This article contains frank discussion of the end of Marvel’sShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings film. If you haven’t seen it yet, now is the time to leave.
Marvel Studios’ latest superhero movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings offers fans a pair of end credits scenes, one taking place shortly after the movie wraps and the other after the credits finish.
We’re going to explain what happens in each scene and use the comics to help understand exactly what these scenes are setting up for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warning: full spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings!
Shang-Chi Mid-Credits Scene
The mid-credits scene shows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) fresh off their victory in Ta Lo, recounting their fantastical adventure to their friends over drinks. A magical portal opens and Wong (Benedict Wong) steps out to invite the duo back to a place we assume is the base of operations for Earth’s sorcerers, Kamar-Taj. (Maybe Doctor Strange wasn’t around because he was busy helping Spider-Man?) Wong is particularly interested in the Ten Rings that Shang-Chi now wears, having inherited them after the soul-sucking Dweller-in-Darkness killed his father Wenwu (Tony Leung).
The Ten Rings are a weapon of extraordinary power, and we watch as a small council of Avengers meet to discuss them now that they’re in friendly hands. Shang-Chi, Katy, and Wong are joined by holograms of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as they observe a mystical diagram projected by the Ten Rings. (It’s notable that Bruce is no longer Smart Hulk–he’s now back to his human self and the arm injured from snapping with the Infinity Gauntlet is still in a splint.)
The group debates the origin of the Ten Rings. At the start of the movie it’s said that Wenwu discovered the rings 1000 years ago but their exact origin is unknown, with one story saying they were found in a crater and another in a tomb. Wong says the rings don’t match any artifact from their codex in Kamar-Taj. Bruce says the rings aren’t made from Vibranium and asks Carol if they could be from the Chitauri. Carol says they’re not Chitauri nor are they like any alien tech she’s ever seen. Shang-Chi says his father found the rings about 1000 years ago, and Bruce says a thermal luminescence scan shows the rings are a lot older than that.
Wong explains that when Shang-Chi came into possession of the Ten Rings, he felt it all the way in Kamar-Taj. Zooming in on the diagram of the Ten Rings, we see the rings are emitting a beacon of some kind. It appears Shang-Chi, by using them in the final battle, somehow awoke the rings, but it’s unclear what the signal means. The characters think the rings are sending a message, but to where no one can say.
In the comics, the Ten Rings are quite different than in the movie. Instead of a set of armbands, they are 10 different colored finger rings that grant the wearer various super powers.
The comic book version of the Mandarin originally found the rings aboard an alien spaceship belonging to a Makluan explorer named Axonn-Karr, who he killed before raiding his ship and making off with the rings. The Makluans are a reptilian alien race from a planet called Maklu IV. Marvel Comics fans are likely familiar with the most notorious Makluan, Fin Fang Foom, a massive dragon that has attacked Earth on more than one occasion. Dweller-in-Darkness appears to be the MCU’s version of Fin Fang Foom, considering its similar dragon-like appearance and telepathic powers, but the name was likely changed because it has long been criticized for being racially insensitive. If the Ten Rings are sending a message back to Maklu IV, then they could be summoning a whole army of reptilian monsters to attack Earth.
Then again, Carol’s comment about the Ten Rings not appearing to be any sort of alien tech might contradict that theory. Given how she has traveled the cosmos for decades and is the Avengers’ resident expert on aliens, she would probably know alien tech when she saw it. So her being unfamiliar with the Ten Rings may be a hint that they do not come from any place in the known universe.
With that in mind, we have another theory on where the Ten Rings came from, and it fits in with the overarching theme of Phase 4: the multiverse. If the Ten Rings aren’t from anywhere in our universe, then maybe they came from another universe altogether. As we saw in the Season 1 finale of Marvel’s Loki series, the “Sacred Timeline” was shattered after the death of He Who Remains (aka Kang the Conqueror), causing the multiverse to spawn anew. Perhaps the Ten Rings came from one of those new branch realities and in the chaos somehow came to be on Earth. In the comics, Kang has access to the most powerful weapons across space and time, so it could be that the Ten Rings are a weapon he left behind while waging his multiversal war. The MCU’s next all-hands-on-deck crisis seems like it will have to do with the multiverse (Secret Wars, anyone?), so if the Ten Rings are connected to it then that would give our new hero Shang-Chi a tangible tie to it.
It’s also worth pointing out that the upcoming MCU movie Eternals will tell a story that spans 7000 years, and it will feature the cosmic titans known as the Celestials, so perhaps we will learn more about the origin of the Ten Rings in that Marvel film. The Celestials are essentially space gods that wield unimaginable power, so it could be that the Ten Rings are an artifact they left behind on Earth long ago.
Shang-Chi End-Credits Scene
After the credits finish rolling, the post-credits scene reveals what’s next for Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang). During the movie, Xialing shared how she ran away from home to create her own criminal enterprise because her father wouldn’t let her be a part of his. And with the death of her father, she wastes no time merging her organization with the Ten Rings and moving into her father’s base of operations.
Most notably, women are now seen receiving the martial arts training there that Xialing never did when she was young.
While MCU Xialing seems to have proven herself to be a decent person at heart who is now on good terms with her brother Shang-Chi, one key moment shows that she may be turning to the dark side. During the mid-credits bar scene, when asked about his sister Shang-Chi says that she’s shutting down their father’s operations, so she seems to have deceived her brother and hidden her intention to take over instead. This duplicitous turn falls in line with the comic book versions of her character that are far more villainous.
It’s important to point out that there is no Xialing in the comics–she was created just for the movie (most likely due to her origin as the daughter of the racist “Fu Manchu” character), but her character seems to be an amalgamation of Shang-Chi’s five sisters in the comics (sister Zheng Shi-Hua and half-sisters Zheng Bao Yu, Kwai Far, Esme and Zheng Zhilan). Common traits among Shang-Chi’s sisters include a villainous edge, conflicted feelings about their brother, a desire for their father’s power, and deadly martial arts skills. Xialing’s appearance seems to be based on Zheng Bao Yu in particular.
If Shang-Chi’s sisters from the comics are any indication, then we’re likely to see Xialing once again at odds with her brother as she uses the new Ten Rings organization to accumulate more power. After all, the movie’s final moment does promise “The Ten Rings will return.” and seems to imply the return of both the criminal organization and the actual weapon.
By Joshua Yehl