Kevin Feige Explains The Different Mandarins In Shang-Chi And Iron Man 3

The Mandarin

In the run-up to 2013’s Iron Man 3 fans were excited at the prospect of Tony Stark going up against The Mandarin, one of his greatest comic-book foes. A series of trailers promised a manipulative and powerful villain who’d tear apart Stark’s life, courtesy of what looked like an imposing performance from Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley. What they got was… not that.

The big twist of Iron Man 3 was that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was actually washed-up actor Trevor Slattery, hired to play a supervillain in order to distract the public from Aldrich Killian’s true scheme. Reactions were mixed, with many annoyed that the movie pulled the rug out from under them and that we missed out on the ‘true’ Mandarin. Marvel moved quickly to retcon this, with their 2014 one shot short All Hail the King pointing towards the actual Mandarin.

Now, nearly a decade on, we’re going to meet the real Mandarin in Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, where he’ll be played by Tony Leung. Now Kevin Feige has discussed the MCU’s history with the character in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, saying:

“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.”

He continued:

“And going back to Iron Man one: 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 [Iron Man 3 director] 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.”

I’ve always felt that Iron Man 3‘s take on the Mandarin was a smart way of side-stepping the racist aspects of the comic-book character, who was originally created as a ‘Yellow Peril’ Fu Manchu rip-off. However, Tony Leung’s performance in Shang-Chi seems designed to push back on that, with producer Jonathan Swartz’s promises of a “more complex and layered” character than the comics borne out by the recent trailer.

We’ll see further footage from Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings as we approach its September 3 release date, so fingers crossed we get a better idea of how Leung’s Mandarin will work soon.