TV & Movies

What’s The Deal With Shang-Chi’s Evil Dragon?

The “Dweller in Darkness” bears a resemblance to a nefarious creature from the comics.

Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi in Marvel Studios' new film.
©Marvel Studios 2021

Like many films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings blends the relatable and fantastical to weave a compelling, superpowered tale. Spoilers for Shang-Chi follow. The movie cleverly uses the “Dweller in Darkness” — the dragon-like monster trapped behind a gate in Ta Lo — to show how Wenwu (aka The Mandarin, played by Tony Leung) continues to mourn for his late wife, Jiang Li (Fala Chen).

About halfway through Shang-Chi, audiences learn of Wenwu’s plans to infiltrate Ta Lo, believing that his wife, a Ta Lo native, is being held hostage by her peers. Wenwu experiences hallucinations, and claims he hears Li’s “voice” begging for rescue. In actuality, it’s an evil monster trapped behind a magical gate that’s summoning Wenwu, apparently with some help from the Ten Rings — the weapons that give Wenwu his power.

But where did this villainous creature come from, and why is it so bent on destruction? The answer may lie in the Marvel comics, which feature a monster that bears some similarities to the Dweller in Darkness. Below, everything to know about Shang-Chi’s Dweller in Darkness and its counterpart from the comics.

The monster is known as the Dweller in Darkness in Shang-Chi.

In Shang-Chi, Ta Lo’s residents know the nefarious, dragon-like monster as the “Dweller in Darkness.” The creature has been trapped behind a powerful barrier for some time, having been defeated long ago. According to Ta Lo warrior Jiang Nan (Michelle Yeoh), the Dweller and its pterodactyl-like minions represent an evil so fierce that they’re impervious to most weapons. Ta Lo’s residents don’t only work to protect their realm from outsiders, but to prevent the Dweller from escaping its lair.

The Dweller in Darkness has a different backstory (and name) in the comics.

It seems like the Dweller in Darkness is inspired by the comics’ Fin Fang Foom (which, per Marvel, means “He whose limbs shatter mountains and whose back scrapes the sun”). Fin Fang Foom is an alien who arrived in Ancient China with others from the planet Kakaranathara (sometimes called Maklu IV). Unlike the rest of his cohort, who shape-shifted into human form, Fin Fang Foom was placed in a hidden tomb for protection.

The creatures of Kakaranathara are connected to the Ten Rings.

Also mentioned in the comics is Fin Fang Foom’s relationship to the Ten Rings, a set of powerful weapons that grant immortality and superhuman strength to whomever wears them. These rings were made by Fin Fang Foom’s alien race, and were used to power their starship. The Mandarin eventually discovered them, and figured out how to use them for his own ends. This could explain why, as Jiang Nan says, those who wear the rings find themselves compelled to free the Dweller in Darkness.

The Dweller in Darkness isn’t the only dragon in the film.

Shang-Chi features another dragon called the “Great Protector,” who appears to be the benevolent counterpart to the Dweller in Darkness. In the film, the Great Protector awakens during the battle between the Dweller in Darkness and the Ta Lo warriors. Like its name suggests, the Great Protector defends Ta Lo from destruction, even gifting its own scales, which can be crafted into weapons.