By David Villafranca
Los Angeles, Aug 31 (EFE).- Marvel, the biggest box office drawing film company in recent years, is embracing the Asian culture and identity with its new film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a story in which this huge saga of superheroes is strengthening the inclusion of an Asian perspective within modern Western filmmaking.
“I’m optimistic about the progression and representation of diversity in Hollywood,” actress Awkwafina, who co-stars with Simu Liu in “Shang-Chi,” told EFE.
“So, I think that movies like this – while we’re not symbolizing that we’re there yet – we’re adding to this larger … collection of movies that will … essentially … validate certain experiences. And, I had the honor of being part of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (2018), ‘The Farewell’ (2019) and ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ (2021), so all of these are just … adding to the larger mural of it all,” she said.
After the phenomenon of “Black Panther” (2018), Marvel will screen in theaters across the country starting Friday this new film about a Chinese boy who was instructed in the martial arts and who, as an adult and living a completely normal life in San Francisco, must confront the dark secrets of his family.
Simu Liu brings this superhero to life and, along with Awkwafina, appears here with other heavyweight actors such at Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh.
At the helm of “Shang-Chi” was director Destin Daniel Cretton, who after turning out indie gems like “Short Term 12” (2013) is now taking the reins of a big Hollywood superproduction.
Far from the habitual and hackneyed boy-girl romantic story, “Shang-Chi” highlights the bombproof friendship between Shaun and Katy, Awkwafina’s character, something that the actress defined as the “loyalty” between them.
“I think … you know, when Shaun came over to San Francisco he had to find a found family. So, I think that loyalty is the same kind of loyalty you find in best friends and also in families,” she said.
“I think that … without that loyalty they wouldn’t be that close … today, and I don’t think that (Katy) would trust him, to follow him all the way over there … to risk her life to help … him find out more about what he needs to find,” she added.
Katy provides the comic and crazy counterpoint to Shang-Chi’s traumatic story.
In that regard, Awkwafina laughingly admitted that her character is, in general, a little lost.
She said that she thinks that Katy has certain frustrations with her life but that most of them she deals with in a rather free-wheeling way, adding that her character also goes through a “transformation” that is similar to Shang-Chi’s.
After turning out more than 20 films, Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced this potential blockbuster under the Disney umbrella, selecting China-born Canadian Simu Liu for the starring role.
The pressure around everything Marvel says or does is usually overwhelming, especially on the social networks, but Awkwafina defended her fellow actor wholeheartedly.
“Well, I think that Simu had all of the physical background that you would need. He has a martial arts background, he has a very acrobatic background,” she explained.
“It’s just a part of what was needed for this character. What ‘Shang-Chi’ really needed was someone who had the passion but also was able to have this constant internal monologue … while also being vulnerable and … wearing that visibly on his sleeve,” she said.
Although Hollywood has finally taken note of the need for its films to be more diverse – and of the additional business it can garner because of that – Awkwafina reflected on “the illusion of diversity,” that is to say, the fact that many films present an appearance of inclusion with stereotypical characters, without context and only for the sake of making a good impression with the public.
In her opinion, however, “Shang-Chi” is just the opposite: an honest and sincere attempt to reflect the complexity of the Asian culture.
“When you look at a movie like ‘Shang-Chi,’ we’re integrating so many different experiences within the experience of being Asian, which is, in itself, a very diverse experience,” she said.