‘Shang-Chi’ Has Marvel’s Darkest Moments — What to Know About Them

  • Warning: There are spoilers for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” below.
  • “Shang-Chi” features a late turn for the weird and dark in the movie’s climactic battle.
  • These are some of the darkest moments in the MCU. Insider breaks down what it all means.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is one of the MCU’s boldest movies. The climactic third-act battle is proof of that.

Warning: There are spoilers for “Shang-Chi” below.

Shang-Chi and his companions are forced to protect an ancient village from the forces of Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father and the MCU’s final answer to its Mandarin problem.

Wenwu mistakenly thinks that breaking down a gate that the village protects will release his trapped wife. Instead, it unleashes demons from a malicious dimension ruled by an evil, ancient creature known as the Dweller. These scenes will likely scare a lot of kids, and it suggests that Marvel is beginning to lean into its darker and weirder territories.

Here’s what to know about the beings that show up in the film’s big battle scene and what it all means for the MCU going forward.

Shang-Chi Wenwu dragon scale gate

The dragon scale gate can be seen here behind Shang-Chi.

Marvel Studios

What dimension is the Ta-Lo gate protecting in ‘Shang-Chi’?

The gate is protected by the people of Ta-Lo, the ancient village that Shang-Chi’s mother, Jiang Li, comes from. They’ve spent centuries guarding the gate that separates Earth from an evil dimension, not dissimilar to the Dark Dimension from “Doctor Strange.”

It’s not entirely clear what the dimension in “Shang-Chi” is, but the fact that literal demons came out of it, while also being located behind a gate embedded into rocks, could suggest a Hell Dimension.

Behind this great gate are a vile horde of flying demons who can only be killed by dragon scale weapons, similar to how the white walkers in “Game of Thrones” can only be killed by dragonglass.

These demons don’t just kill you, either. Instead, they wrap their tentacles around you and suck your soul out of your body via your mouth, leaving a lifeless corpse behind.

The demons are stealing people’s souls to bring back to feed their master, who grows larger and stronger with every soul he ingests.

Shang-Chi the Great Protector

The Great Protector (seen here) faces off against the Dweller in the final battle.

Marvel Studios

Who is the ‘Shang-Chi’ villain, the Dweller?

The Dweller is an ancient being who feasts on the souls of other living creatures, which makes him stronger. The larger the creature, the larger its soul, and the more power the Dweller gets. That’s why he goes for the soul of the Great Protector, the dragon that lives in Ta-Lo.

Thankfully, Awkwafina’s Katy, Shang-Chi, and his sister Xialing manage to kill the Dweller before he can suck the soul out of the Great Protector.

The movie never explains his exact nature or his origins, but the Dweller appears to be some sort of demon and closely resembles H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic entity Cthulhu. In fact, everything about this final battle was pretty Lovecraftian in the way that cosmic dread was used to scare audiences.

The Dweller also seems to be based on a creature in Marvel Comics known as the Dweller-in-Darkness. This demon is a disembodied head with tentacles at the bottom of it — making it look like a demon octopus (again, pretty Cthulhu-like).

In the comics, the Dweller-in-Darkness has been an enemy of Doctor Strange multiple times.

Xialing, Shang-Chi, and Katy

Xialing, Shang-Chi, and Katy watch the approaching enemies arrive.

Marvel Studios

What does this all mean for the MCU?

First, it means that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is embracing the stranger corners of its comics background. While “Shang-Chi” is the biggest example of this turn so far, Marvel fans have already encountered another strange mystical being this year: Alioth in “Loki.”

Plus, the “Eternals” trailer teased the introduction of both the deviants and the celestials, so expect to see more weird things in the MCU going forward.

It’s also embracing the scary side of Marvel. The demon soul-sucking moments are very dark and may prove too intense for younger viewers.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was teased as the MCU’s first-ever horror movie by Scott Derrickson, who was then attached to direct the film in 2019. While new director Sam Raimi and producer Kevin Feige have softened that line, the movie will likely still include some frightening imagery like “Shang-Chi” does.

Especially if a certain fan-favorite baddie is involved…

Loki Mephisto reference

Many fans thought this stained-glass window was a reference to Mephisto.

Disney Platform Distribution

The Mephisto hype train will soon be picking up steam, yet again

Some fans spent much of “WandaVision” anticipating the arrival of Mephisto, the ruler of the Hell Dimension, aka Marvel Comics’ answer to the devil. That didn’t pan out, although there are still plenty of hints to the character.

“Loki” then seemed to reference Mephisto again, although Kang the Conqueror was later revealed as the big bad of that show.

But given all those hints combined with the demon-filled, hellish events of “Shang-Chi,” plus the strange goings-on in the trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (which may have featured its own Mephisto tease), there seems to be something else much darker afoot in the MCU.

With the mysterious dimension and the demons seen in “Shang-Chi,” it feels like Marvel is purposefully expanding those dark worlds leading into its next phase of films and TV shows.

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