Marvel’s Mandarin has had a complicated history, from horror mastermind to international bogeyman, and most recently as the virtually immortal leader of the criminal organization in Marvel’s most recent hit, Shang-Chi and the Legend. of the Ten Rings. Yes, this character has been around in one form or another since the beginning of the MCU.
But it has been a confusing and winding road for The Mandarin AKA Wenwu, so let’s follow his path from the beginning …
The MCU’s first villain … or something like that
Let’s start at the beginning, because in many ways the Mandarin helped launch the MCU.
In 2008’s Iron Man, a faction of the terrorist group The Ten Rings is behind Tony Stark’s kidnapping in Afghanistan. Later in the movie we learn that it was Stark’s partner and mentor, Obadiah Stane, who designed everything, but it was the Ten Rings who carried it out.
We didn’t get an actual reference to the Mandarin in the first Iron Man or the sequel. However, in 2010’s Iron Man 2, Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko obtains his forged documents from a suspected member of the Ten Rings. It makes sense, given that Jon Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man movies, has said that he wanted the Mandarin to appear in what he intended to be his Tony Stark trilogy. Favreau knew that the Mandarin from the comics was considered Iron Man’s arch nemesis, but he was equally aware of the character’s troubled and racially insensitive origins. He also seemed concerned with how to merge the character’s supernatural powers – the ten rings are mystical and otherworldly entities – with the technological reality on which his Iron Man movies are based.
Still, the Mandarin appeared in director Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. Well more or less. This is where things start to get weird …
Meet … The Mandarin?
In 2013’s Iron Man 3 Part 3, the Mandarin was an imminent villain who had America on the edge with his ubiquitous broadcasts and terrifying messages. Except it was all a smokescreen, a “tailor-made terrorist threat,” as Tony Stark put it. The Mandarin was actually the failed actor Trevor Slattery (Sir Ben Kingsley), hired by Aldrich Killian from Guy Pearce, the founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics, or AIM for short.
Killian used this group of evil experts to distort the Mandarin myth in order to manipulate the pathology of Western civilization. At first, the concept of a terrorist attack was a ruse to cover up the flaws of their experimental Extremis regenerative program – it’s a pretty big flaw, as it makes their patients explode! But Killian soon realized that it was easier to rule behind the scenes, so he created a face of terror … the Mandarin.
Shane Black’s decision to do this to the Mandarin was controversial to say the least. Some die-hard comic book fans were upset; others thought it was ingenious. But as Kevin Feige explained to IGN in 2014, just because the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 turned out to be Trevor Slattery, it didn’t mean the true villain didn’t exist.
“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to make the funny short film that Drew Pearce wrote and directed,” Feige said at the time.
Killian had based his Mandarin “avatar” on the true stories he had heard about a mysterious mastermind behind all kinds of acts of terror. And the short film Feige mentioned, “All Hail the King,” made it clear once and for all that the Mandarin existed within the MCU, and that it was a legitimate force to be reckoned with.
In Marvel’s One-Shot, a member of the Ten Rings organization pretends to be a documentary maker and lets poor, clueless Slattery tell a little secret: the Mandarin exists, and he’s not too happy to find out that some actor failure has been impersonating him. The film ends with Slattery being released from prison, presumably until his death at the hands of the real Mandarin. (Of course, we would eventually learn in Shang-Chi that the hapless Trevor ended up living as a prisoner of Wenwu, where the former actor avoided execution by acting for the Ten Rings.)
Aside from a deleted scene in Ant-Man in which a potential customer of Darren Cross’s Yellowjacket technology sports a tattoo of the Ten Rings, there were no other mentions of the Ten Rings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for another half a dozen years. … until the real McCoy finally made his debut.
He appropriated Ten Rings, my Ten Rings, but since he didn’t know my real name… Do you know what name he chose? The Mandarin. He named his character after a chicken dish.
Wenwu in Shang-Chi: The True Boss
In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Tony Leung’s Xu Wenwu is revealed to be the head of a dark international network dating back to the Middle Ages. Mandarin is just one of the names that has been given to it over the centuries. Due to the power embedded in the mysterious ten rings he possesses, Wenwu is virtually immortal, and his organization of the Ten Rings, named for its rings of power, has become an almost shadow government, dominating and manipulating events. global benefits for you.
During a dinner scene with his sons, Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing, Wenwu specifically references the “false Mandarin” episode as he reveals one of the many names he has been assigned throughout his long life.
“He took Ten Rings, my Ten Rings, but since he didn’t know my real name… Do you know what name he chose? The Mandarin. He named his character after a chicken dish. “
The inclusion of this scene is notable for more than just confirmation that Shang-Chi is the son of the infamous villain. It’s also a subtle repudiation of the racist elements embedded in the character’s original description. As mentioned above, the desire to import one of Marvel Comics’ key villains into the movies had been there from the beginning, but the filmmakers had to find a way to adapt it while eliminating its offensive characteristics. Having the character himself point this out was a pretty effective way of doing it.
In a broader sense, that was also part of the challenge of bringing Shang-Chi into the MCU. The original comic book series that made Shang-Chi a sensation for fans of a certain age was a Bronze Age piece and spy fare mixed with martial arts. Created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu was a bold series featuring some of the best art of the era from artists like Gene Day and Mike Zeck. He is also horribly out of date for some of the stereotypes he presents, the most prominent being Shang-Chi’s father, Fu Manchu. The character, created by novelist Sax Rohmer, was an evil scientist who was emblematic of the “yellow menace” trope common in 20th century fiction. There was no way to bring that character to the current MCU.
By erasing Fu Manchu from the picture, director Destin Daniel Cretton and screenwriters Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham built an antagonist in Wenwu who was a complex and layered character, a mythical figure who is also allowed a dynamic with his son who is at the heart of the film.
By taking this path, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings allowed the true Mandarin to finally take his place as one of the MCU’s best and most fascinating villains.
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