Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings a new superhero origin story to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and here’s how the Phase 4 movie ends and sets up Simu Liu’s future as the Master of Kung Fu. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang-Chi is the second MCU film to release in Phase 4. While Black Widow served as a prequel, the MCU story again advances, this time with the introduction of a new martial arts hero.
The story of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings picks up after Avengers: Endgame with Shang-Chi living in San Francisco, California. His normal life is thrown for a loop when members of the Ten Rings organization come after him for a jade pendant. Of course, Shang-Chi’s efforts to fend off his pursuers are much more complicated, considering his father, Wenwu aka the Mandarin (Tony Leung), sent them. The father and son are eventually reunited, along with Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), as part of Wenwu’s belief that his wife and their mother, Jiang Li (Fala Chen), is still alive. However, Mandarin’s desire to bring his wife back from the dead would include unleashing a powerful evil known as the Dweller-in-Darkness.
Shang-Chi’s journey to stop Wenwu leads him, his friend Katy (Awkwafina), and Xialing to the mystical land of Ta-Lo. It is there they meet Shang-Chi and Xialing’s aunt Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh), who helps them train for the impending fight against Wenwu and the Ten Rings to keep the Dweller-in-Darkness from being released. This all builds towards Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ action-packed ending, setting up exciting story points for the MCU to follow moving forward. Here’s a complete breakdown of what happened in Shang-Chi‘s ending and how it impacts the MCU’s future.
The finale of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings revolves around Wenwu and the Ten Rings arriving in Ta-Lo to unleash the Dweller-in-Darkness. After being defeated by Ta-Lo’s dragon, the Great Protector, the evil entity has been imprisoned behind the Dark Gate for thousands of years. The Dweller-in-Darkness is also depicted as a dragon-like being in Shang-Chi and has smaller creatures as its minions that steal the souls of other living things to power their master. The Dweller-in-Darkness also has these abilities on its own and can become nearly unkillable if it consumes enough souls. The Dweller-in-Darkness is one of the Fear Lords and comes from another dimension in the comics. Shang-Chi‘s version of the mystical creature also comes from a separate dimension, but its place among the Fear Lords is not clarified. Although the Dweller-in-Darkness is concealed behind the Dark Gate, Wenwu uses the Ten Rings to destroy the barrier so the demon can attack Ta-Lo and potentially travel beyond this dimension.
Ta-Lo exists in a separate dimension that is only accessible on Earth through a complex maze or by following a single path that opens up once every year. It is otherwise a mystical land tasked with guarding the Dark Gate and keeping the Dweller-in-Darkness at bay. Marvel Comics has its own version of Ta-Lo, where it is a pocket dimension located among the God Realms. The Ta-Lo natives have been there for roughly 4,000 years and typically are left to defend the Dark Gate independently. The realm’s powerful dragon, known as the Great Protector, interferes from time to time, including when the Dweller-in-Darkness originally attacked and again when he escapes in Shang-Chi. Ta-Lo is not the only dimension and city of its kind, as the movie confirms others like it exists in the universe.
In the end, Ta-Lo is saved and the Dweller-in-Darkness is defeated. Shang-Chi masters the Ten Rings and delivers a fatal shot to the Dweller-in-Darkness after receiving an assist by the Great Protector and Katy. Ta-Lo is in rough shape due to the battle, but the locals will rebuild and honor the dead. They no longer have to worry about the Dweller-in-Darkness resurfacing, but there is always the chance other threats from where the beast originates from could come through the Dark Gate.
During Shang-Chi‘s ending, Wenwu gives up the Ten Rings so Shang-Chi can have them and save the day. This comes after the father and son battle and Shang-Chi proves he can master the Ten Rings. Wenwu not only passes the Ten Rings to Shang-Chi, but he does so after sacrificing himself to be killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness. The turn for Wenwu comes after realizing that Shang-Chi is ready to be the successor he always wanted him to be. Wenwu made Shang-Chi train from a young age to become a lethal assassin hoping that he’d lead the Ten Rings organization in the future. Wewnu’s decision to pass the rings to Shang-Chi show that he’s now accepted the new life his son wants to live and realized the errors of his own ways. After a lifetime of being so hard on his son for not being good enough, Wenwu finally realizes it is his son who is the better man. Thanks to Wenwu’s sacrifice, the powerful weapons will be in much safer hands moving forward.
