In addition to leaving "Hotel California" stuck in all of our heads, Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings also left audiences with plenty of questions about the future of the MCU. The biggest mystery of them all arises in the movie's first end credits sequence, which features cameos from a pair of familiar faces and narrative set-up for either a potential sequel or the next team-up project. Let's break it down, shall we?
***WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for the end of Shang-Chi!***
After the incredibly smooth stylings of Anderson .Paak's new song, the story explains why Wong (Benedict Wong) needed to see Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) right away. As a Master of the Mystic Arts and one of the planet's premier experts on supernatural artifacts, Wong takes a closer look at the Ten Rings, which Wenwu (Tony Leung) had been using to amass power for the last thousand years or so.
With input from two special guests — Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo no longer in Professor Hulk mode) — Wong concludes that the Rings are much older than a single millennium. None of our heroes can come to a firm conclusion on their true origin (not even Carol Danvers, who's been all over the universe since the 1990s), but one thing is for certain: The Rings are acting as a sort of organic beacon, calling out to someone... or something.
Pretty scary stuff, considering that some of the brightest and most well-traveled characters in the MCU can't make heads or tails of these weapons, whose dangerous power could be equal to that of the Infinity Stones.
"We definitely are posing a question that is pointed to a direction that makes sense to what's happening in the MCU and also is a direction that is very exciting for us to explore in the future," writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton explained to Collider when asked about who (or what) the Rings are signaling. "But the questions that are left unanswered are equally as exciting, I think, to the creatives making the movie as [they are] to the fans. What fans are going through is what we're going through; all the potential what-ifs of what it could be and that's part of the fun of working for a studio like Marvel."
Before we dive into the comics, let's unpack the clues provided in Shang-Chi's opening narration, which also doesn't provide a clear answer on where the Rings came from. According to legends that have been whispered throughout the centuries, Wenwu pulled them out of a crater (similar to the Wakandans and their rich Vibranium deposits), or maybe he found them in a tomb. (Who was buried there? We have no idea.)
The crater theory jives with the comic book source material, where the Mandarin finds the Ten Rings — actual finger bling that granted an array of different powers to the wearer — in the ancient debris of a crashed spaceship belonging to a native of Kakaranathara, aka Maklu IV. The most famous native of this alien planet is the dragon-like being known as Fin Fang Foom, who is among the strangest and most enduring Marvel baddies concocted by the duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the early 1960s.
The Kakaranatharans were a peaceful race, but much like Thanos, Fin Fang Foom was an outlier, a bad seed who decided to conquer other worlds because he could. In fact, his name literally translates into "He whose limbs shatter mountains and whose back scrapes the sun." It's a pretty foreboding title if Marvel Studios plans to make this belligerent dragon from beyond the stars the villain of either Shang-Chi 2 (not yet confirmed) or the next Avengers title.
Since Kang (Jonathan Majors) and the wider multiverse seem to be leading the MCU into its next big Infinity War/Endgame confrontation, we'd wager that Fin Fang Foom will most likely show up in a Shang-Chi sequel, especially since The Legend of the Ten Rings establishes the idea of inter-dimensional dragons as both protectors and conquerers.
Who knows? This could be leading us to the reintroduction of Iron Fist, K'un-L'un, and Shou-Lao. Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) does make a passing reference to how Ta Lo is only one small corner of this other dimension.
The MCU is well-known for remixing and reimagining classic characters and origin stories in unexpected ways, so what if it turns out that all of these flying, lizard-like beasts hail from the same homeworld and/or plane of existence? Maybe Fin Fang Foom shows up to finish the work that the Dweller-in-Darkness started? Marvel really had the guts to dip its toes into the world of cosmic horror, and now they can get as weird as they want. A talking and bright-green alien dragon seems par for the course after the introduction of a textbook Lovecraftian deity.
Not enough for you? How about this: The Kakaranatharans don't just have access to god-like technology, they're also natural shape-shifters. This means they could very well factor into the Secret Invasion series coming to Disney+. Of course, this is all just speculation on our part, but it continues to prove the tenacity of the MCU and its uncanny ability to engage fans in a meaningful way. The future seems bright and, to quote the Watcher himself, "a prism of endless possibility."
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now playing in theaters everywhere. The film set a new Labor Day record at the North American box office this past weekend with a four-day opening of $90 million. Per Disney's latest theatrical model, Shang-Chi will play exclusively on the big screen for a duration of 45 days before making its way to the world of streaming.