Throughout the buildup to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we’d been hearing that Tony Leung’s Wenwu would erase any and all memories of Iron Man 3‘s big Mandarin twist, which still remains one of the most divisive and polarizing moments in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While the franchise’s 25th installment did deal with the backlash to a certain extent, it wasn’t in the way anybody was expecting. Wenwu refers to himself as the Mandarin once in a throwaway line of dialogue, and the rest of the retcon is filled out by Ben Kingsley’s surprisingly large supporting role as the imprisoned and apologetic Trevor Slattery.
In a new interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, writer Dave Callaham explained his process about putting Trevor into the script and picking up an abandoned plot thread that had been laying dormant since 2014’s One-Shot All Hail the King.
“I don’t remember most of how any of this originated. I will say I feel pretty confident saying we knew pretty early on that we’d like to make that attempt to get Trevor into the movie. I remember that being a pretty early idea because we love the character but also because, when we looked at what we knew we had to accomplish in terms of a character that in some way reflects the Mandarin. So the only connective tissue we really had available to use was Trevor because Tony Stark is dead and there haven’t been a lot of other references to the Ten Rings.
So it made sense narratively. I wouldn’t say we always knew from day one that the whole purpose of him was to ‘right a wrong’. I think that came as we explored the idea, and after Destin had his somewhat famous call with Sir Ben and we knew we could actually get him. But we always hoped for it certainly. 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.”
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It worked out narratively and thematically for the acclaimed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in the end, with Trevor and his buddy Morris stealing almost every scene they were in, even if the background and history of the Ten Rings doesn’t exactly align with the cave-dwelling terrorists in Afghanistan who ambushed Tony Stark back in 2008 and held him prisoner, before their iconography was co-opted by Aldrich Killian’s A.I.M. five years later.