Chinese-Canadian Actor Simu Liu Cast in Leading Marvel, and Other Big Announcements

At last week’s San Diego Comic-Con Marvel delivered something of a double whammy…or several whammies, as it happens, but we’ll come to those in a moment.

The first of said whammies is that Marvel has cast its first Asian lead for the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The second is that he is a citizen of Canada, which also makes him the first Canuck to land a leading role in a Marvel tent-pole.

Simu Liu, who was originally born in Harbin, China before immigrating to Ontario at the age of 5, is best known for his role in the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience, and will star as the titular Shang-Chi. The character is part of Marvel’s “Phase 4” plans, which will lay the foundations for the next era of Avengers flicks.

Joining Liu is legendary Hong-Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who will be realising the long-awaited depiction of the villainous Mandarin, in what is Leung’s first Hollywood role. The role was previously depicted, if you could say that, by Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3. This is in no way a slight aimed at Kingsley, who is an undeniably talented actor that did his best with the role, but instead a reference to how his rendition of the character turned out to be nothing more than a misguided, if not cruel red herring for the film’s true villain, Aldrich Killian. 

The mononymous rapper/actress Awkwafina has also been cast in a yet undisclosed role (though it can probably be assumed that she will be Shang-Chi’s romantic interest), while acclaimed Hawaiian filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton will be in the director’s chair.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings certainly looks to be on the right track with a slew of venerable talent having already been announced, but it was far and away from the only major announcement made by Marvel at the SDCC. Here is the long list of announcements that have been made:

  • Black Widow, which will see Scarlett Johansson reprising her role as Natasha Romanoff, in what is the character’s first leading role in a Marvel film, albeit a prequel to the final two Avengers entries. Black Widow will be directed by Kate Shortland, with David Harbour, Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz set to co-star. It release date is set for May 1, 2020.

 

  • Official confirmation of the long-rumoured Eternals, which is to be directed by Chloé Zhao, and features a robust cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek and Brian Tyree Henry. Release date is set for November 6, 2020.

 

  • A Doctor Strange sequel, titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This is not only being billed as Marvel’s first horror film, but also the first to be directly tied to a TV show, Wandavision, which is set to be released on the upcoming streaming service Disney+. The release date for the Doctor Strange sequel is set for May 7, 2021. 

 

  • The fourth Thor film, titled Thor: Love and Thunder, which will see Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reprising their respective roles as Thor and Valkyrie, in addition to the announcement of Natalie Portman’s return as Jane Foster. This last detail is surprising not just because many had thought Portman all but gone from the franchise, but also because it has been confirmed that she will be assuming the role of God of Thunder at some point during the film. Taika Waititi, who revitalised the series with Thor: Ragnorok, will return to direct, with an expected release date of November 5, 2021.

 

  • Each of the films listed above have been given release dates, with Shang-Chi slated for a middling date of February 12, 2021. However, Marvel also announced a number of other films that will presumably be part of “Phase 5,” which includes Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Black Panther 2 and Captain Marvel 2. These were hardly surprising, though what was surprising were the announcements of a Fantastic Four film, which is in development, and that not only will Blade become a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he will be played by Academy Award-winner Mahershala Ali in his very own film. Reportedly, this became a reality at the request of Ali himself, with super-producer Kevin Feige noting “When Mahershala calls, you answer.”

 

  • In addition to the official announcement of Wandavision and its connection to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, other TV shows announced for Disney’s streaming service includes Loki, Hawkeye, and an animated What If series, all of which are slated for a 2021 release dates that have yet to be specified.

 

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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