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Marvel’s newest film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, comes full circle on the narrative arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ever since Iron Man 3 in 2013, we’ve been led to believe that The Mandarin, the leader behind the terrorist global syndicate the Ten Rings, was fabricated. The “real” villain, Aldrich Killian, used the Mandarin as a bogeyman to distract the populace, while he went about accomplishing his real goal of weaponizing the Extremis virus.
The whole thing felt like whitewashing. The MCU has an unfortunate history of erasing its Asian characters: Yinsen in Iron Man. The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. The Ancient One in Doctor Strange. But now, we finally have what we wanted from the start: the real Mandarin, in all his villainous glory, and a feature-length film with extensive world-building, starring an all-star Asian cast. The initial reviews have been stellar—with many calling Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings the best MCU film since Black Panther (2018).
If you primarily know and love Marvel from the movies, you may have never heard of Shang-Chi, who is not as well-known as Spider-Man, Thor, or Hulk. But as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) demonstrated, all it takes is a good director, a solid script, and a stellar cast to change that overnight. Here is a quick primer on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings before you head out to the theater this weekend.