You know what’s even cooler than watching a film and being able to perfectly nail its various homages and what movies it drew inspiration from? When those inspirations are so unexpected you don’t see them until you do, and apparently, that’s what we have to look forward to with the upcoming superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
In a recent interview with Fandango, Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton shared the list of films that inspired his work on the upcoming Marvel movie. While several of the movies he listed make a ton of sense — such as classical martial arts films Ip Man, Kung Fu Hustle, and Tai-Chi Master — one of the ones that played a major role in setting the film’s tone is pretty unexpected, to say the least. According to Cretton, the 1997 film Good Will Hunting — and the character of Will Hunting in particular — helped inspire the story he created for lead character Shang-Chi.
One of the very loose inspirations for tone and character was Good Will Hunting, which may be a surprise. Will Hunting is a character that I think has a lot of similarities to Shang-Chi, just in that they have a big secret and they have a lot of baggage that they have to learn to deal with in order to step into their fully realized shoes.
For those unfamiliar with the Academy award-winning story of Good Will Hunting, the film follows a brilliant-but-troubled young man named Will (played by Matt Damon) who is, to put it bluntly, wasting his potential and going down a pretty dark path. Fortunately, Will finds guidance and comfort in the shape of community college professor Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) and after a tumultuous journey, winds up in a better place with a clearer direction and more open view on life and love.
Based on what we know about Shang-Chi, there definitely seem to be some parallels between the two films and the characters of Will and Shang-Chi. For starters, both men suffered a form of abuse growing up that led them to have a pretty sour outlook on life and themselves. Cretton also noted both characters are a “mixture of masculinity and vulnerability,” who have “secret and a superpower [they don’t] quite understand and [have] not stepped into.”
However, even apart from Good Will Hunting, the film has an absolutely stellar list of influences, chiefly now-iconic martial arts films. In the Fandango interview, Cretton provided a very thorough list:
Some of the other inspirations… every Jackie Chan movie ever made, the Ip Man series — there’s a big inspiration from Jet Li’s Tai-Chi Master, and, of course, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There is a long list. I cannot not give enough props to Kung Fu Hustle, which is one of my favorites. We watched a lot of these classic movies to make sure that we were paying proper respect to them and to the long history of martial arts and kung-fu movies that came before us.
While all of these titles are quite a lot to live up to, our fingers are crossed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will nail it. You can see how it all plays out — and if Shang-Chi reaches his potential — when the upcoming Marvel film hits theaters on September 3.