'Shang-Chi' Trailer Explained: What are the Ten Rings?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of the four Marvel movies set to come out this year, and the company has released the first trailer for the July movie. Though the promo mostly sets up the new world of kung-fu master Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu), it is also contains references to the very beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), when the idea of the 10 rings was first introduced.

What are the Ten Rings in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?

There are two linked answers to that question – one that has been established since 2008's Iron Man, and another that is new to this movie.

In the comics, there are literally ten rings of metal, each of which has gems in them that give whoever wears them powers like the ability to fire electricity, freeze objects or control people's minds.

As powerful gems worn on the hands were such an integral part of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, most of which revolved around the power-giving infinity stones, these 'rings' have been reimagined for Shang-Chi. As seen in the trailer, they are now larger rings worn around the arm. However, they still seem to give the person who wears them powers, as seen in the promo when the person wearing the rings demonstrates an ability to control water.

Long-time MCU fans will have also heard the name "ten rings" before in the films, but not in the context of literal rings of metal.

shang chi ten rings explained
Poster for 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,' featuring the Ten Rings logo in the background. Marvel

In the first MCU movie, 2008's Iron Man, the Ten Rings were a terrorist organisation who kicked off the events of that film by kidnapping Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

As we saw in some of the organisation's kidnap videos, their logo is ten interlocking circles, arranged into a larger circle. This logo is also seen in the Shang-Chi trailer behind Shang-Chi's father Wenwu (Tony Leung) and on the film's logo and poster, suggesting we are dealing with the same evil organisation here, but its head East Asian branch rather than its subsidiary Middle Eastern wing.

This new branch of the Ten Rings has been hinted at before. In Iron Man 3, we learn that leading the terrorist group is a mysterious figure calling himself The Mandarin. In that film, a character calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) takes responsibility for some terrorist attacks. However, Tony learns that this Mandarin is actually Trevor Slattery, an actor hired to impersonate the real Mandarin to hide some virus experiments gone very wrong.

In Shang-Chi, Marvel fans will finally get to meet the real Mandarin – Wenwu, who spends the film trying to bring his son back into the criminal fold.

The tie-in book to Iron Man, titled Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Iron Man, revealed more about the organisation. It hinted that The Mandarin may be hundreds of years old, and has been building his organisation since the Middle Ages. In that time, it has spread around the world, with the guidebook revealing that Arabic, Dari, English, Farsi, Hungarian, Mongolian, Pashto, Russian, and Urdu are just some of the languages its members speak across its individual cells, which operate independently of each other.

This could be setting up the next big bad of the MCU. Though Shang-Chi may be able to stop his father's plans for world domination, many other upcoming Marvel superheroes could have their own branches of the organisation to deal with.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is released on September 3, 2021.