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Why Shang-Chi's Dweller-In-Darkness Is More Important Than You Realize

The newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally in theaters, and it's already proving to be well worth the wait. "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" stars Simu Liu as the titular Kung-Fu master, who leaves his life of fighting under his father Xu Wenwu's (Tony Leung) command and hides in San Francisco under a new name: Shaun. Years later, Wenwu's warriors, known as the Ten Rings, find Shang-Chi, and force him back into the fray of his past life, where he must confront his past and defeat the dark forces that threaten to destroy the mystical Ta-Lo village.

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is full of amazing fight sequences and several fun Easter eggs that call back to other MCU projects — not to mention the terrifying creatures from other dimensions. By the end of the film, fans are likely to have questions about the new mythical additions, including the final Big Bad known as the Dweller-in-Darkness. Marvel Comics fans may have heard of the mysterious being before, but in case you haven't, here's why he's such an important part of the MCU.

Note that there are some spoilers ahead for those who haven't yet seen the film.

Who is the Dweller-in-Darkness?

In Marvel comics, the fearsome Dweller-in-Darkness is a demon from an alternate dimension and part of a group known as the Fear Lords, whose powers came from inspiring fear in others. According to Fandom, the Dweller-in-Darkness would enter people's dreams and convince them to kill themselves, but its human victims would instead turn into servants known as Shade-Thralls. It was thwarted once by Thor, and later became a recurring enemy of Doctor Strange.

In "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," the Dweller-in-Darkness comes in the form of a dragon-type of creature — he's a sort of antithesis to The Great Protector, the dragon known for trapping the Dweller-in-Darkness centuries before the events of the film. The two versions of the Dweller-in-Darkness vary greatly when comparing the comics version to the film's version, and they seem to really only share their name and their love of devouring souls.

There is, however, a different dragon-like character that may have served as inspiration for the movie version of the Dweller-in-Darkness, though its origins are a bit more questionable.

The Dweller-in-Darkness may be based on another Marvel villain

Before "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" hit theaters, there was plenty of speculation as to what the film would be about. One of the big rumors was the involvement of dragons within the MCU, and what role (if any) dragons would play in the film. Simu Liu did eventually deny that an infamous being known as Fin Fang Foom would be featured in the movie, as the character was an undeniably problematic caricature that Lu described as a "questionable [element] from the source material" (via Screen Rant). 

Despite the confirmation that Fin Fang Foom wouldn't play a part in the movie, there are some elements of the shape-shifting alien that the Dweller-in-Darkness embodies — namely the obvious dragon-like appearance. The link between the two characters hasn't been confirmed, but it definitely seems like Fin Fang Foom's physical qualities were mixed with the Dweller-in-Darkness's backstory and motivations, making for a bad guy that could go toe-to-toe with The Great Protector.

The impact of the Dweller-in-Darkness

In the climactic final battle of the film, the Dweller-in-Darkness is defeated by the combined efforts of Shang-Chi, his sister Xialing (Meng'er Zhang), his friend Katy (Awkwafina), and The Great Protector — but not before he manages to kill Wenwu. With the Dweller-in-Darkness out of the picture, fans may wonder what's next for the heroes of the film, and if there's any possibility of the demon's return.

Thankfully, it looks like the Dweller-in-Darkness was defeated once and for all, and it doesn't seem likely that he'll make a comeback in future films. However, that doesn't mean the threat is gone for the citizens of Ta Lo. The Dweller-in-Darkness was imprisoned behind the Dark Gate by The Great Protector thousands of years earlier, and the people of Ta Lo were tasked with guarding the being and ensuring the gate stayed closed. Although the Dweller-in-Darkness is gone, it's not clear if the gate itself is at risk of letting other dangerous creatures through, which would surely spell disaster for the city, since it's left in shambles after the final battle.

The post-credits scenes in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" also hint at future films involving Shang-Chi with other MCU heroes, so it's possible there will be more trouble in Ta Lo eventually — though the source is a mystery at this point.