Marvel Has Been Trying To Adapt ‘Shang-Chi’ Since The 1980s

Shang-Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings looks like it could be going to be another moment for Marvel Studios to give another obscure comic book superhero their own blockbuster film franchise. The Marvel Studios trailer, that debuted on Monday morning, has already earned 24.1 million views just from the Shang-Chi Twitter account (amplified by other Marvel-owned accounts) and Marvel Entertainment’s YouTube channel.

It remains to be seen if this will equal box office dollars but it’s a good sign that folks are indeed ready for an Asian-led superhero franchise from Hollywood and could be an important moment to see more high-budgeted Asian-led blockbusters in the future.

While most people might assume that Shang-Chi was a recent decision at the studio, Marvel has actually been trying to get a live-action adaption going for decades going back to the 1980s.

Brandon Lee in RAPID FIRE (1992)

Inverse was able to speak with former Marvel Productions CEO and President Margaret Loesch, who revealed that Stan Lee met with Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee (Showdown In Little Tokyo, The Crow, Rapid Fire) at the Marvel offices for a potential Shang-Chi television series in the 80s. The late Bruce Lee and his film Enter The Dragon had been the template for the martial arts superhero. Sadly, Brandon had a tragic death as he was killed during the filming of The Crow.

There were also attempts to get a feature film back 20 years.

In 2001, Blade director Stephen Norrington was reportedly attached for a feature film of Shang-Chi alongside an early incarnation of Ghost Rider too. He quietly retired after making 20th Century Fox’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and headaches he had during that production. Norrington had originally wanted to cast Jet Li as Blade villain Deacon Frost but the actor was busy shooting Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 4. You can tell from Blade that the filmmaker was heavily influenced by Hong Kong action movies with their use of wire-work, a year before The Matrix.

DreamWorks attempted to get things going again in 2003, as Variety reported they had hired Woo-ping Yuen (True Legend) to direct and script from Band of Brothers writer Bruce McKenna. Woo-ping Yuen had been the fight choreographer for The Matrix, Kill Bill Vol.2, Kung Fu Hustle, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Grandmaster, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Oscar-winner Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi) boarded as a producer in 2004, a year after his Hulk movie was released. However, the rights to Shang-Chi eventually reverted back to Marvel.

Fast-forward to Marvel Studios being acquired by Disney and in late 2018 Deadline reported that the studio would be seeking a director for their Shang-Chi movie. Director Destin Daniel Cretton was ultimately selected with Canadian actor Simu Liu announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 as landing the superhero role.

Shang-Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings will be released by Disney on September 3, 2021.

SHANG-CHI & THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS – Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The film also stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan, as well as Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng.

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