- NOTE: This article is about the incarnation of the Mandarin from the Marvel Cinematic film series. The mainstream version can be found here: Mandarin (Marvel).
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|“||I told my men they wouldn't be able to kill you if they tried. Glad I was right.||„|
|~ The Mandarin's most famous quote as he reunites with his son Shang-Chi.|
|“||I gave you ten years to live your life. And where did that get you? You walked in my shadow. I trained you so the most dangerous people in the world couldn't kill you. Son, it's time for you to take your place by my side.||„|
|~ The Mandarin convincing Shang-Chi to rejoin the Ten Rings.|
Xu Wenwu (Chinese: 徐文武), nicknamed The Mandarin, is a major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as the unseen overarching antagonist of both the Iron Man trilogy and the Marvel one-shot All Hail the King before appearing as the main antagonist of the 2021 film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
He is an ancient warrior who wields mystical rings that grant him immortality and a wide assortment of abilities. He is also the supreme founder of his terrorist organization, the Ten Rings, as well as the father of both Xu Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing - conceived by their mother and Xu Wenwu's late wife Ying Li.
Originally he founded the Ten Rings organization before embarking on a thousand-year-long crusade to gain as much power as he could. Though he ended up abandoning his crusade upon finding love and settling himself with a family, Wenwu resumed his crusade following the death of his wife at the hands of his rivals affected by his prior exploits. Between this and his children's subsequent defection from the Ten Rings, Wenwu became desperate to bring his family back together and avenge his late wife - all the while being influenced by her "voice".
It was also noted that Wenwu expressed resentment towards Aldrich Killian after the latter appropriated his legends to create a character known as "The Mandarin", hiring Trevor Slattery to portray and present the persona to the world; in response to this, Wenwu arranged for Slattery to be abducted and taken into the Ten Rings custody following Killian's death. Wenwu is dismissive of the "Mandarin" moniker, laughing about how America was brought to its knees by an orange.
The character is portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai in his Hollywood debut.
In ancient times, Wenwu finds ten mystical rings and uses them to fuel his conquests of power. Founding the Ten Rings organization, he became a myth of legend among his followers, being described as a "warrior-king". With the rings granting him immortality, the Mandarin continued his conquests for a millennia.
In 1996, Wenwu began searching for the realm of Ta Lo, said to harbor mythical creatures. Maneuvering past a living maze, he comes across Ying Li, a guardian of the realm protecting its entrance. While Li managed to defeat him in a fight, the two quickly fell in love. As he had found peace, Wenwu decided to shelve the rings away and settle with his wife, eventually fathering two children: Xu Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing.
But the Mandarin's past transgressions would come back to haunt him. Members of the Iron Gang who held a grudge against him had murdered Li, leaving Wenwu and his children distraught. He decided to exact revenge on the killers, retrieving his rings and brutally massacres the Iron Gang in front of Shang-Chi to teach him about the importance of repaying a blood debt. Training his son to become an assassin, Wenwu sends him to locate and kill the Iron Gang Leader, which was carried out successfully.
However, Shang-Chi never came back home, having fled from the Ten Rings. Xialing, who was left abandoned at home, decided to defect as well years later. With his wife dead and children gone, Wenwu was alone once more. However, he used his vast resources to easily track down his children, but respected their decision to leave the Ten Rings and instead kept a close eye on them in their self-imposed exile.
Iron Man series
The Mandarin doesn't appear, nor is mentioned in Iron Man, but he sets his plot in furthering the goals of the Ten Rings by arranging Raza and a couple of terrorists to kidnap Tony Stark and hold him for ransom in an attempt to gain advanced weapons for their own goals (thanks to a deal with Obadiah Stane). However, Stark escaped captivity by using his new advanced armor to defeat Stane and the terrorists.
The Mandarin doesn't appear, nor is mentioned in Iron Man 2, but it is implied that he sent one of his agents to aid Ivan Vanko to kill Stark at the Prix de Monaco. To that end, the agent gave Vanko a pass to enter the race for the opportunity. However, Stark foiled this with his armor again before using his new armor (along with Rhodes') to defeat Vanko.
