Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, your place on the Avocado to discuss film! Come here to discuss recently discovered classics or blockbuster films in theaters with your fellow commenters.
This week sees the release of Shang–Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Disney is often in a precarious position when it comes to updating properties. The challenge for Shang-Chi, for example, is the character of The Mandarin. The character had been played in Iron Man 3 by a bait-and-switch combination of Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce. The problem that Marvel encountered: The Mandarin was based on Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, which was a racist portrayal of Asians in power. Thus the solution in Iron Man 3 was to have Ben Kingsley play a costumed fake version of the character who replaced a stereotypical Asian accent with a George W. Bush impression. It also turns out that — SPOILERS — Ben Kingsley was just a media image. The guy pulling the strings, the REAL Mandarin, was Guy Pearce all along.
The decision enraged a lot a fans, though I imagine from Disney corporate’s perspective it was the best possible solution. I think it was a flawed solution. Eliminating stereotypes is a good thing. However, the problem is that the concept of the Fu Manchu character — a shadowy mastermind who secretly pulls the strings — is a great one. The concept of the character endures because it’s a great villain for the heroes to prevail against. The problem with Iron Man 3 (and Iron Man before it) is that by being cautious, Marvel made the shadowy mastermind type another white guy. Who is using brown people as his puppets. The subtext here: unless you’re a white male, you can’t possibly go toe to toe with the heroes. And brown people are just gullible marks.
Thus it seems that Shang-Chi is correcting this correction. The Mandarin is once against played by an Asian. However, Marvel hopes that this portrayal will be a more nuanced one than a Fu Manchu villain.
The thing is, Marvel has succeeded before. Wong in the Dr. Strange film is a better character than the man-servant from the classic Dr. Strange comics. Meanwhile, the character of Man-Ape could potentially set off all sorts of red flags. Instead he turned out to be one of the coolest characters in the Black Panther movie.
This week’s bonus prompt: what is the best update to a problematic movie element? What problematic element would you change from a movie you like?
Next week: football movies