When Deadline reported that Marvel Studios was developing a Shang-Chi film that would feature Marvel’s Asian headlining character and they also intended to seek out an Asian director, the collective reaction here at Newsarama was "Well, it’s about time!"
We’ve long-argued that a Shang-Chi/full-on martial arts Marvel Cinematic Universe project was a no-brainer … and sorry, Netflix’s Iron Fist, you don’t qualify (but we’re not going there today.)
In order to keep the Marvel Cinematic Universe fresh, Marvel Studios has to continue to explore different action/adventure/superhero sub-genres so they don’t just appear to be remaking the same superhero film three times a year, a strategy they’ve employed and owe a great deal of their success to.
Also, given the groundbreaking success of Black Panther and what Marvel hopes will be for Captain Marvel, over the next decade having films led by more diverse leads than straight, white males is likely a wise choice.
Finally, while they and it are pretty popular already, having a film that could potentially strengthen the Marvel/MCU brand in Asian film markets can’t hurt either.
So Shang-Chi is something of a trifecta of a good, marketable idea the time for which just may finally be coming.
But the "it’s about time" reaction had a second meaning, because it reminded us that over the passing of the last 13 years, a Disney acquisition, the pending acquisition of 20th Century Fox and 20 films and 23 or so MCU TV seasons later, time may have forgotten that Shang-Chi was one of the original ten characters Marvel Studios was founded on … and more importantly, financed on.
Let us take you back to the thrilling days of yesteryear when Marvel Studios was just a $525 million dollar glint in Chairman and CEO Avi Arad’s eye.
On September 5, 2005, the date Marvel Enterprises renamed itself Marvel Entertainment and completely rewrote its future by officially announcing a plan to produce its own movies, the film rights to what common wisdom at the time held were Marvel’s most valuable properties were held at other Hollywood Studios.
The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil were at Fox, of course, with Spider-Man, Venom and all Spider-family characters at Sony. The Hulk and Namor were at Universal, and Ghost Rider, the Punisher, and Blade were scattered about. Even Iron Man and Thor were held at Paramount.
Marvel’s ambitious plan relied on a handful of what were then second and third tier characters. The original slate that was intended to become ten shared universe films and was also the collateral against which the $525m was raised was (in the original order of announcement) Captain America, The Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack, and Shang-Chi.
That’s right. If Marvel’s plan had failed, all of those properties would have become the property of Merrill Lynch (we think, anyway … hey you try to work out the financial legalese).
The plan to fold in Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and well after Spider-Man into what would become the MCU would come later, as would the reacquisition of the rights to a majority of Marvel’s characters.
The financial deal and the Hollywood plan was hardly considered a home run by analysts at the time, with many thinking the Marvel properties backing the deal had limited market appeal and might genuinely be at risk.
Of course Black Panther and The Avengers went onto to become two of the most commercially and critically successful motion pictures of all time with Captain America, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man and Hawkeye all key parts of the larger puzzle. Of the original 10, only Cloak & Dagger (now a Freeform TV series with a second season on the way), Power Pack, and Shang-Chi have yet to find their way onto the big screen.
Now, if Deadline’s report is accurate and plans go through to fruition what would certainly be 15 or more years later, MCU founding father Shang-Chi may finally be getting his due.
Which would then leave Power Pack … and a conversation for another day.