Shane Black explains his version of The Mandarin

Contains major Iron Man 3 spoilers

Whether or not you were a fan of Ben Kingsley’s take on seminal Iron Man antagonist The Mandarin, there’s no denying that his portrayal provided one of the major talking points surrounding Iron Man 3.

For those who have yet to see the movie, turn back now, as the discussion gets a little spoilery from here on in...

While many were delighted by the switcheroo that revealed the fearsome terrorist to be a drug-addled old luvvie simply playing a part, others were predictably horrified by the diversion taken from the source material.

“I would say that we struggled to find a way to present a mythic terrorist that had something about him that registered after the movie’s over as having been a unique take, or a clever idea, or a way to say something of use,” says director Shane Black, defending the direction in which his film took the character.

“And what was of use about the Mandarin’s portrayal in this movie, to me, is that it offers up a way that you can sort of show how people are complicit in being frightened. They buy into things in the way that the audience for this movie buys into it.

“I think that’s a message that’s more interesting for the modern world,” continues Black, “because I think there’s a lot of fear that’s generated toward very available and obvious targets, which could perhaps be directed more intelligently at what’s behind them.”

For our money, Kingsley’s turn was always going to be a divisive one, but was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining parts of the film. And when an increasingly well-worn genre such as the superhero movie manages to surprise you, that’s surely something to be celebrated...

For more spoiler-y Iron Man 3 discussion, check out the TF team's video below:

What did you think of Kingsley's Mandarin? Tell us, below!

Comments

    • jaykays hat

      May 16th 2013, 7:00

      Shane Black is talking out of his a**e hole. He has ruined the Iron man trilogy and wasted one of the great Marvel super villains. Please God do not let this man anywhere near another super hero film.

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    • zuchersuuks

      May 16th 2013, 7:15

      too many problems with IM3 -- SPOILER 1 - agreed. The Madarin portrayal was messed up. Kingsley's performance was great, but they messed up Madarin 2 - Why the heck does Mark 47 needs to be charged when Tony Stark is wearing it? The Arc Reactor in his chest is supposed to power the suit! 3 - the explosion at Mann Chinese theater... dog tags should have melted. 4 - Tony Stark going thru PTSD because of the Avengers incident was NOT believable AT ALL. It was unintentionally comical. Downey Jr. is a great actor...for it to come out like that...falls on the director. 5 - Sharpel removed from Stark's chest -- common!! That's like Thor without Mjolnir!

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    • LSJShez

      May 16th 2013, 8:14

      I'm not even an Iron Man connoisseur and The Mandarin didn't sit right. It was a decent enough film, but nowhere near as great as the reviews made out.

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    • vinnym1980

      May 16th 2013, 8:57

      I never read any iron man comics so all i know about him is from the movies and what i remember from cartoons etc as a kid. I knew almost nothing about the Mandarin before but i thought the twist was a little over the top but apart from that i liked the film would give it 8 out of 10. I think its only the serious comic book geeks who were disappointed with it.

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    • Lampost

      May 16th 2013, 9:03

      Such a fantastic film, I applaud Black for going with that brave decision. I completely agree with his thoughts on terrorists in movies and the 'twist' in the film was spot-on. People who dismiss it need to get over it, to be quite honest. It's like someone watching The Sixth Sense and refusing to believe the twist at the end of that film. It's what happened so just roll with it. I get it, simple minded people don't like change and they don't like being fooled, but come on!

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    • chibik

      May 16th 2013, 9:44

      I loved this film and I also applaud Black for having the balls to use this twist. Also, if you want to talk about modernizing supervillains, I thought his version of the Mandarin was ten times more effective than Nolan's version of Bane in TDKR.

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    • CaptainCrazy

      May 16th 2013, 10:29

      Calm down, nerds. Let Uncle Crazy teach you a lesson: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. You're welcome. The Mandarin might still be out there...

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    • mattburgess

      May 16th 2013, 10:54

      It would be borderline epic if he turned out to have been the real Mandarin all along!

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    • FBAPedersen

      May 16th 2013, 11:00

      I've been reading Marvel comics for 40 years, and if there's one thing I've seen, it's that Marvel are perfectly capable of f*****g up their own characters with retcons and different versions. The Mandarin included. I thought Kingsley did an absolutely fantastic job, as always. And so did Black.

