Some Fans Think ‘Iron Man 3’ Is Still the Most Underappreciated MCU Film

Could a single character torpedo a film’s reputation? To hear Marvel fans talk about Iron Man 3, the answer is yes. However, with many fans social distancing and re-watching the MCU, the third Iron Man movie is coming in for a reevaluation.

The villain in Iron Man 3 was supposedly the Mandarin, as played by Ben Kingsley. That highly regarded comics villain didn’t turn out the same way in the movies as he did on the printed page 

Now that Marvel has promised to do right by that character, that might be a factor in the third Iron Man being seen in a more positive light. 

How did ‘Iron Man 3’  fare when it came out

Robert Downey Jr. at an event
Robert Downey Jr. | Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

It might surprise some fans to realize that Iron Man 3 is actually the second-most successful of the three movies, according to The Numbers.  The first movie, which kicked off the MCU in 2008, made $318 million here.

Iron Man 2 did actually dipped slightly, making $312 million, but Iron Man 3 rebounded with a solid $409 million. The third movie was an even bigger success internationally, becoming the first of the series to make more than $1 billion. 

The third Iron Man movie scored a solid 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus stating, “With the help of its charismatic lead, some impressive action sequences, and even a few surprises, Iron Man 3 is a witty, entertaining adventure and a strong addition to the Marvel canon.” 

By comparison, the original Iron Man scored 94 percent, while the second Iron Man brings up the rear with 73 percent, ranking above only The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World. If any Iron Man movie was received relatively poorly, it was the second, not the third. The second is probably best remembered for introducing Black Widow and not much else. 

Why were fans mad about the Mandarin? 

Back in 2013, however, Iron Man 3 made some fans angry. The trailers made a big show out of a terrorist called the Mandarin, making it look like the fan-favorite would be the main bad guy.

However, Iron Man 3 pulled a bait and switch: it turned out he was an English actor named Trevor Slattery, who had no idea of the ill doings being made via his image. The real villain was Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce of LA Confidential fame.

Ironically, Killian was the creator of a virus called Extremis, which only seems all the more timely now given the COVID-19 pandemic that has ground Hollywood, and much of the rest of the world to a halt. Some fans were angry that the “real Mandarin” was not the villain. 

Kevin Feige was keenly aware of the uproar this caused, to the point that when he appeared at Comic-Con last year to introduce the movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, he promised that this time the movie would feature the real Mandarin.

Ironically, Shang-Chi’s production has been halted by the coronavirus, and at one point it was feared that director Destin Daniel Cretton might have it, though that turned out not to be the case. 

How do fans feel about ‘Iron Man 3’ now?

Having watched Iron Man 3 again recently, some fans on Reddit have warmer feelings toward it than they once did. One fan said, “Iron Man 3 still stands as a fun buddy cop movie with a genuinely great performance from Ben Kingsley.” That comparison is apt, since the director of Iron Man 3 was Shane Black, who wrote the original Lethal Weapon

Another fan said, “This movie re-grounded the MCU after there was a giant alien battle for the fate of the world (in the first Avengers). I didn’t grow up reading comics, so I wasn’t as invested in bringing the Mandarin to the MCU. I get why people were disappointed to find out he was just Trevor, but I thought it was a really fun twist!”

Provided the coronavirus doesn’t delay Shang-Chi too far, we should see the real Mandarin in early 2021.