This weekend, Marvel Studios finished filming on “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and Shang-Chi himself, Simu Liu, thinks that some big things are in store for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film with an all-Asian cast.
“For all of those who hated us because of the color of our skin, or been made to feel less than because of it; NO MORE,” Liu wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “This is OUR movie, and it will be IMPOSSIBLE for Hollywood to ignore us after this.”
For decades, Asian actors in Hollywood have struggled to stand out in film and TV. When roles intended for Asian actors weren’t being given to white actors in heavy makeup, they were often heavily stereotyped and written in to support white leading roles. Bruce Lee, one of the first true global Asian film stars, got his start as the sidekick Kato on “The Green Hornet.” While Lee’s influence helped Kato be depicted in a better light and his martial arts expertise made him a breakout star, he was paid a fraction of the salary given to Van Williams, who played the Green Hornet, despite having equal screen time.
Scrutiny over the lack of representation of Asians in American cinema got thrown into the spotlight in 2018 with the release of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first American film to feature an all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” 25 years earlier. With $238 million grossed at the box office, “Crazy Rich Asians” became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s, and a sequel has been greenlit.
With the cultural power of the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind it, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is expected to take the ground broken by “Crazy Rich Asians” and push it even further. While Asian directors have been behind some of the highest-grossing blockbusters ever — James Wan has two $1 billion-plus hits with “Furious 7” and “Aquaman” — “Shang-Chi” has a chance to become the first film ever with an Asian actor in a leading role to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to force tens of thousands of theaters into bankruptcy, there’s no telling exactly what the global box office will be like when movies return to theaters. The pandemic has already forced “Shang-Chi” — along with the rest of Disney’s movie slate — to have its release date pushed back. For now, the film is set for release on July 9, 2021.