Shang-Chi Movie Ignored Doctor Strange Visual References for Dragon & Creature CGI

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Doctor Strange, Shang-Chi, Dragon

Having released to critical acclaim and excellent fan reactions, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently dominating the global box office. As the MCU expands once again with a whole new world of possibilities, moviegoers have quickly become intrigued by the mystical martial arts world and the wacky creatures that came with it.

Recent trailers got fans more excited for Shang-Chi's debut than ever, as they were offered the first full look at a dragon in the MCU. These largely came into play during the film's final battle as the martial arts hero and the people of Ta Lo took on an ancient dragon known as the Dweller-in-Darkness, leading to an abundance of casualties.

Dragon in the Dweller Shang-Chi

Some may be surprised to discover this seemingly original antagonist actually has his origins in Marvel Comics as a Doctor Strange villain, although he has never appeared as a dragon at any point since his '70s comic debut. 

While the decision to adapt the demon villain in name only may seem like an odd one, a Shang-Chi VFX supervisor has discussed the decision to ignore the Dweller-in-Darkness' comic design.

Shang-Chi Ignored Comic Origins for Dragon VFX

During a recent interview with ComicBook.comShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings VFX supervisor Sean Walker discussed the decision to ignore the Doctor Strange comic source material for the Dweller-in-Darkness.

Dweller-in-Darkness Marvel Comics Shang-Chi

When asked if any designs ever resembled the “Cthulhu-looking” comic look, Walker revealed the dragon design was “always exactly kind of what it was.” But since the Dweller-in-Darkness is often described as “the stuff of nightmares,” it allowed the designers to “go a little ham with it:”

“The Cthulhu-looking guy? No, it was always exactly kind of what it was. We did embellish. The good thing about something like the Dweller in Darkness is it's basically just the stuff of nightmares, so we can go a little ham with it.”

Walker went on to detail the “crazy materials” the team looked into when designing the Dweller-in-Darkness to make it as “freaky and as gross as possible.”

“We looked into all kinds of crazy materials, like raw meat for the skin that surrounds the teeth and the mouth, and lots of obviously lizard references for scales and bats for wings and that kind of thing. But yeah, it's for the most part, exactly. Again, is exactly as it came in, and we saw the designs, and we went with it, and then we just made it as freaky and as gross as possible.”

Shang-Chi Soul Eaters

Additionally, the VFX supervisor was asked if the soul-sucking effects of the Soul Eaters were inspired by any other portion of the MCU such as Dormammu's Dark Dimension energy. To which Walker confirmed there is “no real connection to any kind of book design or anything like that” as they mainly sought out to “create something that kind of looks cool:”

None in particular. We did look at, believe it or not, but there's soul-sucking in a lot of films. And the main thing was we didn't reference it to see what was good, but we wanted to reference it to see what hadn't been done before for the most part. So there's no real connection to any kind of book design or anything like that. We just, we just wanted to create something that kind of looks cool.”

So Why Use the Doctor Strange Villain?

The Dweller-in-Darkness showcased in Shang-Chi bears no resemblance to his Marvel Comics counterpart while possessing a drastically different power set and agenda. Based on these quotes, it's hard to determine why Marvel and director Destin Daniel Cretton opted to use the Doctor Strange villain at all, even if it is only in name.

Marvel Studios typically seeks to avoid crafting completely original characters, usually pulling in some capacity from the comics while taking drastic creative liberties. During the scripting stage, it's entirely possible the writers behind Shang-Chi simply struggled for a name and chose to take one the studio had no intention of using anytime soon.

Alternatively, the name may simply be intended as a clever homage to the Doctor Strange villain, even if it is a little oddly placed. Either way, any chances of an accurate Dweller-in-Darkness live-action adaptation ever hitting screens appear to have now disappeared, although that was probably always rather unlikely.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters now.

Release Date
September 03, 2021
- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.