All Hail the King, Marvel’s latest in their excellent One-Shot series, is a rather notable entry – in that it deals with the most controversial story twist in Marvel Studios history – the reveal in Iron Man 3 that fearsome terrorist leader the Mandarin was in fact a drug-happy, past his prime British actor called Trevor Slattery. It’s a twist that has cleaved fandom in two (for the record, I thought it was a neat way to spice up a slightly iffy villain) – and All Hail the King steps back right into the fray.
All Hail the King is, on the surface, a look at how Trevor’s been holding up. He’s locked up in Seagate Prison yet has a loyal crowd of followers, and is generally in a fairly good place as far as Trevor can see it – and to his pleasure, he’s starring in a documentary filmed by Jackson Norris, a seemingly innocuous reporter. There’s a lot of things that All Hail the King gets very right indeed – it’s very much a comedy, final scene excepted, and is chock-full of the one-liners and gags that you’d expect from Iron Man 3 screenwriter Drew Pearce.
Ben Kingsley is an absolute delight as the lovable yet slightly clueless Trevor – a man who’s pretty pleased with his massive cell, his personal ‘butler’ and the chance to lap up the attention he craves – there’s a brief glimpse of the menace we once saw in the Mandarin, but Kingsley is, like Trevor, a master of slipping into two entirely different roles, and it’s the contrast between the terrifying Mandarin and the rather tame Trevor that provides the crux of the comedy. We also get a hilarious look at Trevor’s past life in the form of the title sequence of a ‘failed pilot’ Slattery did for CBS – and let’s just say it’s a good thing the show wasn’t picked up in-universe.
MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE PICTURE
Of course though, the final scene of the short is the main thing you’ll remember after the credits roll – an intriguing reversal of Iron Man 3 as it’s revealed the Mandarin is (a real, (b alive, and (c rather angry Trevor nicked his name. It’s again, something that will likely split fandom – but it essentially provides the compromise some fans wanted – the Mandarin is indeed real in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Your mileage may vary, but this author thinks that while it is certainly a slightly disappointing back-track on what was undeniably a bold twist, it’s certainly a good move for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and actually manages to properly advance the canon. If Marvel do decide to make an Iron Man 4 or pop the Ten Rings in a future Avengers or Captain America movie, the option is now there for what sounds like a properly formidable villain to step into the fray once more. And maybe, this time, he won’t be a British actor.
There’s also the surprising yet welcome return of Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer in a mid-credits cameo – while Rockwell’s turn in Iron Man 2 wasn’t exactly memorable, it’s great to see a major character back, and even if Hammer’s cameo is brief, his hilarious ramblings about Trevor Slattery provide a nice bit of connective tissue between the movies.
SPOILERS END NOW
In summary, All Hail the King is a hilarious peek into the life of Trevor Slattery, with a witty script that also manages to significantly further the Marvel canon. Not bad for a 10-minute short.
All Hail the King is available on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray, out now.
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