Opinion: ‘Shang-Chi’ will fix the MCU’s Mandarin Problem

By Stephen Ippolito | Feb. 16, 2020

Leading up to the Iron Man 3 in 2013, there was much anticipation for the film. One, it was the first MCU film released since the box office record-breaking ‘Avengers’, and two, it would see Tony Stark go up against his comic book archenemies, the Mandarin. However, when the film opened and people saw how the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) was being portrayed. The anticipation quickly turned to anger. In the film Kingsley s character was a party going actor named Trevor Slattery who was hired by the real villain of the film, Aldrich Killian, to deceive everyone. Needless to say, it was a major disappointment after months of marketing him as the real Mandarin.

The history of the Mandarin goes back to 1964 when he first appeared in ‘Tales of Suspense #50‘. Born of Chinese and English descent, the Mandarin gained his powers when he stumbled upon an alien ship that contained 10 magical rings, each with different powers. After acquiring the rings and learning to harness the alien’s advanced technology, the Mandarin began his quest for world domination. This is where his first of many violent encounters with Iron Man began. Over the years, not only did he become a worthy adversary of Iron Man, but he also became an opponent for even the Avengers.

Soon after Iron Man 3’s release, Marvel Studios secretly began trying to fix their mistake. In 2014, Marvel released a short film, part of their Marvel One-Shot series, called All Hail the King. In the short, Trevor Slattery (played by Kingsley again) is broken out by a member of the Ten Rings terrorist organization (founded by the Mandarin). At the end of the short, the terrorist tells Slattery that he broke him out of prison so he could meet the “real Mandarin”. Fans were certainly glad to hear that a comic book accurate Mandarin did exist in the MCU.

In 2016 Shane Black, director of Iron Man 3, confirmed in an interview with UPROXX that Marvel Studios did in fact make All Hail The King due to outrage over Iron Man 3’s Mandarin portrayal.

“Marvel saw so many negative things they made a whole other movie just to apologize called Hail to the King. In which they said, “No, no, the Mandarin is still alive. That wasn’t him. There’s a real Mandarin.” The only reason they made that was an apology to fans who were so angry.”

Finally, at San Diego Comic-Con in the Summer of 2019. Marvel Entertainment CFO Kevin Feige announced in Hall H that the “real Mandarin” will appear in the upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Instead of facing Iron Man, he would go up against martial arts expert Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu. It was announced that Chinese superstar actor, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, would be playing the Iron Man villain. Chiu-Wai’s casting was widely met with praise. Considered one of the best Chinese actors of his generation, fans felt happy with his martial arts background in films and the fact that he was of Chinese descent, something the Kingsley casting missed.

Even though fans will not get to see the Mandarin go up against Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark (at least we think he won’t), it feels good that Marvel was able to think of a logical way to give the fans what they want.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters February 12, 2021.

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