Feige held an exclusive 14-minute interview in English with the well-known veteran Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou on the day of the film’s premiere in the United States on the red carpet (it is widespread on September 3), focusing on China’s biggest complaints so far about the movie.
“Shang-Chi” does not yet have a release date in China, and it is unclear whether it has formally passed censorship. Past franchise successes prove that crossing this hurdle into the world’s largest film market will, of course, be the key to the title’s global gross.
One of the last major overseas trips Feige took before COVID-19 closures were to Shanghai in 2019 for an “Avengers: Endgame” promotional event, he told Zhou, calling it “one of the biggest MCU fan events I ever has been [to]. “The film opened in China two days before the United States and brought in $ 629 million there to become the country’s largest foreign film ever with its largest earnings and its sixth largest grossing total.
Marvel clearly hopes that the franchise’s first Asian superhero will have the same box office appeal, despite some strong local concerns that have been brewing since the project was first announced.
Many Chinese viewers insist that any film based on comics with the archetypal stereotypical character Fu Manchu – who is Shang-Chi’s father and nemesis in the original comics – will turn out to be a racist portrayal. However, Feige explained that the character “is only one of the truths about the early comics”, but is not in the movie “in any way, shape or form” and is not a Marvel character.
He emphasized and repeated this point several times.
“[Fu Manchu] is not a character we own or will ever own. It was changed in the comics many, many, many years ago. We never had any intention of [having him] in this film, ”he said. Later: “Definitely Fu Manchu is not in this movie, is not Shang-Chi’s father, and again he is not even a Marvel character and has not been for decades.”
Another concern in China is that Shang-Chi in the comics is sometimes portrayed as giving up his Chinese roots to embrace the West, and in a plot line even goes so far as to kill his father.
“It’s definitely one of the elements we’ve changed,” Feige reassured. “All our comics go back 60, 70, 80 years. Almost everything has happened in almost all comics, and we chose the elements that we would like to make into an MCU function. So that story is not what it’s all about. ”
The film actually tells the opposite story, he explained, portraying how Shang-Chi returns to engage with his father’s legacy after running away from it in his youth. He stressed: “That feeling of running away … is portrayed as one of his mistakes. It’s a mistake to run away to the West and hide from his heritage and his family – that’s how the film is presented. And how he wants to look it in the eyes and overcoming it is part of what the story is about. ”
The framing is well-oriented. In recent years, Chinese audiences have been particularly attracted to emotional stories about family without black-and-white battles for good against evil, qualities that helped record films such as local animation “Ne Zha” and sci-fi plays “The Wandering” Earth “for unexpected ticket office heights.
“Shang-Chi” marks all of these boxes, Feige said, describing the film’s story as one centered on the love, conflict and misunderstandings between a father and son and unique in that there is no true villain.
Feige said Tony Leung, who plays the film’s ambiguous, flawed bad guy, is “the heart of the film” and calls the Hong Kong icon “one of the greatest actors in the world.”
At one point, Zhou asked a question about the unpleasant but widespread criticism in China that Simu Liu is not attractive or charismatic enough by local standards to carry the role, making the casting choice racist. As Zhou delicately put it, the decision has “caused a lot of misunderstanding among Chinese fans.”
Feige explained that many of MCU’s origin stories for new characters featured lesser-known or unknown actors who were right in the role and went on to star status, referring to Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, Chris Evans and even Robert Downey, Jr., whose casting triggered initial setbacks.
The lead encouraged viewers to watch the film before judging.
“Let all the hard work that the artist does be the proof, and not just the message or the Google search when someone learns their name,” he said.
The interview was seen locally as part of a successful charm offensive and part control at the last minute. A film blogger viewed Feige as “quite sincere” with responses that “had virtually no ambiguity or deliberate side-step.”
In a comment more than 3,000 times, a Weibo user wrote: “I used to think about not seeing it, but it has finally removed my doubts; I feel like I can easily watch the movie. ”
Others shuddered that Feige only addressed the widespread Chinese concerns about “Shang-Chi” at the last minute, as its cash office there was apparently in jeopardy.
As one Weibo user cynically commented: “To sum up: ‘We do not want to lose the mainland Chinese market.'”
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