Kevin Feige Explains Why The Mandarin Wasn’t In Any Iron Man Movies

Iron Man

When Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters in September, it’ll both introduce a brand new superhero into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tie back to the franchise’s two earliest films, with The Incredible Hulk‘s Abomination confirmed to return, and Iron Man‘s archenemy the Mandarin positioned as the big bad.

The Ten Rings were introduced in the MCU’s very first installment, refitted as a terrorist organization responsible for the capture of Tony Stark, and secretly funded by Obadiah Stane all along. From there, the comic book favorite’s ultimate foe was never mentioned again until his third solo outing, which featured a plot twist that’s still debated to this day.

It looked as though Ben Kingsley was the Mandarin, before the divisive reveal that the fearsome terrorist was a ruse concocted by Aldrich Killian, who hired jobbing and substance-dependent actor Trevor Slattery to play the role. But this was then swiftly retconned in One-Shot All the Hail the King, where it’s confirmed the Mandarin is very real, and not best pleased at seeing his identity used for other means.

Tony Leung is technically billed as Wenwu in Shang-Chi, but the Mandarin has been confirmed as one of his many aliases. In a new interview, Kevin Feige explained why the Iron Man franchise neglected to feature a true interpretation of the character’s most famous adversary, and why now was the right time.

“That’s what’s fun about the MCU at this stage. We can do something like Shang-Chi, introducing a brand new hero into the MCU and into the world at large. But that subtitle, The Legend of the Ten Rings, actually connects it back to the very beginning of the MCU, the Ten Rings being the organization that kidnapped Tony Stark at the very beginning of Iron Man one. And that organization was inspired by a character called the Mandarin in the comics.”

And going back to Iron Man 1, we’ve been talking about that when we do bring this character to the screen, we only wanted to do it when we felt we could do it supreme justice and really showcase the complexity of this character, which frankly we couldn’t do in an Iron Man movie because an Iron Man movie is about Iron Man; an Iron Man movie is about Tony Stark. So Shane Black, in his film and his script that he co-wrote, came up with this fun twist that we love to this day, and it turned out to be Trevor Slattery. Just because that version wasn’t real didn’t mean there’s not a leader of the Ten Rings organization, and that is who we meet for the first time in Shang-Chi.”

Of course, another obvious reason is that a straightforward depiction of the Mandarin lifted straight from Marvel Comics wouldn’t play too well with modern audiences, not to mention that the Iron Man series was much more interested in the technological and scientific than mystical and supernatural.