Film and TV

“Shang-Chi” Shows That Asian Men And Women Can Be Superheroes

PLEASE NOTE: This piece will include spoilers!~ This is our first piece of a few coming out in discussing the film up to The Australian release date of September 16.

Marvel’s new upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released in Australian cinemas on September 16. What is awesome about this film is that the superhero Shang-Chi, played by Chinese Canadian Simu Liu, is not only handsome, but shows strength, resilience and leadership – traits we hardly see in films produced in Hollywood/West. In addition to Shang-Chi, he is accompanied on his journey with 2 Asian female heroes – Awkwafina (Katy) and Meng’er Zhang (Xialing).

BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE!

The film also includes Asian cinematic legends including Tony Leung (Wenwu/The Mandarin), Michelle Yeoh (Jiang Nan), Fala Chen (Jiang Li) and others. Rounding up the cast to add some comedic elements there are characters played by Ronny Chieng (Jon Jon), Benedict Wong (Wong) and Sir Ben Kingsley (Trevor Slattery) – though he isn’t Asian, his name and face is definitely recognisable.

In a virtual press conference hosted by Ronny Chieng, held a few days after the premiere of the film at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, Simu, shares how it felt to play Shang-Chi and what it was like to work together in the film with some of the great Asian acting legends.

“There were lot’s of heavy hitters in this film, and it was like imposter syndrome every single day. Truly it was a treat and all I could do was not mess it up.”

“When I was first cast, and did my final screen test, I was really nervous and it was Nora (Awkwafina) who put me at ease. I was an actor from Toronto and I would never have imagined that I would ever be included in the Marvel Universe. It is such a dream and all the acting legends and Nora taught me about being in the moment. As I met more of the case everyday, I felt like I was waking up to a dream.”

Part of the location filming of Shang-Chi happened in Sydney back in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the cast which included Simu, Meng’er, Ronny and others had to remain in Sydney for months even when filming on location in Sydney was over. It was great to hear exchanges between Simu, Awkwafina, Meng’er and Ronny as they reminisced about that time. Awkwafina mentioned how she remembered Ronny joining Simu in the gym with Ronny chiming in how he was trying his best but unable to catch up with how Simu worked out.

That conversation led to the next part of the press conference where Awkwafina was asked about the physical demands and training she had to do in order to play Katy. Ronny asked her about what training she had to do for shooting arrows, car drifting and having her head slammed in a car seat.

“It was definitely physically demanding, it was like I was working as a team with gravity.

I could feel my neck falling out as I fell – I know it sounds weird and that is just me probably. I actually had to go to a race track to learn how to drift which was fun but not practical in any scenario. I also learned how to shoot bow and arrows.”

In terms of acting, Meng’er who is more known for acting on stage, spoke about her experience of acting in front of the screen – this is her first one, and talked about how she was able to get advice from fellow cast member Sir Ben Kingsley.

“This was my first film acting experience as I have always done theater. I asked Sir Ben Kingsley about the difference on acting on stage and on screen and he said,”

“On stage we are landscape artists, and we in front of the camera we are portrait artists.”

“That gave me a clear image and I learned so much and literally took notes.”

The relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy was quite unique in that it was a pure best friend like and all platonic. The question of whether that relationship could turn from friendship to love interests was asked at the press conference. As a spoiler alert when you watch the film, there are moments I wished they would get more intimate, but I definitely appreciated how they were besties who had each others back. For the answer to this question, both Simu and Awkwafina deferred to the films director Destin Daniel Gretton to offer his opinion.

“Aren’t all friendships potential lovers? When we were creating the relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy we all as directors recognise that we have a lot of friends who are not the same gender and it is strictly platonic, but also very intimate and caring. We haven’t seen many of that on screen so that is why we decided to create that friendship.”

“Naturally, it felt like that was also really the only way to go, as Shang-Chi is too deep in his individual struggle and he doesn’t have the space to even think of romance”.

To end, this piece, a lot of mandarin was spoken in the film, and it showcased all the different accents and fluency levels of the dialect which is an accurate picture of the world today. At the press conference Ronny introduced Simu in Mandarin with Simu replying back in Mandarin why he is speaking Mandarin. Ronny replies (also in Mandarin):

“This is so the white people do not understand us.”

In saying that, please keep your eye out for the film which is set to hit cinemas in Australia on September 16 ( NSW, VIC and QLD). As Asian/Asian Australians it is so important we get out to support these films where we can see strong and positive portrayals of Asian faces.

Images via YouTube

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