Iron Man 3: What people don't understand about this film
What people don't understand about Iron Man 3.
As we know Iron Man 3 has been in theaters for over 2 weeks and so far boxoffice returns have shown that the general audience at least liked the film for it to break records. Though many fanboys and comicbook geeks have bashed the film for a certain twist which disappointed and outraged many. I think that the twist worked perfectly for the tone of the film and we were given a villain whom had a real threat to not only Iron Man but the rest of the world. Aldrich Killian was a villain who actually could be very scary if he were a real life person, not some fake alien ring wielding idiot. I've heard people say Killian was a weak villain because they think he was just some nerd looking for revenge. If that is what you think then you didn't pay attention to the movie. Killian wasn’t just “upset” at Stark over some minor perceived offense. Killian THANKS STARK and repeatedly tries to get Stark to team up with him — he doesn’t hold a grudge, really, and only tried to kill Stark after Stark directly threatened to attack. But even then, he later keeps Stark alive and offers him a role in helping AGAIN. The importance of Stark dissing Killian in the past wasn’t that it made Killian hate him, that’s just fans totally misunderstanding the point of the scene and thinking it’s always got to be about the villain hating the hero for some simplistic reason. When Stark left Killian alone on that roof, the point is that Killian felt worthless and almost killed himself out of a sense of realization that his death wouldn’t even matter to anybody because nobody even really knew he was alive — but then he had an epiphany that this actually made him a mirror of Stark, an opposite side of the coin, with Stark being so public everybody knew him and targeted him while Killian realized that with anonymity he could accomplish anything so long as he used his anonymity to his advantage the way Stark conversely used his stardom to his advantage. Killian wanted power, he wanted to amass power without ever drawing attention to himself, THAT was his motivation, NOT “I’m gonna get back at Tony Stark for being mean to me once.”
The twist doesn’t fly in the face of Iron Man at all. The Ten Rings existed for many years, Killian has been building it up to create a new global terrorist threat to help him get more government money, more Extremis soldiers, etc. He was creating a supervillain version of Al Qaeda, basically, one that would require super-solutions like Extremis. The goal was to get more and more money to fund more and more research, and to create more and more Extremis soldiers who were actually loyal to HIM, Killian. And he’d have put a new president in office, giving Killian control over the White House. He’d literally control both sides of the global war on terror’s second stage of super-powered villains and soldiers. But he’d always be behind the scenes, controlling everything as the unseen hand of fate while the government and terrorists and other threats etc went about their business as the public face of things.
Killian is the Mandarin. The movie basically just changed him from being Chinese to being a white guy. And the reason for changing him is brilliant — in the comics, do you know how the Mandarin was originally created? He was created during the Cold War, after the Korean War and during the start of the Vietnamese conflict when the U.S. became gripped with fear that Chinese Communism was going to spread across Asia and take over the world. The paranoia was intense. Mandarin was created as a representation of the country’s fear of the Chinese and of Asian Communism in general, he was a Cold War stereotype basically. So, what did the film do? Had a white man create a fictional foreign stereotype villain to represent the country’s current biggest fears — foreign terrorists.
The Mandarin in the comics was literally created by white men as a representation of people’s fear of a foreign “menace,” and the Mandarin in the movie was created by a white man as a representation of people’s fear of a foreign “menace!” The *actual* Mandarin is also in the film, mind you — Killian is a man who was brilliant but unappreciated and who didn’t have the money or power to achieve his goals and was angry because of it, but who obtains advanced technology and grows in power, a man who becomes strong and superhuman in his abilities, a man obsessed with obtaining power to control the world and obsessed with obtaining technology to achieve his goals. At one point in the comics, the Mandarin carries out some of the same plot as in the film — using Maya to help him make an army of Extremis soliders, while simultaneously building a terrorist army around the world.
Imagine something for a moment — imagine if in the movie they’d cast a Chinese actor to play Killian, and it was revealed that he merely created the decoy Mandarin etc. With all of the other similarities to the character in the comics, would fans still be angry? Or would they more easily see that this is basically the same thing that “Batman Begins” did with Ra’s, having a smaller character from the comics (Ducard) turn out to be the REAL Ra’s al Ghul, and the foreign guy was just a decoy. Meanwhile, Ra’s was changed from an eco-terrorist sort of dude to a ninja-army vigilante. Ra’s was no longer immortal, lacking one of his most powerful and defining elements from the comics (the Lazaras pits), and he was turned into the man who trained Batman. Yet the Ra’s in the film was awesome and ultimately faithful to the core concept of the character, and most fans understand why the changes were made and totally accept it.
Well, the same thing was done with the Mandarin, but fans are mistakenly thinking the Mandarin didn’t exist and the Ten Rings organization wasn’t “real.” But Mandarin WAS in the film, and the organization WAS real, it just had a decoy to distract everyone from the REAL Mandarin, who had many elements from the comics. But he couldn’t be portrayed exactly the same, because that character was problematic for various reasons including how he was first created. So instead, the film said, “Well let’s literally create him the same way — let’s make a guy who is an INTENTIONAL stereotype, created by the REAL Mandarin as a ‘menace’ who looks and sounds like what we EXPECT the villain to be, as a distraction from the real threat!” And it worked, and it’s one of the most original and surprising twists on a villain in comic book films, although we SHOULD have realized it since it’s been done before — why didn’t we realize it this time, though? Because it fed into our expectations of fears and menace, that’s why. The film KNEW we’d assume he was the real Mandarin, because he looked and sounded like the stereotyped cliche of foreign terrorist menaces that we have in our minds. The film made us come face to face with those biases and expectations, and showed how a smart enemy could subvert our expectations and use us without us realizing it until it’s too late.
Tell me, how many superhero movies try that hard to make a story and villain so relevant to our modern world and to offer us a commentary on how villains can subvert our expectations to defeat us? How many superhero villains show that a really smart supervillain might be the one pulling the strings from behind the scenes without us every realizing it, and that if we let our biases and narrow expectations cloud our vision we won’t see the threat until it’s too late — like what happened to Tony in the film! This isn’t a film that disrespects or insults fans, it’s a film that has higher expectations for the characters and the fans, and expected everyone to see the narrative themes and understand them and think about them deeply. Watch the film again, think about this stuff while you watch it, and see if you don’t come out with an “ah ha! now I see the point!” moment, while also seeing a lot more clearly how Mandarin is really in the movie after all, and that they just made a brilliant alteration to help more literally represent the character’s comic book origins as a stereotyped villain who represented the “fear of the day.” The second time I saw the movie, I caught even more references and little nuances that fueled the whole concept, it’s great! And remember those great Chinese dragon tattoos on Killian’s chest, haha! ;)
I hope this clears some of this up and you are able to think about it some more and come to at least appreciate what the film tried to do, even if you still don’t personally like it as much as if they’d just done a straight-up adaptation of the character as-is from the comics.
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