Entertainment

'Shang-Chi' Brings Back an MCU Character to Correct a Comic Mistake

Just in case you didn't recognize him…

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

This post contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Shang-Chi is a tricky character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to adapt, not least because his history in the comics is riddled with racist caricatures and stereotypes that are rightly shocking to today’s audiences. The MCU’s task in adding the character into the film universe is excising all of the damaging portrayals of Asian characters and identity and building something worthwhile from the material that was left.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, is a breath of fresh air for the franchise and for its own character: The movie doesn’t gloss over the more problematic elements of the character’s past, or pretend they never happened, instead folding them into the narrative as a commentary on how the West has historically viewed Asian identity. To do this, it took bringing back a surprise character from the saga’s most underrated film.

When the press cycle for Iron Man 3 began in 2013, fans were rightly concerned that the big villain, according to most of the promotional material, was going to be a character called “the Mandarin,” canonically Iron Man’s arch-nemesis in the comics whose portrayal is (as you can tell from the name) a tad racist. A Chinese-English megalomaniac, he is obsessed with honor (yikes) and taking over the world, and is skilled in martial arts as well as the power that comes from 10 rings he wears on his fingers. The fact that Ben Kingsley would be playing the character was also heavily scrutinized, as Kingsley has no Chinese heritage. But director Shane Black knew exactly what he was doing, and if you’ve seen the movie, you know the big twist: The Mandarin was a character invented by the movie’s true villain, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), and merely played by a struggling actor named Trevor Slattery (Kingsley), who was being paid to pretend to be a terrorist without knowing that his violent “threats” were actually being carried out by the real bad guys, giving Killian an excuse to deploy his weapons.

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

It was a daring move, and the movie’s big reveal works both as a biting commentary of the American military industrial complex as well as a metatextual evaluation of Ben Kingsley’s acting career (his portrayal of Mohandas Gandhi in 1982’s Gandhi, for which he won an Oscar, has been similarly scrutinized, as his father was of Gujarati Indian descent while his mother was English). It seemed as if Iron Man 3 found a way to include one of the comics’ most famous supervillains in the film series while also exposing and addressing that character’s problematic past in an elegant way-until, that is, the Marvel one-shot All Hail the King, which appeared on the home video release of Thor: The Dark World. In that short, an imprisoned Slattery learns that “the Mandarin” actually is a real guy, and it ends with Slattery being broken out of prison in order to meet him.

Which brings us to Shang-Chi, and the issue of the main character’s canonical past. In the comics, Shang-Chi is the son of a character named Fu Manchu, a breathtakingly racist portrayal of an Asian character and one that Marvel was straight up not going to include in the MCU at all-partially because of the aforementioned racism and partially because Marvel Studios doesn’t own the character. It stands to reason, sorta, that Shang-Chi would be the son of the Mandarin, the real Mandarin, if Marvel decided to actually put that character in the movies. As with Iron Man 3, Shang-Chi gets to have its cake and eat it, too: Shang-Chi is the son of a Chinese supervillain who wields a mystical power, but this character, whose name in the movie is Wenwu (played by Tony Leung), is connected to the Mandarin only in passing.

It’s established early on that Wenwu is a very old, very powerful figure, a warlord from ancient times who has adapted to the modern age and become the kingpin of a secretive organization known as the Ten Rings (named, ostensibly, for the 10 bracelets of power Wenwu wears on his arms). When Shang-Chi and his friends finally find him ensconced in his mountain fortress, he mentions that the outside world has called him many names-including, we can assume, “The Mandarin.” His pointed scoff in this moment indicates to all of us that he himself has never gone by that name.

A few scenes later, when Shang-Chi is escaping from the fortress, his group stumbles upon none other than Trevor Slattery holed up in the tunnels inside the mountain, having been brought there as entertainment for the mercenaries in training. Hapless Trevor joins their gang and ends up redeeming himself in the ensuing climactic battle, after driving most of the movie’s more lighthearted moments. It’s a fun full-circle inclusion of an otherwise minor character to tie the film in with the larger saga, as well as a sly rejection of the source material’s thorny past.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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