Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has revealed why the studio decided to bring back Sir Ben Kingsley’s fake Mandarin (Trevor Slattery) for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The Mandarin is one of the Iron Man’s most iconic foes in the comics. He is the leader of the Ten Rings organization and wielder of the legendary ten rings which each provide the villain with a different power, including gravity manipulation and control over fire and ice. While the figure has been alluded to in the MCU ever since Iron Man, his appearance in Shang-Chi, where he will be portrayed by Tony Leung, will mark the first physical appearance of the character.
At Shang-Chi’s premiere last month, it was confirmed that Kingsley’s fake Mandarin is also set to return. That version initially appeared in 2013’s Iron Man 3, where it was later revealed that he was actually an actor named Trevor Slattery employed by the film’s true villain Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) to impersonate the leader of the Ten Rings organization in order to stage terrorist attacks. Naturally, some fans were understandably unhappy with the fake-out. However in a one-shot included with the home release of Thor: The Dark World, titled All Hail the King, it was revealed that there was a real Mandarin in the MCU and was not impressed by Trevor’s impersonation of him.
Speaking to Screen Rant ahead of Shang-Chi’s release, Feige explained the decision to bring back Slattery in the upcoming film. He explained that it was an idea dating back to early on in the project and that it would be “a fun way to acknowledge the twist in Iron Man 3” and the “history going back to the very beginning of the MCU.” Feige also noted that any opportunity to work with a well-respected actor like Sir Ben Kingsley is one that should be taken. You can read Feige’s full statement below:
“Yeah, it was an idea early on as we were developing this incarnation of the story for Shang-Chi, that the Ten Rings has a history going back to the very beginning of the MCU. And we thought it would be a fun way to acknowledge the twist in Iron Man 3, the fake version of the Ten Rings leader when we meet the actual leader of the Ten Rings, which is his father, Wenwu, in this. And if you get the opportunity to continue working with Sir Ben Kingsley, you want to find every opportunity to do that.”
It’s good to hear that Marvel are leaning into the history of MCU for their new venture, especially considering both the Ten Rings and the Mandarin have been one of its most enduring mysteries. Moreover, having Trevor appear, even in a fun cameo, will allow the film to perhaps rectify one of more controversial aspects of Iron Man 3. Director Shane Black defended his use of Kingsley as wanting to avoid the Fu-Manchu stereotype associated the character, which is understandable. While the fake out worked to an extent, there were perhaps better ways of handling the character, which Shang-Chi hopes to do.
With the Mandarin being such a problematic figure, rooted in racist stereotype, writers Dave Callaham and Destin Daniel Cretton have taken strides to avoid a similar representation in Shang-Chi. This has resulted in them effectively creating a new character in Leung’s Wenwu, one who has already been praised as one of the best villains in the MCU. It’s an important step in ratifying Marvel’s historically outdated portrayal of Asian characters, and if Marvel can acknowledge their own missteps in the MCU and weave it into Shang-Chi’s narrative then it’s likely for the better.