Even before Wenwu’s sacrifice, Shang-Chi demonstrated his control over the Ten Rings, but he is officially their owner by the end of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi starts the movie as a highly-skilled fighter and assassin, but his power levels increase tremendously by the film’s conclusion. Shang-Chi’s dragon scale armor offers him incredible protection, while the Ten Rings can be used in a variety of different ways. Shang-Chi uses them as projectiles, shoots energy from them to “fly,” and turns their energy yellow (instead of blue as it was under Wenwu’s control).
Shang-Chi’s powers are also elevated in the movie’s ending because of the setting of Ta-Lo. It is explained that Shang-Chi’s powers are increased thanks to their connection to the Great Protector, and the powers of residents of Ta-Lo are also enhanced, provided they stay within its borders. His mother was gifted with the power of the Great Protector during her time in Ta-Lo, but she gave them up to start a family with Wenwu. Shang-Chi heightened powers give him the ability to manipulate air, making his use of the Ten Rings different from Wenwu’s. These powers do not stay with Shang-Chi once he returns to the main MCU dimension, but he’ll still be plenty powerful thanks to the rings.
The Ten Rings organization has a very different MCU future after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. They originally appeared as the secondary villains of Iron Man and kidnapped Tony Stark, but they have otherwise been operating in the background under Wenwu’s leadership. However, Shang-Chi ends with the organization getting a drastic makeover and Xialing taking command. She’s brought those involved with Shang-Chi‘s fighting tournament to the organization and retained the help of Razorfist, in addition to redesigning the Ten Rings base of operations. The biggest change she makes is allowing women to be trained to fight, which was not allowed during Wenwu’s era of the Ten Rings.
Now that the Ten Rings have new leadership, a new look, and new recruits, Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene ends with the confirmation that they will return. It is unknown which project they’ll appear in next, but the Ten Rings are certainly poised to have a big role in the MCU’s future. Xialing can help bring them into the 21st century and re-establish their presence in a post-Avengers: Endgame/Blip world. While this could also include her reforming the organization to become more heroic, that does seem unlikely. The MCU is currently limited on big, evil organizations, so that could be a void the Ten Rings can easily fill in Phase 4 and beyond.
Shang-Chi’s MCU future looks quite promising based on where Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ends his story. After successfully defeating the Dweller-in-Darkness and saving Ta-Lo, he and Katy return to their normal lives in San Francisco. However, they are then approached by Wong (Benedict Wong), who takes them to Kamar-Taj, where the Masters of the Mystic Arts are trained, to discuss Shang-Chi’s future and the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi‘s mid-credits scene shows Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) talking to Wong, Shang-Chi, and Katy about the Ten Rings artifacts. The implications of this scene are potentially massive for Shang-Chi, as it puts him into direct contact with multiple people who are official members of the Avengers or close to them. Calling Shang-Chi an Avenger after Shang-Chi might be a bit premature, but he is certainly on his way to joining Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The question Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ ending does leave audiences with, though, is where Shang-Chi will appear next. Him going off with Wong could potentially mean that Simu Liu will reprise his MCU role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. There haven’t been any reports that this will happen, but a cameo is possible now. The sequel will involve the multiverse and other realities and dimensions, so Shang-Chi visiting Ta-Lo’s dimension and protecting it could put him on the radar of Doctor Strange. This could even explain why Doctor Strange doesn’t appear in Shang-Chi – they’ll meet in the Benedict Cumberbatch-led sequel instead.
The origins of the Ten Rings aren’t the focus of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but their purpose is central to the movie’s mid-credits scene. Wong, Bruce, and Carol debunk that they are of magical, cosmic, or vibranium origin, but Bruce notes that they are much older than a thousand years. It is also revealed that they are a beacon to something or someone, but who or what is on the receiving end of the beacon is a tease left for a future MCU installment, likely in Shang-Chi 2, assuming it happens, to explore. There is the possibility that these rings, which the MCU redesigned as armbands that create a sort of bracer, are actually rings meant for a much larger creature, such as the dragon-like being known as Fin Fang Foom. Having the rings call out to Fin Fang Foom directly or the Makluan alien race he originates from could be how the MCU finally brings the character to the MCU. The comics created the rings as pieces of Makluan technology, so the MCU can maintain that connection. But Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings also leaves the door open for any number of different people, alien races, deities, and others to have connections to the rings.