The Future of Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings
MAJOR SPOILERS for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follow.
The latest entry in the MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, thundered into theaters over the long weekend. The film was packed full of surprises, including two end-credits scenes that rank among my favorites across the entire franchise. In this article, I’ll be speculating on what the future holds for Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi based on these scenes.
The Origin of the Ten Rings
The mysterious ten rings were used by Tony Leung’s Wenwu for a thousand years, but their origin is never explained. Ying Li’s opening voiceover establishes the legend of the rings, including the rumors that Wenwu found them in a crater or a tomb, but a definitive origin is never given. However, screenwriter Dave Callaham recently revealed that several scenes were shot that suggested two different origins for the ten rings. These scenes were ultimately left out to preserve the mystery of the rings, but the Shang-Chi mid-credits scene suggests that we’ll be finding out where they came from sooner rather than later.
In the scene, Wong examines the rings with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers. Wong determines that they aren’t magical while Carol says they don’t match any alien technology she’s ever seen. In the comics, the rings originated from a crashed Makluan spaceship. Makluans are shape-changing aliens that often take the form of dragons, such as Fin Fang Foom. I assumed this would also be the case in the MCU, especially since the rings are large enough to be worn around a human’s forearms, making them the perfect size for a dragon’s claws. However, with Captain Marvel herself saying they don’t look alien, it’s possible that the ten rings originated in another dimension or universe.
The ultimate villain of Shang-Chi ended up being the Dweller-in-Darkness, who in the comics was an ancient demonic enemy of Doctor Strange. Michelle Yeoh’s Ying Nan reveals that the Dweller comes from another dimension that can be accessed from Ta Lo, much like how Ta Lo can be reached from Earth. Carol did say that the rings are a beacon, transmitting a message to places unknown. With this in mind, it seems likely that a sequel will explore the origin of the ten rings, perhaps connecting to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness along the way.
The Seven Cities of Heaven
I think one location will certainly be featured in a Shang-Chi sequel: K’un-Lun, home of the Iron Fist. Wong felt Shang-Chi possess the rings all the way in Kamar-Taj, all the way from another dimension. K’un-Lun is a lot like Ta Lo, moving in and out of the Earthly plane and only accessible from a mountain peak once every 15 years. It exists in another dimension and also has a dragon guarding its gate. Iron Fist has been a fan-favorite suggestion to appear in a potential Shang-Chi sequel, and with rumors of other Defenders making their way back into the MCU proper in the next few months, I think it’s a real possibility.
K’un-Lun is one of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. Ta Lo could easily be another of these cities given Ying Nan's hints at a grander civilization that once existed in the realm. Destin Daniel Cretton did say that there was one setting he wanted to include but couldn’t, and given Ta Lo’s differences from its comic book version, I think he was aiming for K’un-Lun. While Ta Lo may have always been part of Shang-Chi, its newfound similarities to K'un-Lun may be an effort to connect the realms and view them as sister cities. The sequel to Shang-Chi could explore the civilizations of these alternate dimensions with the help of a sorcerer like Wong.
The Ten Rings Changes for the Better?
The true end-credits scene revealed that Xialing has taken over her father’s empire. Although Shang-Chi seems to think that she’s shutting it down, it looks like his sister is just making the organization more her style. The biggest changes are obviously the women training alongside the men, a possibility never offered to Xialing, and the graffiti all over the fortress. Ending with the message “The Ten Rings will return”, this scene promises a much more powerful Xialing in the future.
While I thought Xialing was taking over the Ten Rings to reform them, continuing her father’s work is another possibility. I’d like to see Xialing expand her underground fight club using the Ten Rings as a home base, but she did crave power and influence in a way Shang-Chi never did. With Wenwu out of the picture, Xialing can finally come into her own.
While Xialing doesn’t exist in the comics, Shang-Chi had several other half-sisters. Her closest equivalent would be Zheng Bao Yu (also known as Fah Lo Suee). Zheng Bao Yu always had a foothold in criminal activities and actively plotted to take her father’s place in the Celestial Order of the Si-Fan. She led her own criminal empire for a while, went straight with MI-6, and then turned back to crime. If the comics are anything to go by, Xialing could be headed down a villainous or morally grey path. However, I’d like to see her do something positive with the Ten Rings organization, as unlikely as it may seem.
Shang-Chi Joins the Avengers
Although a potential sequel is three years away at the absolute minimum, I expect to see Simu Liu back before that. A cameo or minor supporting role in Multiverse of Madness isn’t out of the question after the mid-credits scene. He’ll also likely join the Avengers, since Bruce said “welcome to the circus” and TV spots have been calling Shang-Chi “Marvel’s newest Avenger” for a few weeks now. With the ten rings in his possession, Shang-Chi will certainly be a formidable addition to the superhero team!