Warning: Potential MASSIVE SPOILERS ahead.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe right now is at the top of its game, and not necessarily because of its heroes. Recently, in Captain America: Civil War, we witnessed the first time an MCU villain actually succeeded in defeating the Avengers — props to Zemo. The Marvel villains are now taking charge. While this might be a decisive turn in the portrayal of their villains — a move that started with with the reveal of Loki impersonating Odin by the end of Thor: The Dark World — Marvel still has a villain that is lurking in the shadows. We are speaking about the Mandarin (the real Mandarin) and his Ten Rings organization. Potentially, we could be seeing the most sophisticated systematic infiltration of companies and other mediums, even more so than Hydra’s decades-long infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., with a plan of ultimate destruction. Let's begin.
The Mandarin Theory
Plain and simple, the theory is that the real Mandarin and his Ten Rings organization have been infiltrating and controlling sovereign governments and multinational companies in the MCU, with an ultimate end-goal involving Fin Fang Foom that we’ll explore in detail as we continue. It’s an eye-opener for sure, but the thing is, there’s plenty of evidence within various MCU films, TV shows and One-Shots that support the theory. Before we begin, we first need to briefly explore the history of the Mandarin in the comics and his mythos in the MCU.
A Brief History Of The Mandarin
In the comics, the Mandarin was once a wealthy man of power in his province in China. After the Communist Party took control of the country in the 1940s, the Mandarin was left weakened, both financially and politically. An expert practitioner of the martial arts, while searching for meaning in life after practically losing it all, he soon comes in contact with a deserted spaceship in the Chinese mountains. Within the spaceship he finds ten rings of tremendous cosmic powers. The rings are actually of Makluan technology, an old reptilian shape-shifting alien race that landed on Earth many years ago that are still active. From there it’s history, as he becomes one of Iron Man’s most powerful enemies, considered by the comic book community to be Iron Man’s arch nemesis.
The MCU approach takes a somewhat different turn. We found out in Iron Man 3 that the Mandarin was no more than a stage act by Trevor Slattery, the front face of Aldrich Killian’s terrorist plots. While this is true, the disclosure was completely detested by the Marvel fanbase who were eager to watch a fan-favorite villain on the big screen. As a response to the negative reception, Marvel soon released the One-Shot All Hail the King. It is there that it’s revealed that the Mandarin is actually real and abhorred the way his name and reputation was being used. In the One-Shot, we learn that the real Mandarin has been active since the Middle Ages, as explained by one of the members of the Ten Rings (played by Scoot McNairy):
“He was a warrior king. Inspired generations of men since the Middle Ages, perhaps even further back in time.”
We'll expand on that quote later as it is key to the theory. The One-Shot ends with sounds of Ten Rings helicopters and a successful prison break-out of Slattery, who the Mandarin wants alive for the sake of torturing him. So clearly the Mandarin is very real in the MCU and evidently has tremendous power, with an ultra organized network of members, given that Scoot McNairy’s Ten Rings character perfectly acted as an undercover field agent. This brings us to the notion that the Mandarin clearly has his hands in some of the world’s most important organizations. Let’s explore the evidence.
The Mandarin Runs Multiple Companies
The Mandarin and his Ten Rings organization made an appearance in 2015’s Ant-Man. In the scene were Darren Cross was showing his shrinking technology to Hydra, Hank Pym and other interest groups, among them was also a member of the Ten Rings. It’s hard to catch at first as he only appears for a few seconds in the scene and then is seen again later when he points a gun at Pym. When the Ant-Man DVD and Blu-Ray was released, there was a deleted scene that further portrayed the character, as seen above.
Of course, the Ten Rings are not going to openly declare their activity after their unintended fame as a leading terrorist group in Iron Man 3. Hence, the Mandarin must have sub-companies, much like Hydra did in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Cybertek and the Transia Corporation. If the Mandarin’s Ten Rings members are attending these experimental gatherings among the ranks of Cross Technologies and Hydra, then clearly they are very rich and powerful indeed. This takes us to the possibility that the Mandarin is presently in control of A.I.M. and other organizations in the MCU, like H.A.M.M.E.R. (the Ten Rings were also present in Iron Man 2). Like Hydra, the Ten Rings Organization and the Mandarin have influenced the outcomes of world events, and the Mandarin could have clearly done it recently in Captain America: Civil War with Crossbones — the failed Lagos terrorist plot.
