While “Iron Man 3” may have gotten hate from some Marvel fans, the way that is spun the Mandarin character around created quite a shift in how they would be approaching supervillains. If you look at how the box office numbers jumped in the films coming after “Iron Man 3” more fans proved to like it. Many thought that some of the weakest aspects of their films were its villains even though they were played by amazing actors like Tim Roth and Christopher Eccleston. It wasn’t the acting that was the problem, it’s that the Marvel villains weren’t nearly as well developed so they were less memorable.
Nearly all Marvel fans would agree that Iron Man’s arch-villain in the comics is The Mandarin. An Asian villain, presumably Chinese (unless Disney is afraid that would offend China which would block it from that lucrative market). So in this racially-sensitive society featuring a stereotype character is a no-no. The Mandarin in the comics is as stereotypical as you can get from his name alone. So Marvel/Disney needed to get around that and maybe mix in some real-world issues like terrorism and extremism. And despite the idea of aliens existing after the first Avengers film, Marvel still went for the more grounded approach. Thus ticking off fans.
I think most of us can agree that “Iron Man 3’s” Mandarin turning point created the more developed and interesting villain in the MCU. Would we have gotten such great rounded out rivals like Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) or the Vultue (Michael Keaton). These were villains who we understand and we knew what their motivations were. While having a villain be a villain works fine in horror film, it doesn’t work in Marvel’s world. We fans demand a lot, and that demand has really given us some great films all the way up to “Avengers: Endgame.” Marvel, you can thank us with more great films.
Yes, I know that partway through “Iron Man 3” we found out that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was a fraud (he was actually Trevor Slattery, a drunken Brit actor hired by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) to take on a terrorist person to mask his illegal human experiments.
Interestingly, the Mandarin didn’t end there as in “Thor: The Dark World” blu-ray, Slattery does come face to face with the actual Mandarin in a high-security prison. This Mandarin was not liking what Slattery has been doing with his reputation.
It might be hard to remember, but Iron Man wasn’t even one of the bigger Marvel superheroes making the Mandarin just as unknown.
So, who is The Mandarin exactly apart from the character we’ve seen in Iron Man 3? He’s a powerful villain of descended from Genghis Khan. He would probably be just one of many Asian warlords if not for his Ten Rings of Power which are alien in origin that he acquired from a crashed alien ship. Asian warlord and ten alien rings. The primary ideas for The Mandarin. If today’s audience ever saw the 60s cartoon, a whole lot of people would be offended. So in “Iron Man 3,” we get Sir Ben Kingsley. A Caucasian version of the villain apparently invested in oriental culture. Good enough. He was seen wearing ten rings. Correct so far and his portrayal before the second act was very convincing. Great. Then we find out he was nothing more than a goofy actor hired to portray the part. A great twist for casual audiences but terribly disappointing for those in the know.
Looking back now, I’ll admit to being one of the disappointed fans and that the film was somehow Disneyfied when they involved a child in Tony Stark’s adventure. But Iron Man 3 was entertaining at best and it has grown on me. As a consolation to fans, Marvel Studios gave us a short film called All Hail the King (above) where Ben Kingsley’s character was freed from jail by the men of the real Mandarin. The follow-up to this remained in limbo for years, perhaps to be forgotten.
The real news here however, is that we will ‘eventually’ get a real Mandarin according to Marvel Studios big boss Kevin Feige. He may make an appearance somewhere during the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given that aliens are an established fact, The Mandarin’s alien rings no longer seem outlandish and if Marvel plays its cards right, the racial stereotype should no longer matter. Besides, why not call an Asian villain, The Mandarin?
Feige confirmed that Slattery’s face to face with the Mandarin is canon and the real one is waiting to strike back. With Iron Man gone, who exactly would the Mandarin fight again. Maybe he’ll play a part in “Shang-Chi,” Marvel’s first Asian starring superhero film. We’ve heard it rumored that Mandarin could be Shang-Chi’s daddy. This coming together makes the most sense bringing those Ten Rings that first appeared in “Iron Man” into that film.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this but, isn’t it a bit late? The Mandarin is Iron Man’s arch-villain and Iron Man is no longer with us unless they have an idea for a replacement. Not pushing through with “Iron Man 4” during Phase 3 was a missed opportunity. Then again, the way “Iron Man 3” ended, they seem to have really planned to cap off a trilogy.
It will take some work for Marvel to approach the original Mandarin in today’s hypersensitive world, but I have to give “Iron Man 3” their due for giving a deconstructed look at the character along with the stereotypes expected from movie terrorists.