While an unfamiliar hero coupled with rising COVID-19 numbers led to low expectations and poor projections, Shang-Chi beat the odds and has dominated the box office since its September 3 theatrical debut this year.
Still, the studio's latest box office success wasn't completely void of ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and those connections date back to the original Iron Man trilogy and some rather controversial plot points.
In the original Iron Man, Tony Stark is kidnapped by an organization known as the Ten Rings. Then, in 2013's Iron Man 3, he discovers that the villainous Mandarin is a fake and actually an eccentric actor named Trevor Slattery who was portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley.
This Mandarin twist has long been a complaint amongst Marvel fans; but then, in Shang-Chi, the Mandarin was finally, fully realized as Wenwu, Shang-Chi's father and head of the true Ten Rings.
Still, Kingsley's Slattery wasn't forgotten. His appearance in the film not only improved the Iron Man 3 story but also, in a way, righted a prior misstep.
Shang-Chi Writer Talks "Fixing" Iron Man's Mandarin
When Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings writer Dave Callaham was asked by Yahoo! Entertainment about Kingsley's Slattery involvement and course-correcting the Iron Man 3 plot point, Callaham revealed that, "we knew pretty early on that we'd like to make that attempt to get Trevor into the movie:"
"I don't remember most of how any of this originated... I will say I feel pretty confident saying we knew pretty early on that we'd like to make that attempt to get Trevor into the movie. I remember that being a pretty early idea because we love the character but also because, when we looked at what we knew we had to accomplish in terms of a character that in some way reflects the Mandarin."
Callaham also acknowledged that Trevor Slattery was the "only connective tissue" to the "fake" Mandarin and the Ten Rings:
"So the only connective tissue we really had available to use was Trevor because Tony Stark is dead and there haven't been a lot of other references to the Ten Rings. So it made sense narratively."
Callaham also explained that the goal of Slattery's return wasn't primarily to fix a past problem. Instead, that solution "came as we explored the idea:"
"I wouldn't say we always knew from day one that the whole purpose of him was to 'right a wrong.' I think that came as we explored the idea, and after Destin had his somewhat famous call with Sir Ben and we knew we could actually get him. But we always hoped for it certainly."
Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton brought up a line that Callaham wrote where Slattery actually acknowledged his mistake to Shang-Chi and his sister, Xialing. Creston described it as a "straight-up apology to the kids for imitating their dad."
After some back and forth between the writer and director as they struggled to remember its exact wording, Cretton confirmed, "Yeah, 'A rather unflattering portrait of your father,' I think, is the line."
Shang-Chi Righting Iron Man 3's Wrongs?
While it doesn't sound like Callaham and Cretton set out to fix the Mandarin twist from Iron Man 3, their use of Sir Ben Kingsley's Slattery in Shang-Chi appears to have fixed the issue fans have been complaining about since 2013 while also connecting the film to the greater MCU.
It also seems like Callaham's line of dialogue that Creston referenced could be interpreted as Marvel acknowledging its former mistake to the audience.
Ahead of Shang-Chi's release, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige actually addressed the threequel's "fake" Mandarin and the reasons behind that former decision. According to him, Iron Man 3 wasn't the right time for the real Mandarin'
"[We] only wanted to do it when we felt we could do it supreme justice and really showcase the complexity of this character, which frankly we couldn’t do in an Iron Man movie because an Iron Man movie is about Iron Man; an Iron Man movie is about Tony Stark."
In the end, it's hard to argue with how Marvel Studios handled the Mandarin this time around due to Tony Leung's masterful performance as Wenwu, whose character may have more stories to tell within the MCU.
In addition, audiences were able to fully enjoy Kingsley's hilarious portrayal as the comically dense Trevor Slattery this time around, thankfully separated from the 2013 twist, fan complaints, and now accompanied by his new creature companion, Morris.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently playing in theaters.