Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings – What Are They?

It’s theorizing time! I’m not always an expert at this sort of thing (I tend to have flashes of what I think could be an interesting idea, but…well, we’ll get to that), but I’m mainly writing this post so you – and I – can understand better one of the more intriguing developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the unveiling of the long-anticipated villain, The Mandarin, and his shadowy terrorist organization; the Ten Rings.

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Well, them too – mainly we’ll be talking about the literal ten rings, what they are, what they can do, whether we’ll see them used as frequent plot devices like the Infinity Stones were (the proper term for an object in a film/book that is used as a plot device, such as Marvel’s Tesseract, is a MacGuffin: bear that in mind).

Let’s start with a recap of what we know: The Mandarin, one of Marvel’s most enigmatic villains, will finally appear in the upcoming film Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, probably filling the role of Shang-Chi’s villainous father from the comics: Fu Manchu. The Mandarin is traditionally an Iron Man villain, and has indeed already been connected with Iron Man in the MCU – members of his terrorist organization kidnapped Tony Stark all the way back in the very first Marvel Studios film. But Stark never actually got a showdown with the mastermind himself – instead, he was surprised to learn that the man he had believed to be The Mandarin was actually just a regular guy (well, if you can call Ben Kingsley a regular guy) who had rather inadvertently had to adopt the moniker before becoming a puppet for an entirely different terrorist group. Needless to say, the Mandarin’s followers weren’t too happy with this guy pretending to be their criminal warlord, so they broke him out of prison after the events of Iron Man 3 and brought him face to face with the real Mandarin, someone we’ve never actually seen onscreen. And that was the last we’ve heard from The Mandarin or the Ten Rings, except for one brief encounter in the first Ant-Man movie, where Scott Lang battled a mercenary working for the organization. Since then, the group has apparently gone underground. But someone (or something…) is going to bring them back to the forefront of the MCU in 2021, clearly, so what can it be?

Well, to explain that, we have to look at the Ten Rings themselves – and I’m not talking about the terrorists anymore, I’m talking about the ten rings; like, rings you wear on your fingers, those kinds of rings. The Ten Rings (the terrorists) will probably be very important to the story of Shang-Chi’s solo movie, but I highly doubt they’re the Ten Rings being referenced in the film’s title – because the Ten Rings, while very mysterious, aren’t exactly legendary: the ten rings, on the other hand…well, those are.

I feel like this post is going to get very confusing. Warning to all future Marvel criminal masterminds: please don’t name your business after your jewelry – it just makes things a lot more complicated than they need to be. Thanks.

Anyway, the Mandarin’s ten rings are almost mythical, and very nearly divine. In the comics, these ten devices were created by a race of aliens known as the Makluans: they are weapons, endowed with the incorporeal spirits of ancient cosmic warriors and heroes, and each also possesses the ability to think and operate on its own, without even needing a wearer to use it. The ten rings are named Remaker, Influence, Spectral, Spin, Incandescence, Nightbringer, Daimonic, Zero, Lightning, and The Liar. They each have specific powers, but if you’re interested I’ll direct you to a place where you can learn more about those. For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to go into the subtle differences between “manipulating the atomic and molecular structures of matter” and “destroying the bonds between the atoms and the molecules”. Let’s put it this way: these things are powerful. Maybe not on quite the same level as, say, the One Ring of Power, but they’re up there.

Now, at first, upon reading all this, I had a crazy idea that somehow the Infinity Stones themselves would be used to explain the ten rings: that, somehow, when Thanos destroyed the seven stones, their broken fragments wandered across the universe and ended up in/on the hands of The Mandarin. Then I kind of realized that The Mandarin has been established to have had these ten rings since at least the 1950s. In the comics, he just happened to be the one guy around when a Makluan spaceship carrying the ten rings crash-landed in China: being a quick-thinking, practical sort of guy, The Mandarin killed the alien pilot and stole the rings. Much of the rest of his story has already been adapted in a slightly different fashion: he kidnapped Tony Stark (been there, done that), and then one of his rings ended up with Malekith the Dark Elf (he’s already dead in the MCU timeline). But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t interesting stories to be told.

For instance, the story of Tony Stark being kidnapped might have been adapted to the big screen already, but the Titanomechs which he built for the Mandarin in the comics haven’t: interestingly, these cyborg killers were later defeated by a swarm of Stark’s nanobots – and in the MCU, one of Stark’s last actions was to bequeath a similar swarm of nanobots to his friend, Peter Parker. There’s also the question of whether or not the rings will have their sentient abilities in the movies: if so, they could easily escape before The Mandarin is (possibly) defeated by Shang-Chi, and might find ten willing hosts for themselves. In the comics, when this happened, none of the hosts were really extraordinary, big-name characters – Malekith was by far the most important of them, and the MCU has already reduced him to a cut-and-dry one-off bad guy. The people that did end up with the rings were all rather pathetic, in fact: a disgruntled Broadway director who named himself “Lightning Conductor”, and a French neo-Nazi, for instance. But this time around, wouldn’t it be much more exciting if the rings actually went looking for the most powerful villains and criminals in the world – especially at this critical time, when there have been reports going around that Marvel wants to produce a villain team-up movie such as Thunderbolts, which could unite characters like Baron Zemo, Justin Hammer, Red Hulk and Ghost.

What do you think? How would you like to see the Ten Rings and the ten rings implemented into the MCU, and what sort of future could they have? Will the Mandarin be a one-and-done villain, or could he make multiple appearances in the next phase of Marvel films? Share your own theories in the comments below!

“Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings”!

