Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings will once again introduce The Mandarin to the MCU. This is take two, as the hype machine for 2013’s Iron Man 3 promised that we’d see Tony Stark going up against the famed supervillain. Its trailers teased a manipulative and powerful villain who’d ruthlessly dismantle Stark, and it seemed that we were going to get an intimidating performance from Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley. What we got was… well, not that.
The twist was that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was actually washed-up actor Trevor Slattery, who’d been hired to play a supervillain as a distraction. Reactions were mixed, with many annoyed that the movie pulled the rug out from under them and that we’d missed out on the “true” Mandarin. Marvel moved quickly to retcon this, with its 2014 one-shot short All Hail the King hinting that the actual Mandarin still hadn’t appeared.
Now, nearly a decade on, we’re finally going to meet the real Mandarin in Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings. But it seems you just can’t keep an old luvvie down. Ben Kingsley set tongues wagging by appearing at the red carpet premiere, later confirming that he’s in the movie as Trevor Slattery:
“As you just saw, I was talking to Kevin Feige. What a lovely man. Big heart, generous, kind, and for the people, and to make people happy. Simple, simple, and lovely, and essential. And thanks to Kevin and Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Pearce and Shane Black, I am in this movie, and I’m a member of the Marvel family, because their welcome on Iron Man 3 was so astonishing and generous that I’m still with Marvel again. And I’m delighted to be here!”
Kingsley’s character remains a sore point for some, so his return won’t be met with unanimous praise. Still, he’ll probably be a cameo more than a major part of the plot, with Leung’s Mandarin reacting to finally meeting the man who took his name. It remains to be seen how that particular showdown will go down, but there’s a good chance it’ll be Kingsley’s MCU swansong.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings will also be watched very closely for its box office performance. Disney is adamant that it’ll be a theatrical exclusive, so it’ll be a good test to see whether Black Widow‘s disappointing haul was because audiences watched at home or because they’re still wary of crowded theaters after COVID.
Either way, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings will generate a whole bunch of headlines when it premieres on September 3.