When Simu Liu first discovered Shang-Chi, Marvel’s “Kung Fu Master”, he was not impressed.
âI used to do Wikipedia research for Asian superheroes,â says Simu Liu Reverse. After sifting through names like Sunfire of the X-Men and The Atom of DC Comics, “Shang-Chi was on the list.” Liu remembers. âI remember watching the first comedic performances of him and thinking, ‘Well, that’s offensive. “I wrote it right away.
Even after 2019, when Liu was chosen as Shang-Chi for 2021 Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings, he never stopped guessing the character. Something Liu contested with? Shang-Chi’s sneakers.
In Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings, Liu’s title hero returns home to face his evil father, Wenwu (played by Tony Leung), who wields the power of the Ten Rings. Throughout the film, including the decisive battle between father and son, Shang-Chi wears a pair of Air Jordan Access in the color “bred” (black and red).
Although being a real sneakerhead IRL, Liu initially rejected the idea of ââShang-Chi choosing sneakers over superhero tactical gear. It took a while for Liu to figure out the idea and its resonant symbolism for the first Asian-American superhero to headline Marvel.
“I fought against that initially,” Liu reveals to Reverse, “I remember adjusting the costume and thinking, ‘Is he the first superhero to wear running shoes? “” (Quick Fact Check: No. In 2015 Aaron Taylor-Johnson wore silver Adidas as Avengers: Age of Ultron.) “He should be wearing combat boots or something.” I didn’t see it the way they saw it.
It wasn’t until the cameras started rolling that Liu got used to kicking for his kicks.
âAt the start of production, I thought to myself: Oh that’s really coolLiu said. “That makes it relatable.”
How Shang-Chi got his Air Jordans
To understand why Shang-Chi wears sneakers in place of anything else, the answer lies with Marvel concept designer Andy Park.
Since 2011, Park has been a major force behind the visual language of the MCU, including their costumes. âWe always start from the comics,â Park says. âYou are never fully beholden to the source material. We are not trying to be. We try to be respectful.
After a decade of moving heroes like Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow from page to page, Park felt it was especially important – and empowering – to visualize Shang-Chi, the first American superhero. -Asian from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. âShang-Chi is a [case], because there are a lot of good things from the past but also problematic things, âsays Park.
In its original Kung Fu Master comics, Shang-Chi looks exactly how you’d imagine a 1970s kung fu master. His red and gold karate gi, red headband, and bare feet weren’t the most inspired superhero costume .
Over the years, Bruce Lee’s influence permeated Shang-Chi, who slowly began to resemble the action movie icon. While with the Avengers in 2012, Shang-Chi wore a red and black jumpsuit reminiscent of Bruce Lee’s yellow outfit.
For Legend of the ten rings, Park aimed to reinvent Shang-Chi from head to toe. âThere was no mandate to keep the Bruce Lee thing,â says Park, âI did explorations that weren’t even reminiscent of the comics, but the old Chinese culture with very westernized and very urban looks. “.
Alongside producers Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, director Destin Daniel Cretton and screenwriter Dave Callaham, Park created dozens of different iterations based on an ever-changing script.
“We’re at a point where some of us are starting to get seats at the table.”
âWe kind of explored everything,â he says.
Ultimately, the film’s final script, which featured ancient dragons and moments ruminating on mixed Asian and American upbringing, dictated Shang-Chi’s look. Sneakers are not just a fashion accessory but proof of an immigrant’s journey to the west.
âEvery time we design a costume, we try to tell a story of that character,â Park explains. “The Dragon [armor] symbolizes Shang-Chi’s mother. The Ten Rings are given to him by his father. It is a product of his mother and father. But it is also the product of his stay in America.
How sneakers tell the story of Shang-Chi
From Park’s perspective, having Shang-Chi rock Air Jordans represents his American identity.
“I wanted to give her a room that was uniquely hers,” Park says. âThat’s why I added the shoes, to have something of the west of his own. This is his story. You see it on his costume.
“It’s something you and I could wear.”
As to why Air Jordan Access – a not-so-popular pair that can easily be found reasonably priced online – is an unknown answer from Andy Park.
âI didn’t specify which sneakers,â said Park, âI did [illustrate] the look of black shoes with a white sole and a red border. They decided it would be Air Jordans. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s perfect.’ “Perfect enough to come back for a Shang-Chi following? “I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it has some sort of updated look [in Shang-Chi 2]. “
As for Simu Liu, his hesitation towards Shang-Chi’s Jordans echoed his own anxieties about being in a monumental film like Shang-Chi. Liu didn’t think he was doing his best, and he didn’t know why.
“[This was] this is just one of the many ways that I think as Asians we have internalized systems, âLiu said. âYou know, that chip on our shoulder. âThat must be it. “
At a glance, a pair of Air Jordans isn’t the most amazing thing a superhero can wear. But as a symbol of Shang-Chi’s identity, it’s the most important thing a superhero has ever worn.
âWe’re at a crossroads in our community,â says Liu, who says his perspective as a leader of a Marvel movie gave him a perspective on the Asian community in 2021.
âWe’re at a point where some of us are starting to have seats at the table. We have to decide whether we are going to support each other or engage in internal quarrels, âLiu said. “Being this face-to-face figure and having taken part in this press tour, [I see] a lot of optimism and a lot of frustration. A movie may not accurately reflect your own experience, and that can frustrate you. I think we, as a community, need to learn to take our victories for what they are like small steps towards an ultimate goal: to democratize the platforms and to give a representation to all the lived experiences of Asian and American origin that form our spectrum. “
Liu adds, “I think the most revolutionary thing we did with our film was to represent a human being, an Asian American, who was in three dimensions.”
At the very least, it matters that Shang-Chi’s unique onscreen prop is so accessible.
According to Andy Park, “It’s something you and I could wear.”
Shang-Chi and the ten rings is streaming now on Disney + and available on Blu-ray and DVD.