Last night’s Marvel presentation at San Diego Comic-Con included a lot of fancy title reveals – and really long titles at that. Shang-Chi was no exception, as it was graced with the subtitle: “Legend of the Ten Rings”, a moniker packed with meaning. Let’s dive into it.

Okay, so the Ten Rings are a shadowy terrorist organization in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something that has only ever been glimpsed from the sidelines. They are supposedly commanded by a character known as The Mandarin, who was the focal point of a very unpopular Iron Man 3 plot twist, in which The Mandarin was revealed to be a random guy named Trevor Slattery, who was basically just a front for a different organization entirely. But, thankfully, there was still a loophole: turns out, The Mandarin does exist, according to the oft-forgotten one-shot All Hail The King, in which Slattery was abducted from the prison by Ten Rings agents and forced to give his name back to the man he had stolen it from – The Mandarin himself. While we never saw the criminal mastermind onscreen, his presence has lurked in the dark sidelines of the MCU. His arch-nemesis, Tony Stark, is now obviously unable to face off against him (being, you know, dead and all), but it looks like The Mandarin won’t be getting off the hook just yet.

That’s right – the Ten Rings, who haven’t been seen since a cameo in the first Ant-Man movie, are returning to wreak havoc in Phase 4 of the MCU. And this time, it’s one of their own who will have to stop them and their nefarious plots: Shang-Chi, who, at least in comics lore, is the heroic son of The Mandarin, will be the star of the upcoming film Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, to be released on February 12th, 2021. While there was no official confirmation that the film would be following the comics in that regard, we do have casting for both roles.

Shang-Chi himself will be portrayed by Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, in one of the night’s biggest surprise announcements. It’s no wonder, though, that nobody had even a hint of this story going into the panel – Liu only screen-tested for the role last Sunday, and was cast on Tuesday. I don’t know him from anything, but his enthusiasm is unquestionable, so I think we’re in pretty good hands – whether those hands are the “Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu”, as the character was known in the comics, remains to be seen.

As for The Mandarin, he will be portrayed by an Asian actor as well: Chinese screen legend Tony Leung, in fact. Again, I am unfamiliar with most of his work, but he definitely looks imposing – I can’t wait to see how he plays the character: will he be a suave mob-boss or a sinister villain? The Mandarin has been built up so much – I really hope he doesn’t disappoint.

And, in one final bit of casting news that nobody anticipated, Asian comedian Awkwafina, star of Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell, will be the film’s female lead, though her role is still unnamed as of yet. As a fan of Awkwafina, I’m very excited to see what she can do with this role, and whether it will be comedic or more dramatic. It would be cool to see her as a warrior or gangster: it’s even possible that she’ll be playing Shang-Chi’s villainous sister, Zheng Bao Yu.

How do you feel about this cast? Do you like the premise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Shang-Chi” Updates!

With Marvel Studios already working around the clock to get Black Widow and The Eternals into production this year (with Black Widow having literally just started), as well as Disney Plus shows such as Falcon & The Winter Soldier and WandaVision, there seemed to be little doubt that upcoming movies such as Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Shang-Chi would have to wait until 2020 to start shooting.

But Marvel continues to be marvelous: in a surprising move, it looks like Shang-Chi will start shooting this fall, in Australia, under the direction of Asian-American director Destin Daniel Cretton, who has previously worked with other Marvel stars such as Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson. This could even be an indication of Marvel’s confidence in the film, if they’re giving it precedence over established franchises such as Black Panther and Guardians. This puts Shang-Chi firmly in place to make the February 2021 release date that I had previously speculated would be reserved for the Black Panther sequel. It does make a lot of sense when you realize that it will land on Chinese New Year.

Shang-Chi, the story of a Chinese martial artist fighting his villainous father, will be the first Asian-led Marvel film: while we don’t yet know who will be playing the protagonist himself (expect that announcement at San Diego Comic Con), we have some clues as to who else will be in the movie. Two character breakdowns have been released, and it seems that Marvel is looking for an Asian male and an Asian female to fill the roles of a “wise, old statesman” and a “skilled warrior”, respectively. Even though these hints are vague, fans have been quick to jump to the conclusion (partly supported by Marvel President Kevin Feige himself) that that “wise, old statesman” is none other than Shang-Chi’s evil father, The Mandarin. You may or may not remember The Mandarin from the Iron Man movies, and you might remember that the real Mandarin’s identity was never discovered, leaving the character something of an enigma in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that would have probably been how he remained, were it not for Shang-Chi’s comics backstory.

You see, the original 1970s Marvel comics in which Shang-Chi was first introduced also portrayed his father as a blatantly racist stereotype – even down to his name, Fu Manchu (and his accompanying Fu Manchu mustache). Obviously, the character was hugely important to the story, but could never be included in the movie. Which is why, suddenly, The Mandarin becomes so important – this question-mark of a character can easily become Shang-Chi’s father, filling the role of the problematic Fu Manchu, and giving us a fitting conclusion to a lingering question at the same time. It’s no surprise that this is one of the biggest fan-theories currently surrounding the Shang-Chi movie.

As for the “skilled warrior”, it’s probable that this is Fah Lo Suee (not to be confused with the Fah Lo Suee of the 1960’s Fu Manchu franchise), also known as the “Cursed Lotus” or Lin Tang, a criminal mastermind and ring-leader who finds herself at odds with her brother, Shang-Chi, time and time again. There’s a really interesting family drama at the heart of this story that can, hopefully, be explored in great depth. Even the dynamics among Odin’s family in the Thor franchise can’t rival the sort of back-stabbing, deceit and competition that goes on in Shang-Chi’s family of gangsters, smugglers and mercenaries.

What would you like to see from the Shang-Chi movie? Leave your own thoughts in the comments below, and expect more updates soon!