Shang-Chi did the impossible, and we don’t mean making close to $200 million in a pandemic box office.
With its supervillain Wenwu, a reworked, more palatable version of Shang-Chi’s original comic book father, Fu Manchu, the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally has a complex antagonist who is more than just a mean bad guy who wants to rule the world. And with handsome Hong Kong film icon Tony Leung in the role, Wenwu has gone from “Wen-who?” to “Wen-wooo, man.”
But while Wenwu met a tragic fate in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, there is good authority that Wenwu isn’t gone for good.
What Happened? — On the September 9 episode of the podcast They Call Us Bruce, co-host and journalist Jeff Yang reveals he was one of several cultural consultants with Marvel Studios for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
“They just called in a bunch of people, I was one, to sense check them, give them heads up if there was something that felt or read wrong,” Yang explains on the podcast. “It was a pleasure to do,” he added, saying that Marvel Studios was “a little bit more in tune with the nuances, shall we say, of getting these things right.”
Yang clarifies there is more involved with Marvel’s filmmaking process than even he was allowed to see, but he still had an enviable second-row seat to one of the most-watched movie franchises in the world. And he still was afforded more insight into Shang-Chi’s place in the Marvel Universe than the average person, which makes his next bit of information tremendously compelling: Wenwu isn’t totally gone from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Says Yang on the podcast, “Given what they had in Tony Leung, I would have hoped that they would have made it a little more clear that he has other places to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ll just leave it at that.”
What If... Wenwu’s still alive? — Just like the comics, death in the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t keep one from staying dead forever.
As demonstrated in the recent past of the MCU, namely shows like Loki and What If...?, it’s more than possible for “dead” characters to return, be it through means like the multiverse, time travel, or in the case of WandaVision, dark magic. Whatever the case, death isn’t always the end.
While Tony Leung’s Wenwu did die at the end of Shang-Chi, the MCU is rife with ways for Wenwu to make some kind of return. For example: Should a new season of What If...? stream on Disney+, there’s surely a parallel universe where Leung’s Wenwu survived the final battle. Or maybe he took the Ten Rings public than shrouded in secrecy. (Oh and hey, Marvel, if you want to use that idea, call me.)
It’s not that complicated. We’ve seen characters like Vision, Ultron, Loki, and more “defy” their canonical death. Even in the season finale of Loki, the MCU introduced Kang, played by Jonathan Majors, who “died” in his very introduction. And we’ve definitely not seen the last of him; Majors will return in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in 2023.
And not for nothing, but the post-credits of Shang-Chi made it very clear that the Ten Rings will be very important for the future of the MCU. That “signal” the Ten Rings is receiving from somewhere in the multiverse, could that be Wenwu calling back his weapons to him?
To borrow a phrase from a completely different universe: What is dead may never die.
The Inverse Analysis — Though Shang-Chi’s future in the MCU is unknown at the moment, what is clear is that his story is far from over. And that includes the story of his father, Wenwu, who has an array of means to make some kind of return, whether it’s time travel, dark magic, or something yet to be discovered.
With the alluring Tony Leung now a known entity to mainstream audiences, it would be foolish for Marvel Studios not to capitalize on Leung being part of the franchise. Whatever project Leung returns to as Wenwu is immediately a must-see project.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now playing in theaters.