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Eternals may hold a clue to Shang-Chi’s final mystery

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Something about this RINGs a bell

Shang-Chi draws yellow magic power from the ten rings Image: Marvel Studios

For years, there was only one answer to every dangling plot thread in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “just wait until Thanos shows up in Avengers: Infinty War, and Avengers: Endgame.” But now, after much delay, Marvel Studios is finally weaving new material into its setting, with movies like Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

There’s little in Phase 4 to indicate precisely where all these new roads are leading. But in the spirit of the central promise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — that it’s all connected — let’s ask a pertinent question:

Hey, wait a second. Are the Ten Rings from Shang-Chi Eternals technology?

Why I yelled “Shang-Chi’s post-credit scene!” while watching Eternals

Wenwu (Tony Leung) wielding the Ten Rings in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Image: Marvel Studios

In one of its two credits scenes, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings returned to a plot point dropped earlier in the film about the origin of its titular artifacts. Wenwu discovered the Ten Rings thousands of years before the modern day, and allowed the legend of that discovery to mutate. Which is to say, we don’t know exactly how he found them, and even he didn’t know who made them.

And at the end of Shang-Chi, we discover that not even the Avengers can figure out what the Rings are. They don’t match anybody’s experiences — not Bruce Banner’s scientific understanding, Wong’s magical expertise, or Carol Danvers’ knowledge of alien technology.

It’s very possible that what’s being teed up here is a reveal about the wider story of Shang-Chi — after all, the Ten Rings have a very specific (and weird) origin in Marvel Comics. Ultimately, the rings might not connect to anything else that has been or will be established in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But Eternals certainly feels like it could be a hint.

[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains spoilers for Eternals.]

Phastos loves giving technology to humans

Lia McHugh, Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Barry Keoghan, and Brian Tyree Henry as Sprite, Sersi, Ajak, Druig, and Phastos in Eternals, in front of a hologram of a plow in their spaceship. Image: Marvel Studios

Every Eternal in Eternals has their specialties, whether they’re tanks, healers, or a support class. They even have their own resident engineer, Phastos, who is really tempted to help humanity accelerate its technological development. During one scene in Eternals, he proposes giving a fully kitted-out steam engine to some humans, and has to be talked down into helping them invent the plow instead.

The other key thing about Phastos, for the purposes of this speculation, is that his powers have a very specific look: spinning constructs of concentric circles that wind in and out of each other, contracting and expanding shapes all colored in the Eternals’ metallic gold.

And boy, that sure does sound like the shrinking and expanding, spinning and whizzing aesthetic of Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings. Given that the Eternals themselves are unknown to the Avengers, it’s not a stretch to imagine that no one on the team has encountered Celestial technology — and it would also explain why it’s not even similar to anything they’ve seen before. Phastos’ work is that much closer to raw manipulation of the very stuff of the cosmos. And maybe some piece of that work is exactly what Wenwu discovered all those years ago.

It could all be a coincidence, of course: Concentric CGI shapes that spin when an actor waves their hand have been a Cool Movie Detail since Minority Report. But remember the promise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: It’s all connected.

And if Marvel wants to connect Shang-Chi to Eternals, it seems like it has laid the track.