in the martial arts from an early age, Shang-Chi was intended to be one of his father's operative, but during an assassination mission, Shang-Chi met Sir Denis Nayland Smith, Fu Manchu's arch-enemy. After learning from Smith that Fu Manchu was evil, Shang-Chi left his father behind and became a force for good, which initially meant having to fight Fu Manchu and his various minions.

But Shang-Chi's adventures having just been limited to clashing against his sinister father. He's ventured into the wider Marvel universe and teamed up with heroes like Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Nick Fury and many more. Along with serving as a more traditional superhero (which includes being a Hero for Hire), Shang-Chi has also been a government operative, working for MI6.

It should be noted that in recent years, Shang-Chi has obtained superpowers, specifically the ability to create countless copies of himself. This happened after he was exposed to cosmic-level radiation during the Time Runs Out event, but I suspect that the Shang-Chi movie will keep him as a martial artist without any special abilities. After all, as one of the greatest fighters in the Marvel universe and being able to pull off amazing feats like dodging gunfire thanks to his mastery of chi, he's more than capable of holding his own against non-superpowered and enhanced foes alike.

Of course, Shang-Chi won't be the first time that the MCU franchise as a whole has delved into the world of martial arts. Netflix's Iron Fist series beat it to the punch (pun intended), although the showed failed to get anywhere near the level of acclaim that its fellow Marvel Netflix shows did. Iron Fist was cancelled in October, and while it remains to be seen if the character will live on elsewhere, at least Shang-Chi can prominently feature martial arts on the movies side of the MCU. Admittedly, part of me is interested in seeing a new Iron Fist (as in one not played by Finn Jones) and Shang-Chi fighting alongside each other on the big screen, but it's better to get Shang-Chi established on his own before giving audiences such a team-up.

Since Marvel is "fast-tracking" the Shang-Chi movie, one would imagine that it will be among the Phase 4 releases. That places it in company with Spider-Man: Far From Home, Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Eternals and Black Panther 2. It's hard to tell when exactly we might see Shang-Chi come out, although 2021 would probably be the earliest since it would have to be much further along in development to make a 2020 release.

Diversity, representation and inclusion have become increasingly important in Hollywood in recent years, and since Black Panther was a huge stepping stone for the MCU on those fronts, it makes sense that the franchise would want to keep that going with a project like Shang-Chi. After all, the character has decades of source material to work with, so there are plenty of directions his solo adventure could go.

That said, it's important to note that Shang-Chi was created during a time when kung fu and martial arts movies were all the rage, which resulted in various stereotypes for characters from that era, including Shang-Chi to a degree. Fortunately, David Callaham's script will "modernize" the hero so that he can appeal to contemporary audiences. Beyond that, we'll have to wait and see how the MCU's version of Shang-Chi is handled, but needless to say his presence opens up yet another new corner for this ever-expanding universe.

Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more news about Shang-Chi's development as it trickles in. For now, you can look forward to the MCU continuing with Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019. As for what else this superhero franchise has coming down the pipeline, look through our handy Marvel movies guide.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.