‘Iron Man 3’: Was The Mandarin Twist Really That Bad?

Folks on the internet are circulating a meme with Keanu Reeves, who has about 15 guns pointed at his head. This prompts the question, “What opinion of yours gets this reaction?” That has given rise to the idea that the big twist in Iron Man 3 isn’t that bad.

That Marvel movie has faced sharp criticism for how it handled its ostensible villain, a shadowy, Bin Laden-like figure called The Mandarin. Lately, there has been a push from fandom suggesting the initial negative reactions were, as they often are, overstated.

Why were fans mad at ‘Iron Man 3?’

Sir Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley | Francois G. Durand/WireImage

When the third Iron Man film came out in 2013, opinion on it was divided. Fans were anxious about it because it was the first Iron Man movie not to be directed by Jon Favreau, his replacement being Shane Black, who wrote the original Lethal Weapon and who had directed Robert Downey Jr. in the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Black has a distinctly different style than Favreau, with Black being more apt to go against the grain. 

And that he did with his portrayal of the Mandarin. The terrorist seems to be behind a series of bombings, but he’s only ever seen in disturbing videos and not in the flesh. When he finally is, he turns out not to be the Mandarin at all, but an actor named Trevor. The real mastermind is Guy Pearce’s character, Aldrich Killian. 

To say that fans were annoyed would be an understatement. In the comics, the Mandarin is considered one of the top villains, and to see him reduced to a media joke felt like blasphemy, particularly because it seemed like the esteemed Ben Kingsley would have been terrific as an honest to goodness Mandarin.

To many fans, this rendition of the character felt like a wasted opportunity. The movie was a big hit, of course, but it has never been able to escape the shadow of the Mandarin controversy. 

What do fans say about the Mandarin now?

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On a Reddit thread about unpopular MCU opinions, one fan wrote, “The Mandarin twist is the only part of Iron Man 3 that works.” Takes don’t get much hotter than that, but many fans agreed, with one fan saying that even as a fake, “Sir Ben Kingsley saved that movie.”

A fan elaborated, “To me, the Mandarin twist is a clever re-invention of a problematic character who in the comics became Iron Man’s archenemy by default because his rogues gallery is incredibly shallow.”

Still, another fan couldn’t get past the twist, saying he almost walked out of the movie when the Mandarin turned out not to be the Mandarin. “It was just such a slap in the face to fans, who had been looking forward to Tony facing one of his greatest villains, since they named dropped the 10 Rings in IM1. Not to mention, in the long run, the movie’s plot meant f— all since Tony just went right back to being Iron Man again in (Age of Ultron).” 

The Mandarin will appear in ‘Shang-Chi’ 

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige didn’t get where he is by not having his finger on the pulse of the fans. That’s not to say everything he does is right, but he proved at San Diego Comic-Con last year that he does listen to fans. When he introduced Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as an upcoming movie, he promised the real Mandarin would be the foe this time, while also pointing out the Ten Rings had been in the MCU from the very start. 

The movie, like all upcoming Marvel movies, has been pushed back by the pandemic. In fact, it was thought at one time director Destin Daniel Cretton might have the disease, but this turned out not to be the case, according to Deadline.

The movie originally was supposed to come out in early 2021, but it has been pushed back to July 9.