Stan Lee has had a hand in creating some of the most recognizable and iconic superheroes of all-time. It's impossible to imagine what the pop culture landscape would look like without Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers (among others) entertaining fans across a variety of mediums. Stars on the comic pages for decades, a number of Lee's characters are now world famous movie leads and bring in billions of box office dollars. Simply put, Lee has a way of connecting with audiences in a way few can rival.
The legend is showing no signs of slowing down in his old age, and at 93 years old still has all the creativity from his youth. Lee is working with his frequent collaborator Sharad Devarajan to create a brand new superhero, called Monkey Master. Its story will be based on the Chinese and Indian myths of the monkey warriors and take place between ancient and modern times. One key difference when compared to Lee's work at Marvel is that Monkey Master is not starting life in comic books; it's immediately making the jump to the big screen.
According to Variety, Lee's media company POW! Entertainment has partnered with China's Shinework Pictures and Graphic India to begin pre-production on a Monkey Master live-action film. India's Cinema Capital Advisory will also have a hand in the production, which is expecting to begin filming in the fourth quarter of 2017. The plan is for the shooting language to be English, and while no cast or director are on board yet, the team is hoping to get a western (meaning, western hemisphere) filmmaker to call the shots.
In a statement, Lee explained why he's excited about Monkey Master's potential and the themes it will tackle:
“I have always been fascinated by the Chinese and Indian cultures which are so philosophical and rich in tradition and morality. 'Monkey Master’ will be unique in how it interweaves Chinese and Indian myth to create a hero that will entertain fans across the world with his martial arts skills and unstoppable super-powers.”
There should be a great deal of interest in distributing Monkey Master as it makes its way through development. In all likelihood, the project will have strong international appeal, particularly in the Chinese marketplace. It's no secret that the country has become one of the most important for film studios in recent years and ranks second only to the United States in terms of scale. Several perceived box office disappointments have actually turned small profits in recent years thanks to their performance overseas. A superhero based heavily in Chinese culture has all the makings of a monster hit.
It will be fascinating to see who Lee and company get to be behind and in front of the camera. Whitewashing casts has become a highly controversial subject in Hollywood, and with Monkey Master drawing inspiration from Chinese and Indian mythology, the hope is that the producers have learned from previous mistakes. Having a recognizable name like Stan Lee attached is crucial for marketing purposes, and in an era where diversity on-screen has increasingly in demand, Monkey Master could be a huge step forward for films.
We'll keep you updated on Monkey Master as more information becomes available.