Despite its overall positive reception, Iron Man 3 has had its fair share of detractors, from people simply thinking it could have been better to those who scream bloody murder that it’s one of the worst comic book movies of all time. Yeah, I know you guys are out there.
One of the primary reasons for their discontent was the treatment of The Mandarin, Iron Man’s arch-nemesis from the comics. Rather than play him as the terrorist mastermind that he appeared to be in the trailers, Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was revealed to be nothing more than a drug addicted actor named Trevor Slattery who was hired by Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian to be the public face of his terror campaign. By the end of the film, Killian proclaimed himself the true Mandarin, but other than having some dragon tattoos, it didn’t really work.
Well, some of the fans may have hated this plot twist, but one year after its release, Pearce is quite okay with it, primarily due to no previous attachment to the character.
Personally, I loved it, and I was never a comic book fan growing up, so I have no attachment to the [Mandarin]. I mean, I get it. The loyalty to those characters, I totally get it, but based on the sort of single-entity movie — and particularly based on Ben Kingsley’s performance — I just adored what that turned into. But I do certainly understand that some diehard fans kind of went, ‘Aww… Come on!’ [Laughs]
If you look at the twist from a purely storytelling perspective, then it certainly was surprising. However, this film took one of the most global villains from Marvel Comics and turned him into a joke. Look, I’m like Pearce. I wasn’t really a Mandarin fan, and I did think Kingsley’s performance was funny, but I won’t kid myself: Iron Man 3 spat in the face of the Mandarin. There’s no way around that. So yeah, it’s understandable the diehard fans went “Aww… Come on!”
The Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King has since stated that the true Mandarin (yes, apparently he’s the real deal) is still out there and is pissed that Slattery made a mockery of him. Whether writer Drew Pearce had this planned the whole time or simply caved into the audience fury is unclear, but unless we get Iron Man 4, our chances of seeing the truly badass Mandarin are slim. It’s a damn shame.