The Mandarin is mentioned in Iron Man 3, where Aldrich Killian hired a drunken actor named Trevor Slattery to impersonate the Mandarin as part of Killian's true plan of using Extremis experiments as purposeful attacks on the U.S. government. Needless to say, Stark managed to avoid this by purposely self-destructing all of his armor to destroy the Extremis soldiers, allowing Pepper to defeat Killian for good.
All Hail the King
The Mandarin serves as the unseen overarching antagonist of the short film, as he is very upset at Slattery (who is currently in Seagate Prison) for (unintentionally) stealing his name and making a mockery of his beliefs. As such, he sends Jackson Norriss to break Slattery out of prison and bring him over in person.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Locating Shang-Chi in San Francisco, Wenwu sent his men to capture him for his pendant, which was given to him by his mother. Although Shang-Chi escaped, Razor Fist managed to snatch his pendant.
Wenwu later tracked Xialing down in Macau, finding Shang-Chi and his friend Katy Chen with her. The three were taken to the Ten Rings' Headquarters, as Wenwu attempted to give his children a warm welcome home. He told them that he had been hearing the voice of Ying Li telling him to come save her, leading him to believe that she was imprisoned in Ta Lo. Using the penchants from both of his children, he discovers an open path to Ta Lo. But when Wenwu revealed his intention to burn the village down after finding his wife, Shang-Chi and Xialing refused to follow him, leading him to lock them and Katy up in a cell. He later witnessed them escape from the compound, taking fellow prisoner Trevor Slattery with them.
The undisturbed path to Ta Lo only opens up once a year, and Wenwu uses this opportunity to funnel his men into the realm. He finds Shang-Chi and Xialing already there, intent on stopping him from fulfilling his quest. During the ensuing battle between the Ten Rings and the Ta Lo guardians, Wenwu approaches Li's shrine alone and pays his respects before he is confronted by his son. They fight with Wenwu quickly proving to be the superior fighter as he easily countered anything his son throws at him and knocks him down repeatedly. Even with Shang-Chi managing to temporarily pummel him, the unfazed Wenwu responds by breaking his staff and punching him into the lake to knock him down. Remaining determined to fulfill his quest, Wenwu launches himself to a sealed-off cavern and begins to attack the barrier, believing that Li was on the other side.
Unbeknownst to him, the "voices" he had been receiving from his late wife were actually those of the Dweller-In-Darkness, which had lured Wenwu to the realm so that he could be its liberator. As soul-stealing creatures emerge from the cavern, Shang-Chi re-emerges to fight his father, having been saved by the Great Protector. Father and son duel one last time, Shang-Chi mastering the fighting style of Ta Lo and using it to finally match Wenwu. Their fight intensifies as Shang-Chi gains control of some of the rings and uses them against Wenwu. After a prolonged standstill, Wenwu manages to blast his son with the Ten Rings, only for his son to completely steal them from him. Before their fight can continue any further, Shang-Chi tosses the Ten Rings back to him, ending the fight in a standstill.
Moments later, the Dweller-In-Darkness escapes from the cavern and Wenwu, realizing too late what he had unleashed, only manages to save his son and is left trapped at the creature's mercy. Knowing his time has come and remembering the happy life he had with his family, especially Shang-Chi, he passes on the rings to his son and gives him one last encouraging small somber smile before dying. Shang-Chi uses the rings to kill the Dweller along with his allies but is left mourning over the death of his father, wishing he find peace after freeing his soul and bidding him farewell in a vigil after the battle. With his thousand-year-long reign coming to an end, leadership of the Ten Rings was assumed by Xialing.
