Spoiler Space offers thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot points we can’t disclose in our official reviews. Fair warning: This piece concerns the ending and post-credits stingers of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.
There’s plenty to discuss regarding the way Shang-Chi will fit into the larger MCU, and in the closing minutes of the latest Marvel film, we get a few indications of just how that will start happening. As it turns out, the cameo appearance from Wong (Benedict Wong) earlier in the film, where we see him making some extra cash by fighting in the underground cage circuit run by Li (Fala Chen), wasn’t just a one-off goof. At the end of the movie, Wong reappears to summon Shaun (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) back to Kamar-Taj, presumably to start schooling them in the ways of Avenger-affiliated superheroics. And then, in the first post-credits scene (mid-credits scene, technically, but let’s not quibble), the three of them are shown investigating the strange beacon coming from deep inside the rings Shaun has just inherited—a beacon sending a signal to somewhere unknown. And the two people studying the rings alongside them, present via hologram? None other than Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner.
Only, there’s something not quite right, and since the movie doesn’t make mention of it, we’re left wondering if there’s a future MCU plotline here. Bruce Banner still has his arm in a sling, just as he did at the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, the result of his snapping half of existence back to life with the Infinity Gauntlet. (Sorry, “Infinity Stones”; they never actually call it the Gauntlet, do they?) But that’s the point: We’re looking at Banner, not the Hulk. And not only is it not commented on, but it’s treated deliberately casually, as though this is just the way things are. MCU fans, however, will very distinctly remember that this is not the way things are: We were treated to a monologue in Endgame directly explaining why Banner had become the Hulk in body, if not mind, thanks to the scientist successfully (and permanently, it seemed at the time) fusing the “best of both worlds” together, brains and brawn. Here it is, in case you need a refresher:
So why is Bruce suddenly de-Hulkified in the new scene at the end of Shang-Chi? Has he been somehow zapped out of it? Did Banner decide to spend another 18 months in a Gamma Ray lab getting back to the way he was before? Or (most dastardly of all) was this just Marvel forgetting to spring for the cost of Hulk-ing up Mark Ruffalo again just for a short cameo? MCU head Kevin Feige has gone on record saying that it was important to everyone involved that the character of Shang-Chi be welcomed into the larger MCU, and to do so with a couple of big-name heroes. Unfortunately, there’s no explanation for the change in Bruce Banner, which leads us to suspect there’s a story there—one we’ll presumably be seeing in the near future. Though likely not in either The Eternals or Spider-Man: No Way Home, we suspect.