Since the Mandarin apparently already has several companies under his belt and is unquestionably immensely wealthy, it makes sense he would take over A.I.M. after their leader and corporate head, Aldrich Killian, destroyed his reputation. This potentially happened after Killian’s death in Iron Man 3. This could potentially put A.I.M. or H.A.M.M.E.R. at Cross Technologies’ Yellow Jacket gathering in Ant-Man. This could all be part of a large intricate plan that only starts with powerful organizations of weaponry and science; the Mandarin is planning to unleash a monster.
Fin Fang Foom Is Coming
Recall the granddaddy of them all, 2008’s Iron Man. There was an Easter Egg in the movie that showed the famous Iron Man villain from the comics Fin Fang Foom, a dragon of Makluan origin (the same Makluans connected to the Mandarin origin that we explored earlier). During one of the opening shots from the movie, we can see a billboard advertising Foom, or rather, a movie about Foom. While this was inserted as a gift for the Iron Man fans, we need to remember that this was part of the first MCU film. Almost 10 years later and with its 14th film, Doctor Strange, releasing soon, A LOT has happened and transpired in the MCU and we can’t let that Easter Egg pass as just a “gift.”
Fin Fang Foom also made another Easter Egg appearance in Iron Man 3 during the scene where Tony is researching the Mandarin — a large dragon was depicted in one of the holographic images. Alternatively, the same thing that happened to the Mandarin with Trevor Slattery could also be happening with Fin Fang Foom. This scheme could also serve as a real-life hint to us the fans. It could turn out that the MCU’s grand finale has been right in front of our faces since the very beginning, oh Marvel. Let’s continue, as it gets even more interesting.
The Ten Rings: Active Since The Beginning Of The MCU
The real Mandarin has been in the MCU since Iron Man 1. The Ten Rings was the terrorist group that kidnapped Tony in the first place. The Mandarin was working with Stark Industries without Tony even knowing it! In the comics, there was a time when the Mandarin took control of The Hand (the ninja organization from Netflix’s Daredevil, coincidence?). He let 10 high-ranking operatives of The Hand each use one of his rings, working exclusively under the decisive voice of the Mandarin. This same concept of division of power is present in the MCU’s Ten Rings organization, as we can see in the picture above from Iron Man 1.
This explains why the Mandarin hasn’t been physically present. He has divided nine of his rings among his highest officials, keeping one, which could limit his individual cosmic powers. So, we’ve clearly seen how deep the Mandarin potentially is within the MCU, so then, Carlos, what’s the sophisticated end-goal plan you’ve been working so long to get at? Here it is:
The Mandarin Possesses An Infinity Stone
Rather than having 10 actual rings of power, he only has one. There’s only nine more for the purpose of symbolism, to build upon his mythos. This is reasonable as the MCU doesn’t strictly follows its comic book source. It also makes sense because he’s been described to exist since the Middle Ages as we explored earlier. This is possible through many different methods, but I think it comes down to two possibilities: Either he is able to transfer his spirit from body to body (like Apocalypse from X-Men: Apocalypse), or he is able to alter time in such a way that it doesn’t affect him biologically.
Both scenarios are possible with the last two remaining Infinity Stones that have yet to be introduced — the Soul Stone and the Time Stone. On top of that, the Mandarin could also possess mystical abilities, as he’s been shown to have in the comics. Okay, so then how does the infiltration of organizations and Fin Fang Foom fit into all of this?
The Ultimate End-Goal
The Mandarin wants to unleash the real Fin Fang Foom, and he’s been waiting for the right time to do it. He’s been slowly and quietly trying to make this happen, infiltrating many of the world’s leading companies and getting a hold of the latest technologies. He only needs Foom to unleash chaos on Earth (worst than what happened in The Avengers), leading the Mandarin to take over control of what’s left of the world and probably form a New World Order under his rule. Since he would already have control of many big corporations and be in possession of sophisticated weaponry, then he’s totally capable of doing this; Foom is just his means of action.
A similar version of this happened in the comics when Fin Fang Foom helped the Mandarin take over China. Eventually, he succeeded, but there was a twist. Foom awakened the rest of the Makluan aliens and they eventually turned on the Mandarin, causing the Mandarin to side with Iron Man after all. Could this potentially be what is going to happen in the first Avengers: Infinity War? Are we actually going to see the Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom? Then Thanos will come to Earth claiming his Stones and actually be the one to defeat the Mandarin and Foom, leading then to the next movie with the appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy?
I congratulate you if you’ve reached this far as you are truly an MCU fan! What do you think of this grand theory? Is the Mandarin the one who is actually pulling all the strings? Leave your thoughts down in the comments!
[History of the Mandarin: Marvel.com]