The trailer for Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings shows that the titular hero gets a new back story in MCU that repairs the fake villain twist for Iron Man 3 in the process. Marvel’s Shang-Chi, dating from the 1970s, was a kung fu master who had turned against his evil, master, father. However, the character is updated to MCU, which allows Disney to correct a previous bug.
Marvel released the first Shang-Chi trailer in April 2021, which set viewer expectations for the Phase 4 film. Unlike other MCU records, Shang Chi and the legend of the ten rings seems to be a little more entrenched in terms of its action sequences; though there is a touch of the fantastic — especially the shots from the guard lions and the Red Army — the film seems to lean into its kung fu influences and rely less on massive CGI set pieces and more on exciting, well-choreographed fight sequences. In this way, the film not only offers something new to MCU, but it also fulfills the missed opportunity with Netflix’s critically malignant Marvel series Iron fist.
Shang-Chi is thus positioned to address a number of issues in Marvel’s history. One of the biggest mistakes of the last ten years was how Iron Man 3 used Mandarin, Tony Stark’s arch-enemy in the comics. By updating the character to fit the technology-oriented tone in Iron Man movies in MCU, the character was changed – but in a way that was deeply unsatisfactory for fans of the character. But new information has also emerged, which may mean that Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings be able to treat the use of the character in a more substantial way than first assumed.
How Iron Man 3 used mandarin
The mandarin is a great antagonist in Iron Man comics, so it was only a matter of time until he appeared in MCU; however, the third Tony Stark solo film undermined the expectations of the character with a twist revelation. Instead of being a real warlord and criminal, this version – played by veteran actor Ben Kingsley – is actually an actor named Trevor Slattery. Slattery was hired by the film’s primary antagonist, Aldrich Killian, who exploited Slattery’s drug addiction (and acting talent) to create a “goal” for the U.S. government to focus on. This fake “terrorist” claimed to be affiliated with the “Ten Rings” organization (the terrorists who captured Stark in Iron Man). By taking responsibility for the “attacks”, he covered up Killian’s experiments with Extremis Soldiers.
It makes sense that this was changed to Iron Man 3 and combined with the Extremis plot. Although magic has appeared in MCU, the Iron Man films dealt with futuristic (but still believable) technology and military conflict. The mandarin, as he appeared in the comics, is a wealthy Chinese martial artist who uses several alien rings that contain the spirit of dead warriors; although there is a technological element in the stories of mandarin, at a basic level it does not fit with the established tone of Iron Man in MCU. The original Extremis story in the comics is also changing; written by Warren Ellis in the early 2000s, Iron Man: Extremis did not include the extreme heat and fire element (it looked more like a highly regenerating Super Soldier Serum), and Dr. Aldrich Killian commits suicide rather than assuming an antagonistic role.
Iron Man 3 found a way to both fit the mandarin into the MCU, while avoiding harmful Chinese stereotypes, while using the Extremis story in a way that was visually and thematically separated from what happened in Captain America movie. Unfortunately, the mandarin twist was not successful. The powerful and interesting character of the comics was reduced to essentially a punchline. Although the twist was unexpected, and Slattery’s out-of-character interaction with Stark is really funny, the end result was mainly that the “real” mandarin was not going to be in MCU.
How Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings use Mandarin
The coming Shang-Chi the film reintroduces mandarin, but this time MCU uses a more comically-accurate version of the character. Although similar Shang-Chi changes the ten rings to bracelets, everything else in the trailer suggests that Tony Leung Chiu-wai’s version of the character is more like his cartoon counterpart: he is wealthy, runs a criminal organization and is played by a Chinese actor. The terrorist, whose real name is Wenwu, is a master of martial arts and has an old mystery around him – which suggests Makluan – rings in the comics. Most important of all, this time, the mandarin is truly the film’s primary antagonist and will be presented as sinister and threatening (as opposed to Kingsley’s dopey, drug-loving Slattery).
Of course, a big difference from Marvel Comics is that in Shang-Chi, the mandarin replaces Fu Manchu. This is necessary on a few levels: one, the Fu Manchu character is deeply racist, and two, Marvel did not create the character, which complicates the issue of film rights. Initially, Marvel tried to adapt the popular TV show Kung Fu in the 1970s as a way to exploit the craze of martial arts at the time; instead, Marvel obtained the license for Dr. Fu Manchu, a mass villain from the 1910s novels of Saxon Rohmer. In these earlier comics, Shang-Chi Fu is Manchu’s son who turns away from his father as he discovers his evil nature.
For what should be obvious reasons, it would not work to have Dr. Fu Manchu and MCU. After Marvel lost the rights to the character, they renamed him Zheng Zu – but the xenophobic aspects of the character’s story continue to haunt him. The villain Fu Manchu is created by a white man and is thoroughly stereotyped, representing the worst aspects of Orientalism. What’s worse, the character has a long history of being controversial: even in the 1930s, concerns were raised about how the Fu Manchu franchise portrayed the Chinese. It is fair to say that Marvel’s decision to adapt the character in the 1970s – when reissues of the old Fu Manchu film was the target of protest – was problematic to say the least.
An interesting revelation from marketing for Shang-Chihowever, Ben Kingsley’s presence at the film’s premiere in August 2021 suggests a broader addressing of the portrayal of the character in Iron Man 3. Although Marvel could have dealt with the matter in dialogue or even ignored it altogether if Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery appears in the film, it means that there is a more significant part that links back to Iron Man 3. Although it is possible, the actor turned out as part of the industry in support of the film, Kingsley is more likely to appear as Slattery in the film – potentially in a position where the real Mandarin decides to take revenge on the actor for his earlier portrayal in Iron Man 3. Although it is still not confirmed what role Kinglsey and Slattery can play in the film – this is the first hint of Kingsley’s potential involvement in the film, so Marvel has been very secretive about it – it will be exciting for fans and haters of Mandarin -twist in Iron Man 3 to see how Marvel addresses or continues its role as the actor in MCU.
Why the mandarin is perfect for Shang-Chi’s father
Having the mandarin to be Shang-Chi’s father allows MCU to honor the best parts of both characters from the comics, while avoiding the more damaging stereotypical elements. The presence of Ben Kinglsey’s Trevor Slattery also provides an opportunity to differentiate his mandarin action from the real mandarin displayed in Shang-Chi. Representation is important, and Marvel Phase 4 seems to be more diverse. Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, is the first Asian character to get his own solo film in MCU, and the studio has made an effort to predominantly cast actors of Chinese descent. Just like Black Panther was a groundbreaking film for its representation, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings seems to do the same.
Next: Shang-Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings Trailer Breakdown: 27 Story Reveals & Secrets
- Black Widow (2021)Release Date: July 09, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release Date: September 3, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release Date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release Date: December 17, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release Date: May 6, 2022
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release Date: March 25, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever / Black Panther 2 (2022)Release Date: July 08, 2022
- The Marvels / Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release Date: November 11, 2022
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