‘Shang-Chi’ Fixes ‘Iron Man 3’s’ Problematic Mandarin Character

  • “Iron Man 3” featured Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, an actor playing the villainous Mandarin.
  • The depiction was criticized by fans, calling the twist unsatisfying and disappointing.
  • “Shang-Chi” course corrects this by bringing back Trevor and giving us the true Mandarin: Wenwu.
  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Shang-Chi.”

“Iron Man 3” featured two versions of the classic Marvel Comics villain, the Mandarin — a fake version played by Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, and the real version played by Guy Pearce. Neither of these renditions satisfied fans.

But “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Marvel’s newest and boldest origin story movie, has fixed that and given us a far superior version of the character: Wenwu, who doesn’t actually go by the name Mandarin at all. In fact, he mocks it. Here’s all you need to know about the character.

Ben Kinglsey Trevor Slattery the Mandarin.

Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery as the Mandarin.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures[

They’re two versions of the Mandarin in ‘Iron Man 3.’ Both turned out to be imposters

The first was Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, who pretended to be the Ten Rings’ terrorist leader using the name, the Mandarin.

This character seemed to blend American and Asian cultures, with army pants juxtaposing a cloak decorated with Chinese symbols and dragons. Not to mention the treacle-thick American accent.

This was done purposefully to avoid perpetrating stereotypes of Asian characters, and for a while it worked. Kingsley’s Mandarin was actually terrifying and effective.


However, it turned out that this Mandarin was just a fake persona played by British actor Trevor Slattery and created by Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, who was using acts of terrorism as a cover-up for his illegal experiments.

Killian reveals himself to be the true Mandarin, and it seemed that the MCU was set on sticking to this. “Iron Man 3” director Shane Black even said that Killian’s dragon chest tattoos meant that he was indeed the real Mandarin.

However, the twist of Kingsley’s Mandarin being a fake and Killian being the real Mandarin did not go down well with fans. Kingsley’s innovative Mandarin was called a waste of potential by many, while others were upset that the Mandarin, one of the most prominent Asian characters in Marvel comics, was played by two white men.

Guy Pearce Iron Man 3

Guy Pearce plays Aldrich Killian, who claimed to be the real Mandarin.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

‘All Hail the King’ reset the Mandarin character and gave Marvel a second chance

This Marvel One Shot short film followed Jackson Norriss, a member of the real Ten Rings organization, interviewing Slattery in prison. Norriss tells Slattery that the real Mandarin is actually still out there and wants to meet him as he’s angry he pretended to be him. Slattery is then abducted.

This short film reset the character, telling audiences that Killian was as much of a pretender as Slattery, and opening up the possibility of a third version of the character in the MCU. 

We finally got that in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” with Tony Leung playing the real Mandarin in the MCU: Wenwu.

All Hail the King short film ben kingsley

Kingsley reprised the role of Trevor Slattery in the short film “All Hail the King.”

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Wenwu is actually a composite character of two Marvel comics characters: the Mandarin and Fu Manchu

In the comics, Fu Manchu is a super-villain and the father of Shang-Chi. The character has a troubled history, though, as many have accused Fu Manchu of perpetuating racist stereotypes of Asian characters — particularly the “yellow peril” stereotype.

Marvel Comics addressed this by changing Manchu’s name to Zheng Zu, which is how he’s now known in the comics while Fu Manchu is simply one of many aliases the character uses. Zu also builds up his own criminal empire over an entire century, and he possesses eternal youth.

Meanwhile, the Mandarin is a famous foe of several Marvel characters, including Iron Man. He wields the powerful ten rings, which Wenwu does in “Shang-Chi.”

Wenwu also appears to be based on the Secret Wars version of Fu Manchu, in which his likeness and abilities are based on the Mandarin and he’s in charge of a martial arts school called the Ten Rings.

In the movie, Wenwu is in charge of the Ten Rings organization and also wields the ten rings, which give him eternal youth and have enabled him to build up his own empire over a thousand years — during which he has been known by many names.

Tony Leung Shang-Chi

Tony Leung stars as the movie’s villain, Wenwu.

Marvel Studios

In ‘Shang-Chi,’ ‘Mandarin’ is just one of many names Wenwu says he goes by

Notably, Wenwu openly mocks the name ‘Mandarin,’ saying that his enemies named him after “a chicken dish.” This is Marvel mocking their own past interpretations of the character, smartly acknowledging the elephant in the room.

Furthermore, Kingsley’s cameo as Slattery does the same thing. Slattery talks to Shang-Chi about his time playing the fake Mandarin persona and calls the persona an “unflattering” rendition of Wenwu. He seems genuinely sorry for ever impersonating him.

Wenwu Tony Leung Shang-Chi

Wenwu has been building up his empire for over a thousand years.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This is as much Marvel talking as it is Slattery: both are calling themselves out for the controversial portrayals of the Mandarin in “Iron Man 3.”

Not only do we get a great new villain in Wenwu, but we also actually get to enjoy Killian and Slattery’s versions of the Mandarin a lot more now that they are fakes.

The decision to openly mock their past iterations of the character in-universe invites audiences in on the joke. With “Iron Man 3,” we were left on the outside. Now, we’re front and center.

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