Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi,’ ‘Eternals’ still aiming high in Chinese film market
Published: May 17, 2021 11:05 PM
Chinese actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai (left) and Shang-Chi (right) Screenshot from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' official trailer

Chinese actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai (left) and Shang-Chi (right) Screenshot from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' official trailer

Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Shang-Chi) and Eternals will not give up the world’s largest film market, especially when US cinemas are still under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, though the two might face some challenges in China due to their controversial elements, Chinese film observers said on Monday.

Some foreign media reports have said that the two Marvel films might not be released in China. 

Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times that as two mega-budget Marvel films with some obvious Chinese elements, the production teams surely will not abandon the plan of releasing them in China, whose film industry has almost recovered to normal amid the global pandemic. 

“The Hollywood magnates know that their films’ box office performance in China is significant,” he said. 

Shang-Chi, Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, stars Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu and is set to be released in North America on September 3. The Mandarin character in the film will be acted by well-known Chinese actor Leung Chiu-wai.

Many Chinese netizens are angry about the role of Mandarin, as it originates from a racist character, Fu Manzhou, in the comics, and they think such a negative role should not be played by a prestigious actor like Leung. 

“The role of Fu Manzhou is a treacherous representation of the ‘yellow peril’ stereotype in the West. Chinese audiences cannot accept a prejudiced character from 100 years ago is still appearing in a new Marvel film,” Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times. 

Some Chinese netizens said they were surprised to see a strong representation of Chinese kung fu in a Marvel film following the release of a trailer on April 19, and some are now excited about the film. 

“I did not expect to see the style of nostalgic kung fu in a Marvel movie. It would be perfect if Jackie Chan could appear as a guest actor,” one netizen commented on Weibo. 

Some observers noted that the role of Mandarin might be reset as Marvel knows the importance of the Chinese film market. In the previous film adaptation of the Iron Man comics, the producer deliberately designated the Mandarin as a Westerner, and in one version, the doctors and nurses played by Chinese actors helped to heal Iron Man.

Eternals, the first Marvel film directed by the Chinese-born director Chloe Zhao, could also be released in the Chinese market. It is scheduled to be released on November 5 in North America.

According to Shi, some rumors said that the film might not air in China because of Chloe Zhao, but the film is still available on Chinese film-related platforms. 

“With the improved viewing taste and cultural confidence of Chinese moviegoers, everyone tends to make more calm judgments about the film itself, but whether it can be a success depends on the story itself and how it is told,” said Xiao.

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