Where did the Ten Rings even come from?
Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings goes out of its way to explain some history relevant to the powerful weapons, including how Wenwu (Tony Leung) wielded them across centuries. However, the film never outright states where (or how) the character came into possession of the rings to begin with.
In fact, a large part of Shang-Chi’s mid-credits scene is focused on setting up the rings’ origins as a major mystery that will be explored further in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But is it possible that Marvel fans have already met the person responsible for the rings falling into Wenwu’s hands?
Major Shang-Chi spoilers ahead.
The Theory — During the first Shang-Chi post-credits scene, Wong (Benedict Wong), Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) all announce that, despite their best efforts, none of them can determine the origins of Wenwu’s Ten Rings — nor do they know where they came from. The rings’ technology apparently falls outside the limits of their universe’s knowledge, and all that Wong knows about them is that they’ve been emitting a strange signal since Shang-Chi took ownership of them from his father.
Now, in the comics, the Ten Rings were created by a dragon-like alien race known as the Axonn-Karr/Makluans, who live on the planet Maklu-IV. While it’s possible that Marvel will ultimately use that story (or a version of it) to tell the rings’ origin story in the MCU, it’s also possible the studio will take this opportunity to tie the rings and, therefore, Shang-Chi, into one of its growing Phase Four storylines.
To put it succinctly: What if the ten rings originally belonged to Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors)?
Kang, Kang, Kang — Kang the Conqueror isn’t like most other comic book villains. Born in the 30th century, Kang wages war against the Avengers by traveling through time and attempting to conquer Earth at various different points throughout history.
Thanks to the Loki Season 1 finale, we know that Marvel Studios’ version of Kang will stick closely to that basic character outline. Indeed, the Disney+ series not only confirmed that Kang is from the 31st century in the MCU but also set up the character as a major, time-traveling villain with his sights set on conquering the multiverse. In other words, he’s shaping up to be the MCU’s latest Thanos-level threat.
Taking all that into account, it’s worth considering that Kang may have accidentally left the Ten Rings on Earth during one of his many time-traveling escapades. That’d not only explain why such powerful, technologically advanced artifacts fell into the hands of a man born centuries ago, but it’d also explain why none of the Avengers can identify the technology inside the rings.
After all, what hope could our modern-day heroes have of understanding how the rings work if they were originally made by humans (or a human) in the 31st century?
The Inverse Analysis — There’s no telling whether this theory is correct. and it does admittedly feel like I’ve put on a tinfoil hat just thinking about it. But Marvel has made a habit of changing major plot elements from the comics when bringing certain characters to life on-screen, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they may be doing just that with Shang-Chi’s rings.
If that’s the case, this would be a pretty seamless way for Marvel to weave a relatively new addition like Shang-Chi into the overall story it’s telling in the MCU in the coming years — especially if the beacon the rings are emitting is a signal to Kang.
For all we know, the Ten Rings (and the hero who wears them) may very well be a major part of whatever conflict Kang’s newfound presence in the MCU is sure to set in motion.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is playing in theaters now.