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MCU’s First Movie Was Not Supposed to be Iron Man. It Was Shang Chi!!

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of the movies that are being planned for Marvel’s Next Phase of Film Slates. With the pandemic spreading all over the globe, one of the worst hit industries is the entertainment industry. The Movie Making Industry of Hollywood is a cash cow that no longer gives the same amount of milk once it used to. And if you are at the top of that food chain, you are the most affected. Marvel Studios’ severely disorganized Phase 4 Slate has some really ambitious projects for their fans. One of the movies is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Recently, a major revelation about the Marvel Superhero came to light.

This will change the very way we look and perceive the Marvel Cinematic Universe!!

Before Disney and Marvel agreed to star Simu Liu as the titular martial art warrior, plans had already been set in motion back in the year 2005 for bringing in Shang-Chi into the forefront of the MCU. It was in the mid 2000’s that Marvel, inspired by Batman Begins, decided to produce its own cinematic universe featuring some of their top of the line flagship superheroes. The top picks for Marvel were superhero characters like Black Panther, Ant-Man, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Cloak & Dagger, Power Pack and Doctor Strange. One superhero that got the most attention and was discussed most among the higher ups was Shang-Chi.

There were practical limitations because of which Marvel was not going for heroes like Thor or Captain Marvel. Such heroes would generally require their stories to be sold under the banner of heavy Computer Generated Imagery and the special effects would cost a bomb, something the studio would not be ready to afford considering it was the first Marvel Studios Venture and they did not know how the movie would be received. Shang-Chi made more sense because he was more of a grounded character which did not require as much special effects if a solo movie based on him was made. Marvel also had complete film and distribution rights to the hero so they were almost ready to go along with the plan.

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So what changed? Marvel hit a cauldron of good luck. New Line Cinema held the movie rights to Iron Man so Marvel could not make a movie out of him. The same year the talks started, New Line’s agreement to Iron Man’s Film Rights with Marvel expired as per the contract. Iron Man was back as Marvel Intellectual Property. This changed things. Marvel was no longer interested in making a movie on a superhero that was not as well-known by casual movie goers. Market research on several focus groups discovered that children were far more interested in Iron Man merchandise than any other Marvel Hero. This was good news for Marvel Studios and Iron Man. But it was bad news for Shang-Chi, who so close and yet, so far.

Shang-Chi got his second shot at appearing in the MCU when Marvel Studios was producing the Avengers movie in 2012. With Phase 1 coming to an end, Marvel Studios approached DMG Entertainment, a Chinese Entertainment Company, regarding a consulting partnership on how to get into the very attractive Chinese Market. A partnership with DMG would have allowed Marvel to make inroads into the Chinese mainland.  Marvel even offered to sweeten the deal with a post credits scene at the end of the movie. The scene would have shown either the Mandarin or Shang-Chi. Marvel left it to DMG to decide which character they would like to be featured in that scene. While the decision should have been left to the fans, the fact that Marvel left it to DMG shows just how little they thought about their own viewers at the time.

Just by putting a Chinese character into a movie, Marvel wanted to ensure they capture the heart and soul of the Chinese population. DMG knew that the post credit teaser would not have that great an impact. So they passed on that idea. They were not welcoming to the approach of exploiting the Chinese mind-set with a mere tease of someone that was one of them. They knew that Shang-Chi was the more logical choice but he had zero popularity. The Mandarin was a more attractive choice but he exhibited some really strong stereotypical traits. He had a long pointy beard that he always stroked while talking. He wore traditional Chinese clothing and spoke in broken English with a strong Chinese accent. The Studio was dead scared of the character because they knew the Government would easily consider it grounds to ban the movie.

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It is not like Marvel Studios had not tried to introduce the Mandarin sooner. He was supposed to be there in the first Iron Man movie. But Jon Favreau decided it was best to gradually acclimatize the audience and introduce the character at the current time and setting. That is what they also believed to hold true for Shang-Chi, something Favreau personally ensured. But Jon Favreau left Marvel Studios after Iron Man 2. His vision of the Mandarin and Shang-Chi could not be materialized into reality.

The Mandarin managed to be in Iron Man 3. Although an abomination and a massacre of a good character, at least we got to see him in some form in the MCU. Marvel tried to double cross its own fans by introducing the character and then revealing him to be a stooge for AIM, who were just using him as a front man. The approach was so deplorable and brought in such hatred that Marvel had to literally rethink and retrace whatever they had done. They finally released the One-Shot “All Hail the King”, which showed the real Mandarin escape from prison. The saga of Shang-Chi and Marvel’s tryst with the Mandarin will finally meet some much needed closure in Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, slated for release in 2021.

Written by Bibhu Prasad Panda

You do not wanna know. I could be a psychopath.

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