Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings finally made its debut back in September, and the superhero flick did not disappoint. It delivered on action, humor, emotional stakes and Marvel Cinematic Universe goodness. The film also gifted us with one of the franchise’s most compelling villains, Wenwu -- a.k.a. the Mandarin. Played beautifully by the great Tony Leung, the ancient warlord proved to be a cerebral, dangerous and tragic figure. The character met his ultimate fate in the movie’s bombastic third act, but there are still opportunities for him to appear in future Marvel movies and TV shows.
To refresh your memory, Wenwu sacrificed himself to save his son, Shang-Chi, from the Dweller-in-Darkness. He also passed on his legendary ten rings in the process of doing so. Still, the deceased Mandarin’s history (and some other rising developments in the cinematic universe) could allow him to return. So let’s take a look at the Marvel TV shows and movies in which he can resurface:
The next MCU installment to hit the big screen is Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, and it’s already shaping up to be quite different from past films in the franchise. One of the biggest reasons for this is that it takes place over thousands of years. With this, fans will be able to see the literal formation of the Marvel Universe as we know it. This also means audiences could see the titular extraterrestrials cross paths with some historical figures -- like Wenwu.
Shang-Chi established that the villain discovered his powerful weapons thousands of years ago. After doing so, he founded the Ten Rings organization and proceeded to conquer kingdoms and topple governments for centuries. It’s entirely possible that the Eternals could’ve witnessed some of his brutal acts at some point in history. Though of course, given their directives from the Celestials, they couldn’t actually interfere with them. It would be an absolute treat to see the ancient character show up in the cosmic epic. Not only would it be a cool scene, but it would also serve as a sweet piece of connective tissue.
The first season of Marvel’s What If…? wrapped up just a little while ago, and fans seem mostly pleased by the studio’s first animated venture. The show delivered on its promise of reshaping some of the franchise’s biggest moments, which resulted in a number of entertaining stories. The format also allowed the show to bring in countless variants of characters we’ve come to know like Peggy Carter and Doctor Strange. Season 2 is reportedly set to open the floodgates even further, as Phase Four concepts are said to be included. This theoretically means Shang-Chi and his world are fair game.
The animated series could be the perfect way to bring back the Mandarin. With an entire multiverse in play, fans could see variations of the character. So there could be an iteration of him that actually turns out to be a hero or, if we want to go even crazier, one that became an intergalactic conqueror. This may sound wild, but it’s definitely not impossible when it comes to this show. And if he does indeed appear, let’s hope that Tony Leung would return to voice him.
Before What If…? threw audiences head first into the multiverse, Loki set the pieces in motion for the plethora of alternate universes. The God of Mischief hopped into a number of unusual locales, which allowed him to cross paths with some unexpected faces. Based on the finale, Season 2 is only going to get wilder, especially with Kang the Conqueror now in play. But amid his further adventures, could the titular character run into some more familiar characters?
It may sound a bit far-fatched, but Loki could somehow run into a character like Wenwu during his travels through the multiverse. He could find himself in a reality where the Ten Rings actually rule the earth, with the Mandarin more powerful than ever. While it’s a longshot, I really would like to see it happen. And even if it doesn’t, I’m sure there could at least be some kind of Easter egg, not unlike the many viewers saw in “Journey into Mystery.”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a habit of retroactively adding characters, and this is sure to be the case when it comes to Blade. In the comics, vampires have been around for years, and the same will likely be true for the interconnected TV and film franchise. Details on the Daywalker’s upcoming film are scarce, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the movie showed off a brief history of the immortal bloodsuckers. And given their long lifespan, the Ten Rings could have encountered them at some point.
Again, this is where Wenwu’s immortality works in his favor. He easily could’ve come face to face with an actual vampire at some point in his life. And honestly, the thought of such a face-off is just too exciting to dismiss outright. A flashback featuring the Mandarin (which could simply just be a pipe dream on my part) would be a great action sequence to kick off the film. I probably sound crazy at this point but, hey, wilder things have happened in the MCU, right?
Of course, the most likely landing spot for Wenwu comeback would be a Shang-Chi sequel. It’s true that Marvel Studios has yet to officially announce a follow-up at this point. However, the movie’s box office receipts could mean that one may be on the way. The character’s absence would loom large over the project and, even with a new antagonist, the Mandarin would likely still be on fans’ minds. Nevertheless, there are a few ways the fantastic villain can be brought back.
The most obvious way to revive him would be through the use of a flashback. There’s a lot to the character’s story and more of it could be revealed through scenes that take place prior to the first movie. He could also return in a dream sequence, which, if done in a certain way, could be more chilling than comforting for his son or even his daughter, Xialing. And with magic being such a massive part of this corner of the MCU, he could even make a post-mortem appearance as a spirit of sorts. A plot point like that would need to be earned and, if it were to happen down the line, I’m sure the writers could find a logical way to make it work within the confines of the story being told.
Marvel Studios seems to understand how special a character Wenwu is, so one can only hope they choose to revisit him in the future. Simply put, there’s a lot to like about him and, I mean, who wouldn’t want more of Tony Leung?
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is still playing in theaters and, on November 12, it’ll be available to stream on Disney+, where you can also watch the Marvel movies in order.
Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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