Marvel Studios brought some big Phase 4 surprises to San Diego Comic-Con, and one of the biggest ones was the full title and story premise for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. As the title implies, the Shang-Chi solo origin film will have some pretty big ties to the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, via the infamous Ten Rings organization that first debuted in Iron Man.
The Ten Rings is, of course, run from the shadows by the crimelord and terrorist known as The Mandarin, and after that big Iron Man 3 fake-out, Shang-Chi will see the debut of the real Mandarin, played by actor Tony Leung!
However, with the casting of Leung as the Mandarin, and the titular implications of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it seems as though a popular Marvel fan theory may prove true.
Shang-Chi’s original Marvel Comics origin is one about redemption. The martial arts hero was born in China as the son of Fu Manchu, an international crimelord and mastermind super villain, bent on world conquest. Shang-Chi’s American mother was selected for her genetics to bear Fu Manchu the son he wanted, and the crimelord trained Shang-Chi from boyhood to be the ultimate martial arts fighter and assassin.
Shang-Chi knew none of this, however, believing his father to be a wealthy humanitarian. Shang was sent to London to eliminate a man who was on Fu Manchu’s hit list, and did the deed, believing that he was defending the world from an evil threat. Fu Manchu’s nemesis Sir Denis Nayland Smith caught up with Shang and began to try to convince the young man of the truth; after some added confirmation from his mother, Shang-Chi released that his father was evil, and began using his unique martial arts talents to fight Fu Manchu’s organization alongside Sir Denis, even combating his own adopted brother M’Nai, aka the villain Midnight.
What has always been great about Shang-Chi‘s story is the Shakespearean family drama at the center of it, and particularly how it is reflective of so many deeper Chinese cultural beliefs and themes. Those themes (family, duty, tradition, etc…) are ones that Marvel Studios and Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton have openly stated they want to explore – but there’s one big elephant in the room, which is that Marvel Comics’ Fu Manchu character is a horrible racist caricature, that the publisher doesn’t even fully own.
So how to distill the wonderful cultural richness and dramatic gravitas of Shang-Chi’s origin, while leaving behind the silly offensive bits? Namely with a key character switch: Make The Mandarin Shang-Chi’s father, instead of Fu Manchu.
We’ve already gone deep into this theory and why it works. Short version: Shang-Chi‘s origin film can leave the hero and his evil father both in a place to become major players in MCU Phase 4 and beyond. This origin film would essentially detail the story of how Shang-Chi gets trained, brainwashed, and ultimately breaks from that family bond and the evil that comes with it, to set his own path. Meanwhile, Shang-Chi facing and defeating his father would set up a conclusion and epilogue where The Mandarin is forced to retreat into the shadows for years on end, to either recover from some injury and/or continue expanding his criminal empire without tipping off his son that he’s still alive. By the time of Phase 4 and the 2023 post-Endgame world, The Mandarin would see a weakened superhero community and revelation of powers like the Infinity Stones as a sign to re-emerge, and Shang-Chi would be similarly be forced to bring his personal war with The Mandarin into the spotlight.
Do you think Shang-Chi will be revealed as the son of The Mandarin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Upcoming Marvel Studios projects include Black Widow on May 1, 2020, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in fall 2020, The Eternals on November 6, 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, 2021, WandaVision in spring 2021, Loki in spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If? In summer 2021, Hawkeyein fall 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021.
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