Why Marvel Movies Need to Bring Back an Oscar-Winning Star in Phase 4

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown so much since 2008’s Iron Man. Yet, some fan-favorite characters still haven’t appeared. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has opened up about the process involved in which MCU movies get the green light. But lately, Marvel has aimed to boost the reputation of some of its more controversial creative choices. To fix one though would really require the return of an Oscar-winning actor.

The Marvel Studios logo in a display at Ani-Com & Games event
The Marvel Studios logo in a display at Ani-Com & Games event | Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduces the next generation of heroes and villains

Avengers: Endgame either marked or set up the exits for the original Avengers. So it’s no surprise Phase 4 of the MCU is introducing new heroes who can step up. She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), a new Captain America (Anthony Mackie), and Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) are just a few rising up to defend Earth. Likewise, newcomers such as Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac).

On the villain front, Marvel has been much more cagey in declaring who will take Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) spot as the new overarching Big Bad. Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) and John Walker (Wyatt Russell) will likely continue to wreak havoc. But smart money’s on Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror to become the next Avengers-level threat. At the same time, MCU fans will finally meet the real Mandarin (Tony Leung) in Phase 4.

RELATED: ‘The Avengers’ Almost Introduced These Major Phase 4 Characters into the MCU

But Marvel Studios needs an Oscar winner’s return to kick off ‘Shang-Chi’

Following The Avengers, Marvel bet big on Robert Downey Jr. by giving Iron Man 3 the very next slot on the schedule. The first film of Phase 2, the Shane Black-directed movie went on to earn more than $1 billion worldwide. But it also divided fans with its bait-and-switch depiction of The Mandarin. Although the marketing centered on Ben Kingsley as the classic villain, the movie revealed Kingsley was nothing more than a pawn.

Instead, the Oscar-winning star of 1982’s Gandhi plays Trevor Slattery, an English actor hired by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) as a decoy. Some fans found the twist entertaining, but others balked at the lost potential of The Mandarin. So the following year, Marvel released a One-Shot short film titled All Hail the King which retconned the villain. Available on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray, it confirms the real Mandarin remains at large.

Now Leung will play The Mandarin in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Rumors claim Kingsley’s character could return to face his wrath for impersonating him. While this is unconfirmed, Kingsley’s MCU return would bring that storyline full circle. Moreover, if Slattery died at the hands of the real Mandarin, Marvel could swiftly put Iron Man 3‘s most contentious issue to bed and establish The Mandarin’s true menace.

RELATED: Did Marvel Just Tease a Shang-Chi and Spider-Man Team-Up?

The real Mandarin could have an ongoing future in the MCU

Iron Man 3 might be one of the MCU’s more divisive movies. But then again, that’s why it’s the perfect candidate to tie back into Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. After it became clear Marvel die-hards still wanted a more comics-accurate version of The Mandarin, the MCU set the stage for his eventual re-introduction. And Leung has the acting chops and intimidating presence needed to make the role his own.

But will The Mandarin linger beyond his Phase 4 introduction? Or will he be another one-and-done Marvel villain? Considering how more and more MCU baddies tend to linger — take Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo, for instance — Marvel seems to have learned the value in keeping its less-than-virtuous players on the board. If Loki can grow from Avengers nemesis to the anti-hero lead of his own Disney+ series, anything can happen.