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    • trist808

      May 16th 2013, 11:04

      Well said Captain(not-so)Crazy ... it seems everyone has forgotten Raza (played by Faran Tahir) in the first Iron Man film. He got a nasty re-working of his face thanks to Stark, he was commander of the Ten Rings organisation and was wearing rings ... he could easily be moulded into the real Mandarin from the comics and would have more than enough reason to hate Tony and go after him. Plus he could turn against technology and turn to the mystical as a power-base. I know it's been reported that Shane Black felt they couldn't do the comic book version of The Mandarin properly, but with a bit of tweaking and taking things such as Thor and his world into consideration, there's no reason why they couldn't bring that version to the big screen. I think they were too lazy to figure it out and went with what they did. That said, I've been an comic book reader for over 30 years and I love Iron Man, yet I wasn't upset when I saw IM3, it worked in the context of the film and was genuinely funny. So, as a comic book nerd, let me say that we are not all reacting the same way. I enjoyed IM3 and loved Kingsley's performance and The REAL Mandarin could still be portrayed on screen ... plus I live two miles away from Croydon and saw the film at a cinema in Wandsworth and I've never heard a crowd roar with laguhter as much as I did on that opening night .... EVERYBODY got the joke, "His King Leir was the toast of Croydon ... wherever that is!" ... urm for us about 5 miles away .... comedy gold :)

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    • BennettsVest

      May 16th 2013, 11:14

      @trist808 Obadiah Stane killed Raza with that little sonic device mate. Even if he survived that, his squad of mercs executed everyone. Nice idea though!

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    • trist808

      May 16th 2013, 11:36

      Stane didn't kill Raza, the sonic device only paralised him and the squad of mercs could have taken too much time outside allowing for Raza to recover and make his escape. Later in the film when Stane uses it on Tony, he's only rendered immoveable for about 5/10mins or so and then he's able to move again ... so, it's possible Raza got away :)

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    • ajdriver

      May 16th 2013, 12:06

      I though the film pretty disappointing, regardless of how the Mandarin character was handled. Everything undone and fixed by a deus ex. The entire logic of the film was destroyed by that sequence. I was giving it a free pass on all the stuff you pointed out zuchersuuks but I couldn't turn my brain completely off.

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    • CaptainCrazy

      May 16th 2013, 12:10

      trist808 - very good theory indeed. I don't get why people complain about liberties taken in movies and expect the film versions to remain in stasis very much like comic book counterparts. No-one really complained when the first Iron Man changed some very fundamental things about Tony Stark. But now that Tony Stark is big business suddenly everyone has an opinion and become an expert on all things Iron Man. Yes, you sometimes get Batman and Robin if said liberties go one step too far however I have faith in talented people delivering the goods. If they don't, then they can always reboot...By the way, I lived in Croydon for a year and also have 30 years of comic reading under my belt. I'm a closet nerd - disgusting isn't it? :)

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    • SonnyRF

      May 16th 2013, 12:27

      Can he also explain why a) when Tony has ~35 suits at his disposal, the suits suddenly become severely weakened compared to the mk.3 (could withstand tank shells) and suitcase suit, which was merely scratched by whiplash's whips in IM2. One falls apart when it gets hit by a truck, which (from memory) is largely undamaged. And b) why Tony decides to get the ark reactor removed from his chest in this movie, I know it's symbolic of him "leaving Iron Man behind" for the sake of Pepper. In IM1 he gets the ark reactor, and maybe he likes it, it reminds his of the struggle he's been through, and he's lucky to be alive, by the time IM2 comes around the ark reactor is literally killing him, okay so maybe surgery would put his life at too much of a risk to perform it, a pretty loose way to solve the plothole, but one people will buy. IM3 completely negates almost the entire storyline behind IM2 with the quest to create a new ark reactor. Obviously he doesn't need the chestpiece to power the suit, because everyone else gets into the "Iron Patriot" armour. If someone could offer legitimate solutions to these plotholes it may put my mind at ease a little bit, and make me dislike the movie a little less.

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    • wibble

      May 16th 2013, 12:37

      I've never read any Iron Man comic books so had no idea who the Mandarin was. I thoroughly enjoyed IM3 (though the final fight was a bit meh) and thought the Mandarin twist was a hoot. Ben Kingsley stole that scene from RDJ (who usually is the one stealing scenes). It's been a gift that keeps on giving too, because I've found the subsequent nerdrage on message boards hilarious.

