Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for “Crazy Rich Asians.”
With two big weekends at the box office and at least one sequel in the works, Jon M. Chu’s groundbreaking “Crazy Rich Asians” is on its way to franchise movie history. The first studio film in 25 years with a predominantly Asian cast was adapted from Kevin M. Kwan’s bestselling trilogy of the same name, and as Chu’s first film only pulls from one of them, the door is wide open for the further adventures with Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), Nick Young (Henry Golding), and a cast of breakout talents.
Peter Chiarelli, who adapted the screenplay with Adele Lim, told IndieWire that despite some big changes to the film’s ending, they set out with a mission to not screw up the potential for future installments. “[We] stayed true to the spirit of the book, didn’t make any changes that wouldn’t work with the subsequent books in Kevin’s series, and gave the movie the ending it deserved.”
Chu’s film follows American girl Rachel as she travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick’s family for the first time, an intimidating premise made worse by the realization that the Young family is, well, crazy rich and they’re not interested in an interloper marrying their beloved eldest son. While the film ends with Rachel standing up to Nick’s fierce mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), Nick proposes, and the pair celebrating their engagement at a blowout party, Kwan’s books have plenty more drama to keep the soapy wheels turning.
Here are three ways the story might continue its success.
Let’s All Go to China
Kwan’s next novel after “Crazy Rich Asians” is “China Rich Girlfriend,” which could suggest the location of a new installment. “We spend all our time in this movie exploring only Singapore,” Chiarelli said. “The idea of continuing on with these characters and exploring the rest of Asia is what I’d look forward to.” The second book in Kwan’s series sets out on a globe-trotting jaunt that involves sending most of its principal characters to Shanghai for a splashy, dramatic honeymoon.
Despite the cheerful conclusion of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the film doesn’t let up on its major conflict: the revelation that Rachel’s father, whom she long believed not only dead, but also an entirely different person, is alive, in China, and less than anonymous. While the film condenses that drama (and Lim opened up about that with IndieWire earlier this month), in the first film Rachel must grapple with the non-dead-dad information and handle how it impacts how she (and everyone else) thinks of her (read: as a “China rich girlfriend”).
One of the great joys of “Crazy Rich Asians” is how it revels in Singaporean culture, from food stalls to sprawling mansions to its fiercely interconnected social scene. It’s a setting that Hollywood has only recently tapped, and usually as a quick-hit location for superhero movies that need another eye-popping place to duke it out.
China contains a lot more than cool streets to zip through in natty cars, and “China Rich Girlfriend” could similarly unspool a rich look at the country’s various cultures. Told through the eyes of a newbie like Rachel, the sequel could turn China into a character of its own, offering fresh perspective on a world that mainstream Hollywood has often sidelined in favor of things that go boom.
Every Major Character Comes Back
While Chu’s film expedites a number of plot points that impact “China Rich Girlfriend” (for one thing, book Rachel and book Nick don’t get engaged until the second book), they’re still very much in place. The broad strokes: Rachel and Nick get married, Eleanor is still mad (and then somewhat less mad), and Nick’s beloved cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) is still having marriage problems.
Chu’s first film does a fine job balancing a multitude of stories, and “China Rich Girlfriend” offers the chance to do that again, as it brings back all the main characters and then some. A second film would be well served by following suit, perhaps aided by elements like a deeper exploration of Astrid’s love life (with a bigger appearance by her ex, Charlie Wu, played ever-so-briefly in the first film by Harry Shum, Jr.), more time spent with Rachel’s delightful friend Piek Lin (Awkwafina), and finding the space to address what happened to failed actress Kitty Pong (Fiona Xie).
Like any good soap opera, Kwan’s novels are so pleasurable because he rarely lets go of a good story or a good character, and a film version would endear itself to its fans by doing the same thing: the same characters, just more of them.
Yes, a Trilogy Is Possible (And Maybe More)
And what of Kwan’s third book, “Rich People Problems”? A slight comedown from the wild narrative twists of “China Rich Girlfriend,” the novel is all about tying up loose ends and seeking reconciliation, and a film version could easily serve as a happy conclusion to a beloved franchise. Like the first film, it’s got a Rachel-centric plot that can also explore the lives of everyone else in her orbit.
“Rich People Problems” also leaves open the possibility for plenty of spinoffs, including new beginnings for fan favorites like Astrid, Charlie, Eddie, and Peik Lin. Why not just blow this thing out and turn it into the kind of sprawling franchise typically associated with action movies and superhero sagas? Kwan’s books end on a happy note, but they also make it clear that these stories are never totally over. Call it the Crazy Rich Asians Cinematic Universe, and get on board now.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is in theaters now.