The 2013 indie Short Term 12 really is taking over Hollywood. That beloved if little-seen film featured future Oscar-winners Brie Larson and Rami Malek, as well as future breakout actors Lakeith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz, and now the film’s director—Destin Daniel Cretton—is heading to the Marvel universe.
Per THR, Cretton has signed on to direct Marvel’s highly anticipated Shang-Chi movie, which will mark the studio’s first superhero film with an Asian lead. Word of the project first surfaced in December, along with the news that Marvel was fast-tracking it and had tapped Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984) to write the screenplay. At the time, it was reported that Marvel was looking towards Black Panther as the model, and in that regard was aiming to hire an Asian or Asian-American director.
Other directors that Marvel considered for the job include Justin Tipping (Dear White People), Alan Yang (Master of None, Forever), and Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian), but it appears that Cretton impressed the most and is coming away with the gig.
The Shang-Chi character was created in the early 1970s by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin and was born out of Marvel Comics’ desire to acquire the rights to the TV series Kung Fu, which they were denied. Instead, they acquired the rights to the villain Fu Manchu and created Shang-Chi as a son of Fu Manchu. In the comics, Shang-Chi was raised and trained by his father in martial arts, but when he learned his father was actually evil, he tuned against him.
Marvel intends to assemble a largely Asian-American and Asian cast, again looking to Best Picture-nominee Black Panther, which was directed, written by, crafted by, and starring people of African and African-American descent. That film showed just what a difference it makes when you hire people of color to tell a story about people of color, and I look forward to seeing what Cretton brings to the table with Shang-Chi. Let the Steven Yeun casting rumors begin!
Cretton fits the mold of the typical Marvel Studios director in many regards. The studio has a habit of selecting filmmakers from the indie or character-driven world and surrounding them with a team of highly qualified and experienced visual-effects and action specialists. That was the case with indie directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck on Captain Marvel, it’s the case with the upcoming Black Widow movie and director Cate Shortland, and it will certainly be the case with Chloe Zhao’s upcoming Eternals movie.
Cretton is currently directing an adaptation of the devastating book Just Mercy, which is about the U.S. justice system. Marvel alum Michael B. Jordan leads a cast that also includes Brie Larson. Cretton most recently directed Larson in the 2017 drama The Glass Castle.
Marvel Studios has yet to officially announce any films beyond this summer’s Spider-Man: Far from Home, but they’re clearly working behind the scenes to shore up talent to get the ball rolling. We expect a grand unveiling of their upcoming slate either this spring, after Avengers: Endgame, or this summer after Far from Home, so as to keep the spoilers of those two films under wraps first.
Get ready, folks. A new generation of Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes is upon us.