The MCU Just Confirmed How Silly Phase 1’s Ten Rings Mess Was


Through the combination of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and What If…? the MCU has highlighted problems with its first movie.

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Marvel’s What If…? episode 6.

The events of Marvel’s What If…? episode 6 highlight one of the major flaws with its original Phase 1 plot. The organization, which first featured in the original Iron Man, is back in the limelight after the critical and commercial success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. However, the terrorist group’s changing role is inadvertently highlighting a major flaw within the early MCU and calling into question a key factor in Iron Man’s heroic rise.

In the first Iron Man, the 10 Rings function as mercenary guns-for-hire in the employ of Stark Industries COO Obadiah Stane. Stane uses the group to kidnap Tony Stark from a military convoy in Afghanistan, trapping him in a cave and forcing him to build a destructive Jericho missile. Instead, Stark constructs the first prototype of the Iron Man armor, charting his rise to becoming a prominent member of The Avengers and ultimately kickstarting the MCU as it is today.

Related: The MCU Just Retconned Tony Stark’s True Reason For Becoming Iron Man

Although the 10 Rings function as an effective plot device in the movie, What If…? episode 6 highlighted just how nonsensical their role actually was. By effortlessly uncovering a clear paper trail, intercepting the group and rescuing Tony Stark, Killmonger outlines just how outlandish the idea of a businessman contacting and hiring a single terrorist cell for his own ends actually was. The fact that he is able to outline his findings with a detailed paper trail in a glorified PowerPoint presentation proves this point still further. However, the release of Shang-Chi reveals that this implausible plan was far from the only problem with Marvel’s approach to the 10 Rings in Phase 1.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in Iron Man

For example, the recent Phase 4 release makes it clear that the 10 Rings have a storied history under the leadership of warlord Xu Wenwu. Not only have they been operating for thousands of years, but their name refers to 10 actual rings capable of harnessing extraordinary power. By contrast, the 10 Rings of the Phase 1 story arc share none of this narrative, appearing as an entirely separate group. This implies that within the MCU there are somehow two different 10 Rings organizations that coincidentally share the same name, which seems highly unlikely, to say the least.

There are very reasonable explanations as to why this narrative might be so confusing. For starters, no one could have predicted the wide-reaching success of the vast, interconnected MCU off the back of the first Iron Man. To expect everything from the film that started it all to still make sense nearly 15 years later would be unreasonable. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that recent MCU productions prove that, both at the time and with hindsight, Iron Man’s 10 Rings plot had its problems. Given the movie’s singular importance, these are understandably difficult to ignore.

More: Shang-Chi’s Planet of the Apes Joke Is Perfect Iron Man 3 Payoff

Marvel’s What If…? releases new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.

  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023

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