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The film will be an adaptation of Monkey Master, an unreleased comic book series that Lee and Devarajan created in 2016 as a loose riff on the Chinese legend of The Monkey King. The film will follow New York City archeologist Li Yong as he discovers an ancient prophecy about the Monkey King, which brings him to India where he uncovers a hidden power that transforms him into a modern-day superhero, The Monkey Master.
The film is in development and it’s possible that Woo, famous for his action choreography in films like Face-Off, Mission Impossible 2 and Red Cliff, could later board it as a director.
Lee discussed the story in 2016 shortly after writing it, saying, “I have always been fascinated by the Chinese and Indian cultures, which are so philosophical and rich in tradition and morality. I’ve written countless superheroes of every nationality and every part of the world before, I’ve even created many heroes from other planets and galaxies, but Monkey Master will be unique in how it interweaves myth to create a modern day hero that will entertain fans across the world with his martial arts skills and unstoppable superpowers.”
Woo and Devarajan, who is the founder and CEO of Graphic India, will serve as producers for the adaptation along with Gill Champion, president of Lee’s former company POW! Entertainment, and Lori Tilkin, head of production at Woo’s A Better Tomorrow Films. Lee and Devarajan previously collaborated on the Indian superhero property Chakra: The Invincible, which became a series of graphic novels and three films that aired on Cartoon Network.
The Monkey King is one of the central characters of the 16th-century classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, which is one of the most frequently adapted stories of traditional Chinese literature. Nearly every year there is a major Chinese film released that retells some aspect of Journey to the West‘s sprawling mythology.
Woo said in a statement that he’s always wanted to make a Monkey King film of his own but that he had struggled to find a fresh way into the story. “The story by Stan Lee was such a unique version of it that incorporated the mythological character’s unexplored journey to India and had all the elements I enjoy in filmmaking — great characters, action and adventure,” he said in a statement. “I am excited to work with Sharad and Gill to bring Stan’s vision for this new superhero character to the screen.”
Added Devarajan: “Stan Lee was a mentor and friend who was one of the most influential creators of the 20th century. I am so excited to work with John Woo, Lori Tilkin and Gill Champion to honor Stan’s Monkey Master creation and bring this superhero to the screen the way he always intended.”
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