The confirmation of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' villain as The Mandarin at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 may have come as a surprise for some. In Marvel comics, The Mandarin is an Iron Man villain whose story rarely overlaps with Shang-Chi's, so bringing them together in a film may at first be tough to imagine. A closer look at the reasons why The Mandarin is in Shang-Chi, including the desire to bring in an antagonist of Asian origin into the MCU's first film with an all-Asian cast, begins to clarify things.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige confirmed during Marvel's SDCC 2019 panel that The Mandarin would be played by Tony Leung (In the Mood For Love) and Awkwafina would join the film in a still-unconfirmed role. In addition to Leung, Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton announced Simu Liu would play Shang-Chi. Shang-Chi's release date was also confirmed to be part of the MCU's Phase 4, arriving in theaters February 12, 2021.
Bringing The Mandarin and Shang-Chi into opposition in one movie is a bold choice. In the comics, Shang-Chi's primary antagonist is his father, the mythical and dangerous Fu Manchu. Meanwhile, The Mandarin has long been an antagonist to Iron Man. But with Marvel not owning the movie rights to Fu Manchu due to his origin in books by Sax Rohmer and The Mandarin being one of Marvel's Asian villains, the switch makes total sense. Bringing The Mandarin back for Shang-Chi gives the MCU a chance to really showcase the powers and personality of one of Marvel Comics' oldest villains (The Mandarin was first introduced Tales of Suspense #50 by Stan Lee and Don Heck) while also honoring the film's intention to feature an all-Asian cast.
The Mandarin first arrived on the MCU scene in Iron Man 3, sort of. It was eventually revealed The Mandarin antagonizing Iron Man was a fake one played by actor Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley). The version of the Ten Rings organization led by Trevor/The Mandarin was a front, with all of it orchestrated by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). In Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King, the recently-incarcerated Trevor believes he will be interviewed when the TV reporter set to interview him turns out to be a member of the real Ten Rings organization, there to kill Trevor because The Mandarin "has come back for his name." This confirmed the real Mandarin had existed all along, teeing up his appearance in Shang-Chi almost a decade later.
It's possible Shang-Chi could center its plot around the only notable encounter Shang-Chi and The Mandarin had in the House of M comics series. In that arc, Shang-Chi and his gang come upon the mummified remains of The Mandarin, who still wears his ten rings of power. If the film does have ties to the House of M storyline — and it very well could considering the ten rings which are mentioned in the film's title also figure into that comic book encounter — then Shang-Chi is sure to have an epic face-off on his hands.
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021