Following the release of Iron Man 3 in 2013, it seemed like the only version of The Mandarin we’d see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, the actor hired by A.I.M. to portray the terrorist. But the following year, the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King revealed that there was a real Mandarin out in the world, and now we’re finally getting to meet him in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. However, it turns out Tony Leung’s version of the character will be quite different than what many fans are likely expecting when going into the next Marvel movie.
We’ve already known for years that Mandarin, a.k.a. Wenwu, is Shang-Chi’s father in the MCU, and rather than harnessing ten alien rings on each finger like his comic book counterpart does, the “rings” he uses are instead mystical arm bands. (Oh, and he leads The Ten Rings, the terrorist organization that, among other things, kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man.) But the changes to Mandarin go even further, which Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings co-writer David Callaham telling Empire the following:
Our version of the character is not The Mandarin in the way that people are expecting him to be. ‘The Mandarin’ is a title that has been applied to him in the past by people that don’t understand his culture. But he’s a much deeper character than I think a lot of people would expect.
While The Mandarin proudly embraces his title in the comics, it sounds like Wenwu doesn’t necessarily care for it all that much in the MCU continuity. Judging by the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailers, there’s certainly no question that Wenwu is filling the role of main antagonist quite nicely. Nevertheless, it sounds like there was a concerted effort to flesh out the character in a unique way and not have him come across as a two-dimensional villain.
Speaking of which, along with noting how the tense relationship between Wenwu and Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi was a “key element” that drew him to working on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, David Callaham also said he felt a responsibility to adapt The Mandarin in a way that didn’t draw on the racist archetypes utilized for him in early appearances, not to mention have lingered in general pop culture for decades. In the writer’s words:
It was for me the part of the Shang-Chi comics that I personally really connected to. It was really important for us to find the root of that anger and that pain. That was the goal from the get-go, and probably the number one fear of all of us was creating a Mandarin that was further contributing to the ‘Yellow Peril’ type of stereotypes that are still flying around.
Although Tony Leung’s Wenwu allowed Shang-Chi to live a life of his choosing for 10 years, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows the eponymous hero being forced back into his old life. When Shang-Chi tells The Mandarin he wants no part in his criminal enterprises, this leads to an epic clash between father and son. The Shang-Chi movie’s cast also includes Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen and Florian Munteanu, and we’ll also briefly reunite with Doctor Strange’s Wong and The Incredible Hulk’s Abomination. Director Destin Daniel Cretton worked with Callaham on the script.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives in theaters on September 3. While we count down the days until its release, learn what else the MCU is sending to the big screen with our upcoming Marvel movies guide.