Shang-Chi: Who Is the Mandarin?

In Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Kevin Feige unveiled Marvel Studio’s Phase 4 plans. The slate includes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu as Marvel’s master of kung fu. Fans were excited to hear that Shang-Chi is coming to the big, but may have more excited about the villain, the Mandarin, played by Tony Leung. This is in part because it fulfills a promise Marvel has been making to fans since 2013.

In the Marvel Comics universe, the Mandarin is Iron Man’s archenemy. Stan Lee and Don Heck created the villain, debuting him in Tales of Suspense #50 in 1964. His origin states that he’s was born in China before the Communist revolution to a wealthy Chinese man and a British aristocrat. When his parents died, the Mandarin was left with his paternal aunt. By adulthood, the Mandarin’s fortune was spent. He was evicted from his ancestral home by the communist government because he couldn't’ pay his taxes. This set Mandarin on the path of bitter vengeance and world domination.

The Mandarin’s schemes often involve some plan to take over the world. He attempts this through the use of his genius intellect, preternatural martial arts skills, and the 10 rings he crafted from technology he found in a downed alien spaceship in the Valley of Spirits. Each of his 10 rings — sometimes depicted as being sentient — houses a different power. They are:

  • Ice Blast: Emits cold that can stun opponents or turn moisture to ice.
  • Mento-Intensifier: Mind control and illusions
  • Electro-Blast: Emits electricity
  • Flame Blast: Emits radiation, heart, and flame
  • White Light: Emits various form of energy that can generate gravity
  • Black Light: Absorbs light, creates absolute darkness
  • Disintegration Beam: Emits energy that destroys molecular and atomic bonds.
  • Vortex Beam: Creates an air vortex, used to elevate the user or disorient enemies.
  • Impact Beam: Projects concussive force and can generate magnetic waves and sonic vibrations used to move objects.
  • Matter Rearranger: Can rearrange, speed up, or slow down molecules and atoms, transforming substances into different states or forms.

Given the mythology of the Mandarin and his status as Tony Stark’s chief rival, fans were excited to hear Ben Kingsley would play the villain in Iron Man 3 in 2013. They were less enthused by the film’s twist. Kingsley’s Mandarin turns out to be an actor, Trevor Slattery, paid by embittered Tony Stark rival Aldrich Killian to stoke fear and boost weapons sales.

Marvel released the short film All Hail the King less than a year later, including it with the February 2014 Blu-ray release of Thor: The Dark World. The film appears, in part, to be a response to fan backlash over the Mandarin twist. It implies that the Slattery’s character was based on a real, more secretive Mandarin who still exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Since then, Marvel has assured fans that the real Mandarin is still out there. Now, they know when they’ll get to meet him.

Are you excited to see the Mandarin in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? Let us know in the comments. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters February 12, 2021.

Other 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, WandaVision in spring 2021, Loki in spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If? In summer 2021, Hawkeye in fall 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021.