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    • SiMan

      May 16th 2013, 12:51

      I agree with CaptainCrazy and Trist808 - i thought the same thing after watching it. There's no reason there isn't a 'real' Mandarin still out there - maybe he's p*ssed off that the World thinks Stark beat 'The Mandarin'. Regardless of whether you thought it was ingenious or sacrilage what they did, you can't deny they played it really well. I had absolutely no idea from any of the trailers, rumours, clips out there that there would be a twist of this sort. I stll think they missed a trick though by not having him be the real villain. I'd have rather have seen Stark's man of science facing an enemy based on magic - throwing him completely out of his own comfort zone and giving him an enemy that he doesn't know how to defeat. Having another tech-based showdown was getting a little stale. Plus, i'm still not clear what Guy Pearce's Killian's motiviation was. He wanted to kill the president so that the vice-president would come into power and...what? Create more wars so that Killian could get rich by selling the Extremis soldiers? He could already sell them to anybody. In the World. Especially after the New York Avengers incident - wouldn't the governemeny happily take the Extremis program in the knowledge that there were bigger and more deadly foes in the universe?

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    • chibik

      May 16th 2013, 12:55

      @endofdays: I agree that Killian wasn't a great villain, but then I didn't think Iron Man 2's villain was particularly awesome either (he was good for laughs, though).

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    • BenTramer

      May 16th 2013, 13:05

      The twist with The Mandarin was a money decision so as not to alienate the new Chinese market. It was also a politically correct decision to change the character and dodge potential claims or racism. So they sacrificed the Mandarin character for the sake of a twist and cheap laughs and it harmed the movie overall. Guy Pearce's baddie just wasn't as good. So it was an error. I still don't know what all the raving by the critics was about. It was nowhere near as good as X-Men: First Class, Batman Begins or Raimi's Spider-Man 2 which are real superhero classics.

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    • TookieClosepin

      May 16th 2013, 14:43

      Iron Man 3 Rocked! I love what Shane Black did with it, taking a character who, as is, may have not worked well with the tone of this film and gave it a twist. I can't wait to see it again, and again then own the dvd.

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    • Hadouken76

      May 16th 2013, 15:02

      i agree with Hadouken76.. Pineapples do enhance the flavour of Gammon :)

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    • trist808

      May 16th 2013, 15:41

      I bet they'd go great together on a pizza though ...

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    • Hadouken76

      May 16th 2013, 16:04

      @endofdays sweet and sour is lush, @Trist808 I have never tried gammon on pizza, always thought it would be too heavy.

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    • trist808

      May 16th 2013, 16:26

      You do know that Gammon is a type of Ham right? You've never had Ham on your pizza? The next big slice of Ham you have you can nickname it Trevor Slattery :)

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    • Hadouken76

      May 16th 2013, 16:57

      Yeh but Gammon is too salty for pizza. Its like when the Chief of the cannibals confronted Gonadicus in Dr Strange Issue no 190, He was like "Oooh no I couldn;t, he'd put me right off me pudd. T'barn is on fire in T'meadow, someone save t' tractor "

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    • Ali1748

      May 16th 2013, 19:08

      This just stikes me of sheer laziness, I really don't see The Mandarin as this incredibly difficult character to bring to the screen at all. The thing that p****d me off the most is they copied the twist from Batman Begins with Ra's Al Ghul which worked perfectly, IM3's version just felt like one giant slap in the face to all the fans.

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    • trist808

      May 16th 2013, 19:13

      @Hadouken76, is that meant to be a Northern accent? LOL ... and it was #192 of Dr Strange (tut tut) ;)

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    • jrkinnard

      May 16th 2013, 20:44

      I absolutely LOVED the twist! Until that point I had been thinking, "This Mandarin is one of the weakest villains I can ever remember. He's just a boring paint-by-the-numbers terrorist baddie." And then the twist happens and it totally saved the movie for me. I'm so glad they had the guts to do something unexpected in the Marvel universe for a change.

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    • pussycatdoll

      May 16th 2013, 22:37

      I love all my comic-book movies, yes... Iron Man 3 is a decent enough movie, that i went and watch it few times in the big screen and in 3D each of the sessions too... That said, I have never really like live-action's take on most of them comic-book characters right from the start, some is perfect but some they tend to twist it to 'their likings', not the original comic-book original character-take... But all in all, i'm grateful that they are very much into making all the comic-book movies now. Its bloody time they start having FEMALE superhero films, with FEMALE leads!!!!....Its not all about bloody MEN....

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    • trist808

      May 17th 2013, 9:49

      Wow, somebody's on her period! Got one word for you luv: CATWOMAN ... nuff said!

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    • Ali1748

      May 17th 2013, 15:59

      pussycatdoll you must have missed Elektra.

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    • FightforKandor

      May 18th 2013, 13:43

      I land on the side of the people who disliked/hated the twist. The Mandarin is a huge villain in the Marvel universe and to make it almost impossible for him to actually exist now is stupid. Before the twist I thought Ben Kingsley's portrayal was the best of all the Marvel baddies so far. Way more than Loki, who I feel is massively overrated. Shame they ruined it though. Bring Red Skull back.

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