Shang-Chi Villain's Mandarin Connection Revealed

Marvel Studios today revealed the first poster for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as the film's first teaser trailer, and now fans are getting new information about the film's characters, including its villain, played by Tony Leung. New details name this character Wenwu and confirm that he is Shang-Chi's father. The report also confirms that, among other monikers, Wenwu is the proper holder of the Mandarin title, the same title Trevor Slattery pretended to in Iron Man 3, incurring the actual Mandarin's wrath. Wenwu, the Ten Rings organization's leader, manages to combine elements of Mandarin from the comics with Shang-Chi's original backstory while removing some problematic aspects.

In the comics, Shang-Chi is the son of Fu Manchu, the criminal mastermind created by Sax Rohmer in his series of novels. At the time, Marvel had the right to publish comics with the character. The company lost those rights in 1983, making him a tricky part of Shang-Chi's origin to deal with (Fu Manchu is also widely regarded as a racist, orientalist caricature, an even stronger reason for Marvel to avoid using the character).

Instead, Marvel Studios will merge Fu Manchu (or at least Marvel's version of the character, now known as Zheng Zu) and the Mandarin from the comics into a single character, Wenwu. That solves the studio's villain problem while at the same time tying up a loose end left dangling earlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mandarin's real name in the comics remains unknown after 57 years, but he's taken on many aliases over the years. Similarly, Wenwu has taken many personas in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including that of the Mandarin.

But the Mandarin of the comics has also been criticized for being built on racist "yellow peril" tropes. According to producer Jonathan Schwartz, that won't be the Mandarin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

"I think people hear 'the Mandarin' and expect a very specific kind of thing, and that may not be the thing they're getting," Schwartz tells Entertainment Weekly. "They're hopefully getting a more complex and layered take on the character than that name would lead you to."

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"A character like Wenwu could have easily been a one-dimensional villain with no heart," director Destin Daniel Cretton says. "Tony opened this character up [so] this is an antagonist who has a deep ability to love."

Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters on September 3rd.