A ruthless and calculating warlord, Wenwu led the Ten Rings with an iron fist for several centuries, participating in several world-changing events and threatening his subordinates with death if they did not accomplish his orders, like when one of his agents failed in obtaining the War Machine Armor. He was power-hungry enough that even with the Ten Rings already giving him legendary powers, he still sought to increase his power. Having his own style of leadership, Wenwu has demonstrated that he does not like to be imitated, being willing to punish those who had dared to impersonate him for their purposes. When the Mandarin fiasco engineered by Aldrich Killian incriminated the Ten Rings from Extremis-caused explosions and had Trevor Slattery posing as the Mandarin himself, Wenwu resented them enough even after Killian died to the point of sending one of his most loyal agents to the Seagate Penitentiary in order to abduct Slattery.
However, despite his diabolical mindset and ruthlessness, Wenwu actually had a much more human side to himself. When he attacked Ta Lo to gain its mythical beasts, he instead fell in love with the guardian, Ying Li, married her and had two children with her, cherishing his family to the extent that he willingly forsake the Ten Rings and intended to grow old with his family. It was only when Ying Li was killed by the Iron Gang, his enemies, that he became the Mandarin once more. He also truly loved his children, having been a doting parent before the tragedy, and even afterwards, he still took them with him into the Ten Rings and trained them to survive. Despite being rougher and mistreating them at times, he still cared for Shang-Chi whenever he got injured, and in his own way, he was trying to keep Xialing out of the lifestyle of the Ten Rings by only giving her personal training. He kept his word of letting Shang-Chi get revenge for Ying Li and sent him to destroy the Iron Gang, even though he could have done it himself, in an attempt to give him closure, and when his children left him, Wenwu still kept close tabs on them and allowed them to live their life as they wished until he finally decided to retrieve them.
Even when they opposed him, Wenwu refused to harm or kill them and simply imprisoned them, and when he and his son fight, he held back the entire time to not kill him, even expressing pride as Shang-Chi displayed his skill. His attack on Ta Lo was simply to reunite his wife and reassemble his family, and when he was dying, rather than trying to save himself, he selflessly sacrificed himself for his son and gave him the Ten Rings to finish the Dweller-in-Darkness. In his last moments, he remembers the happy family life he had, showing how much he truly loved his family.
Wenwu also displayed a more forgiving and light-hearted side to himself. In addition to being much warmer around his children and forgiving their transgressions against him, he forgave his subordinate when they told him they had managed to scan the War Machine armor for weaknesses. He even spared Trevor Slattery despite his previous anger over him stealing his identity out of amusement over his antics, and instead treated him of his drug addiction, placed him in a cell with makeup studio and allowed him to come out and regularly perform as a court jester.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
|“||Throughout my life, the Ten Rings gave our family power. If you want them to be yours one day, you have to show me you're strong enough to carry them.||„|
|~ Mandarin to a young Shang-Chi.|
|“||Be careful how you speak to me, boy.||„|
|~ Mandarin threatening Shang-Chi.|
- Initially, Aldrich Killian was intended to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the Mandarin, according to Shane Black. However, Kevin Feige later suggested that Killian developed the Mandarin persona based on legends, implying that there could in fact be a Mandarin closer to his comic book counterpart out there.
- This was revealed in the one-shot All Hail the King featuring Ben Kingsley's return as Trevor Slattery, in which the short film revealed that the Mandarin is indeed real and that he is a separate individual from both Slattery and Killian.
- Though Wenwu is intended to be MCU incarnation of the Mandarin, he never actually uses the moniker. Wenwu himself lampshades this by mentioning how "Mandarin" was merely one of the many titles that people gave him over the millennia, also nothing that "Mandarin" was a ridiculous name.
- Kevin Feige confirmed on his Reddit AMA in 2019 that Marvel Studios has plans to feature the real Mandarin in the future. This was indeed confirmed some months afterwards with the announcement that the Mandarin will be the main antagonist of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
- There were once discussions about teasing an appearance of the Mandarin or Shang-Chi in the post-credits scene of The Avengers, but the idea was dropped and replaced by the Shawarma restaurant scene.
- The Mandarin is the second villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who replaces the protagonist's original father from the comic book continuity, as the Mandarin replaces Fu Manchu as Shang-Chi's father, due to the latter's association with problematic racial stereotypes. The first was Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, who replaced J'son of Spartax as Star-Lord's father.