Warning - This article contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Marvel Studios' first theater-exclusive release of the year, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, has hit the market, and it doesn't seem to have disappointed on any fronts.
With a record-breaking box office success and an ensemble that's already being clamored to return to the MCU by fans and viewers alike, the Simu Liu-led project has arguably solidified itself as an MCU project for the books.
This is partially due to the film's stacked cast that includes legendary actor Tony Leung as Wenwu aka Shang-Chi's father/the real "Mandarin" from 2013's Iron Man 3.
Wenwu met his demise at the hands (or mouth) of the Dweller of Darkness during the film's final act, bestowing his son with the Ten Rings after realizing the evil he had unleashed upon the world.
As such, it looks as though Leung's time in the MCU has come to a close. However, according to the director of Shang-Chi, this wasn't always the intention...
Shang-Chi Director's Alternate Take On Wenwu's Death
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton was asked if there was a version of the film that had Tony Leung's Wenwu live instead of being perished by the Dweller of Darkness.
Cretton said, "Yes, there was."
When asked why that version didn't come to fruition, Cretton cited that, in the process of working through a movie, "there's still things that you try that just feel like cheats:"
"Some things just work and some things don't. We're constantly searching for the version of the story that feels most authentic to the characters. I mean, even though these characters are operating on a very operatic level, there's still things that you try that just feel like cheats. And that was one of them."
Nonetheless, Cretton tacked on that "...in the MCU, anything can happen."
Wenwu and Jiang Li in the Afterlife...or Not
Though Wenwu's character could be painted as the antagonist of Shang-Chi, an argument could be made against that.
Leung's character made it obvious throughout the film that he was doing what he did for the sake of his family, regardless of his past excursions as the leader of the Ten Rings. In the end, upon realizing that the voice of his passed away wife, Jiang Li, was an illusion, he gave his son the power necessary to undo his wrongdoings in the form of the Ten Rings themselves.
Of course, this doesn't make up for the trail of bodies and blood Wenwu left his centuries-old path, but it may be difficult to pin him against some of the truer evils of the MCU such as Black Widow's Dreykov or Thor: Ragnarok's Hela, both intent on manipulation and power.
Nonetheless, it's intriguing to wonder how a version of the film where Wenwu potentially takes down the Dweller of Darkness alongside his son would have played out. Would he have atoned for his sins or gone on to lead the Ten Rings once again?
It's possible that at least one of these possibilities could be explored if Cretton's "anything can happen" comment is to be taken seriously. If Wenwu comes back and sees his daughter, Meng'er Zhang's Xialing, now leading the Ten Rings, would he be proud or angered to have to challenge her for the throne? One can only imagine the additional family drama that would ensue.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now playing in theaters.