As was speculated for weeks, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige revealed a number of casting details about the upcoming Shang-Chi film, including the main villain with the Mandarin making his second appearance in the MCU, but this time not by a drugged-out fake portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley. Tony Leung will be taking on the role as the real Mandarin.
Rumors persisted that the Mandarin would be the main antagonist of the film, but this was also doubted by many because of the use of the character’s name in Ironman 3, even though it was part of a larger deception in the later part of the story. The Ten Rings, the organization led by the Mandarin bent on terrorizing and destroying world peace, has until now, been a thorn at the side of Tony Stark’s storylines, and by extension, Jim Rhodes. To be the antagonist against protagonist Shang-Chi will require a bit of development to be sure.
For the unfamiliar, the Mandarin as based in Marvel comics is described as being born in China, well educated, and immensely powerful thanks to ten rings of power that he created using the alien technology of a crashed spaceship. Each ring is unique in the power it offers the wearer while worn on a specific finger.
It will be interesting to see how the character is connected to hero Shang-Chi, and which story is adapted from the comics, if any. One strong possibility lies in another Marvel villain not yet introduced into the MCU: Fin Fang Foom, the alien who resembles a dragon, who the Mandarin has manipulated before to attack parts of China in order to coerce its government to do as he pleases.
Such a storyline would add some epic monsters into the MCU, something that has been lacking to this point. Although the depiction of the character changes between comic appearances, he is often portrayed as larger than most buildings in a large city. If the Ten Rings terrorist organization needed a way to disrupt world peace, awakening and unleashing Fin Fang Foom would certainly be a way to go big and give Shang-Chi more than enough of a challenge to deal with in his debut film.
For now, this is all speculation, but strong contenders for possible stories based on what exists in the Marvel comics. The important point, one that Marvel is surely aware of, is to avoid making an antagonist who has obscure power in ways that are not quantifiable. This is to say that with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, we spent years as an audience learning what each infinity stone was capable of, and it was why the character was so easily able to overwhelm the strongest heroes in the MCU as he gathered one after another.
Antagonists like Apocalypse from X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016 suffer from the opposite problem. There, the villain had a broad range of powers that were never explained and seemed to vary wildly in power throughout the film. The same pitfall could befall the Mandarin with his ten rings, so hopefully, this is somehow fleshed out in a way that makes the character feel meaningful.
As for Shang-Chi, we know now that Simu Liu has been cast as the protagonist, most recently known for his role in the Canadian television sitcom Kim’s Convenience. The film currently has a release date of February 12, 2021.