Spoilers follow for Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduced a new hero, a new villain, and an entirely new world within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To add even more to the mix, the movie also has two new post-credits scenes that seem to figure into the future of the MCU.
The highly anticipated movie is considered by fans to be the official start of Marvel’s Phase 4, the slate of films that directly follow 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Endgame capped off a decade of Marvel’s big-screen storytelling, marking the end of several long-running storylines and saying goodbye to some of the MCU’s best-known characters.
Now, Shang-Chi has arrived to kick off the next era — no offense to 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home or this summer’s long-delayed Black Widow. The film is solely a Marvel property (unlike Far From Home, which was a Sony co-production) and it takes place in the MCU’s present (Black Widow is a prequel whose title character is dead in the present). The expectation has long been that Shang-Chi will push the MCU forward, story-wise.
The film does make a lot of progress in that regard: It tells Shang-Chi’s origin story, shows us his procurement of the legendary weapons known as the ten rings, arranges a meeting between Shang-Chi and the mystic arts master Wong, and possibly extends an invitation for Shang-Chi to join the Avengers.
Like nearly all of its cinematic cousins in Marvel’s back catalog, Shang-Chi also has two post-credits scenes. Historically, Marvel has deployed post-credits scenes as a way to tease upcoming films or possibly introduce new characters. Shang-Chi upholds that tradition by having its title character meet up with some familiar faces from other films and setting up what appears to be a future villain in the MCU.
Shang-Chi’s first post-credits scene actually plays mid-credits. It’s a continuation of the end of the movie where Shang-Chi and Katy accompany Wong to what appears to be the magic arts home base known as the New York Sanctum. The scene picks up as Wong analyzes the ten rings and struggles to figure out their origin.
Shang-Chi, Wong, and Katy consult Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Hulk. Before zipping off to deal with an unspecified emergency, Danvers declares that the rings are not alien in origin; Banner isn’t sure what they are either. The conclusion the group comes to is that the rings are very old and very powerful. The group also determines that the rings are emitting some kind of signal or beacon, but no one knows who might be receiving it.
There are a few little tidbits in the scene that eagle-eyed Marvel fans will notice right away. The first is that Bruce Banner has figured out how to revert to his human form. Back in Endgame, Banner merged his Hulk form with his human form, and at the time it sure seemed like the merge would be permanent.
In Shang-Chi’s mid-credits scene, Banner appears fully human, and no one makes any mention of it. There’s no explanation of when he un-merged or how he did it. It’s unclear whether his human form is permanent or whether he can consciously switch between the two forms, but he’s clearly figured out how to get back to being human Bruce.
Another tidbit is that Danvers now has much longer hair than the cropped ’do she wore the last time we saw her onscreen, in Endgame. Obviously, my first question is which intergalactic hairstylist she’s seeing; I would love to see that explored in a future movie. The more important takeaway, though, is that a fairly significant amount of time has passed. Her locks have grown out from a shorter side part in Endgame, such that they’re close to hitting the tops of her shoulders. That suggests a span of several months, at least, between the events of Endgame and Shang-Chi.
Regarding the MCU’s chronology, the indication is that Shang-Chi is set in a post-WandaVision and probably a post-Spider-Man: Far From Home world, since the events of WandaVision take place a few weeks after Endgame and the events of Far From Home take place a few months after Endgame. Thus it’s pretty solid confirmation that Shang-Chi is situated well into a post-Endgame world. Recent MCU events like Wanda’s chaos on WandaVision, Spider-Man’s identity being revealed in Far From Home, and possibly even the multiverse hijinks of Loki have already occurred when Shang-Chi’s adventure begins.
As for the rings being ancient weapons and what signal they might be emitting now, it seems like a pretty convenient potential link that the Eternals — immortal beings that have lived on Earth in secret for over 7,000 years — have a movie coming out in November.
Finally, one of the most glaring tidbits in the scene concerns who isn’t present at the Sanctum, since the only Avengers we see are Danvers, Banner, and Wong. The Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor are absent, possibly off doing some space stuff. We also don’t see Okoye or any other representative from Wakanda.
The biggest question mark, however, has to do with the whereabouts of Doctor Strange, who lives in Sanctum and would presumably be there to consult with Wong. Perhaps he’s out dealing with Wanda’s new multiverse-threatening powers (which were revealed at the end of WandaVision) or maybe he’s helping Peter Parker navigate his identity crisis now that the world knows he is Spider-Man (Doctor Strange, or maybe someone masquerading as Doctor Strange, appears in the latest trailer for December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home). Either way, given the setting of this Shang-Chi credits scene, Strange’s absence is very curious.
Shang-Chi’s second post-credits scene arrives after all the credits have rolled. Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing is packing up her room at her father’s secret base when her sidekick Jon Jon summons her. He tells her that everyone’s ready, and the scene segues into Xialing taking over her father’s army a.k.a the Ten Rings. There’s one wrinkle, however: Unlike her father, she is allowing girls to train to be part of the Ten Rings crime syndicate.
Setting up Xialing to become the new commander of a vast, virtually unstoppable army probably doesn’t have major implications for the MCU or spell trouble for Shang-Chi. While she has the numbers and the person-power, Shang-Chi has the actual rings (even if it’s not yet fully clear what they can do).
What’s more fascinating about this post-credits scene is the way it slots Xialing into a world where there are power grabs happening on Earth at the national and international level, as established earlier this year in Marvel’s Disney+ TV series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. With the whole world in flux after the upheavals of Avengers: Infinity War’s Thanos snap and Endgame’s life-restoring Iron Man snap, Xialing’s control of the Ten Rings army now makes her one of the most powerful people on the planet.
It will also be interesting to see how Xialing’s coup might affect Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), the mysterious woman who first showed up in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and then returned in Black Widow’s post-credits scene. Valentina appears to be wheeling and dealing in evil stuff, and there’s now potential for a clash between Xialing’s army and Valentina’s attempts to stitch together some nefarious coalition of her own.