Zack Snyder's Atom Spin-Off Would Have Been a Thoroughly Chinese Movie

Zheng Kai as Ryan Choi in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Zheng Kai as Ryan Choi in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Image: Warner Bros.

One of the niftier readditions to Zack Snyder’s Justice League was the appearance of Ryan Choi, aka the scientist who eventually becomes the hero the Atom, as played by actor Zheng Kai. It turns out Snyder had big plans for the Atom and for Zheng, and those plans started in China.


As GamesRadar reports, while speaking to Grace Randolph on her Beyond the Trailer YouTube series, Snyder said, “I had always had this idea that we would make a movie, a Ryan Choi movie, an Atom movie in China, with Chinese—English and Chinese language ... What I had in mind for Ryan was that we would make a movie set in China, really get the Chinese fans and be inclusive, and make it about a Chinese character. And not that this Chinese character is in the movie, but we’re in his movie.”

That’s pretty cool, actually! It’s also rather fiscally responsible since China has recently become the largest box office market in the world. Still, major studios rarely cater to foreign markets this directly, so making a major U.S. comics superhero movie not only in China but primarily in Chinese is a pretty bold move—one that could have backfired in terms of American audiences, who rarely embrace subtitled films. It’ll be interesting to see how Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which features another superhero of Chinese heritage, threads this needle when it premieres in September.

Even though he’s not getting a spin-off movie (although if Shang-Chi does well I suspect that might change), Ryan Choi seems like he’s right on the cusp of stardom. The character was also introduced in the Arrowverse, played by Osric Chau, as one of the saviors of the multiverse during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, although there seems to be no plans to bring him back in any future show. Hopefully one day soon DC’s tiniest superhero will hit the big time.

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Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.


Angrier Geek

While his intentions may have been good, I think we all know Snyder is incapable of following through with a good movie. Also, why does he think that Ryan Choi can’t be Chinese, his story Chinese and still be completely an American? That’s part of the problem right now is idiots can’t accept that.

And I had a really scary thought the other day about Snyder. Do we really think Warner Brothers put up $70m for something that can only run on HBOMax? Never to be put out into the wilderness to fill their own basic cable pipelines as well as others? I’m afraid we’re looking at one more version: the two-hour cable TV version which ironically will probably be the best one...though still bad.