How does the Mandarin fit into Iron Man 2?
UPDATE! In what capacity will the villain be mentioned in the sequel? I'll give you a hint: it involves a ring and a weapons manufacturer. . .
I doubt there were any followers of Iron Man comics that didn't have a fangasm upon seeing the hero's greatest foe mentioned in his feature film debut. Not only was the Mandarin mentioned, but the limited backstory that was given made sense in the modernized telling.
Before I get into my hypothesis on how the ancient villain will appear in Iron Man 2, let me go over the details of what brought me to this point. First off, here are the three major mentions of the character from Iron Man:
1) The Ten Rings banner.
In the Marvel comics mythos, the Mandarin's personal weapons are his Ten Rings of Power that he wears simultaneously (one on each finger). Each ring has a different function (ice blasts, fire blasts, vortex control, etc.). Contrary to popular belief, the rings are not magical in nature but were created using alien technology. That's right, the Mandarin is a science-based villain through and through. The Mandarin's rings are the product of a dragon-like alien race from the planet Maklu-IV; whose technology surpasses Earth's exponentially. The rings’ functions cannot be explained or recreated by modern Earth science.
Marvel.com explains it a bit further: 'The Mandarin learned how to utilize the rings for own personal use and make them respond to his personal commands. Over the years, the Mandarin’s mind has actually come to inhabit the rings so that now no one else can make use of them. The Mandarin can also now control the rings over large distances.'
Did Jon Favreau change this story to make The Ten Rings simply an international terrorist organization? I highly doubt that and here's why:
2) Raza, leader of a Ten Rings cell
In the film's novelization, Raza (the man responsible for Tony Stark's captivity) mentions “…the man whose ring I wear.” This, of course, is a reference that the ring on his right ring finger belongs to the Mandarin. One ring down, nine to go. Which leads to the third revelation. . .
3) Jon Favreau's take on the Mandarin
It appears that the Iron Man director doesn't want to showcase the Mandarin as a solitary villain, but incorporate his into the story as the puppeteer behind all of Stark's opposition. He has stated that his version of the Mandarin in the movie series "allows us to incorporate the whole pantheon of villains." What does that mean to me? To put it simply, the Mandarin will have a connection to every villain Tony Stark faces.
Favreau also had this to say, "I look at Mandarin more like how in 'Star Wars' you had the Emperor, but Darth Vader is the guy you want to see fight. Then you work your way to the time when lightning bolts are shooting out of the fingers and all that stuff could happen. But you can't have what happened in 'Return of the Jedi' happen in 'A New Hope'. You just can't do it."
In regards to Iron Man 2, Favreau told the LA Times that 'The Mandarin is still in the background pulling the strings.'
Now, onto my belief of how the Mandarin is incorporated into this year's sequel. Two words: Justin Hammer.
Anyone who thinks that Whiplash is the central villain in the film hasn't been paying attention. Hammer is Stark's biggest industrial competitor. Hammer is willing to work with the government when Tony isn't. Hammer finds a way to free Ivan/Whiplash and have him finalize the 'new and improved' Iron Man-style robots. Hammer creates droves of robots and only he has the authority outside the government to send them after Iron Man and War Machine.
That being established, what would make me believe that Justin Hammer has anything to do with the Mandarin. It was just a little thing that has appeared in every video for Iron Man 2. Hammer is always shown wearing a bulky ring on this pinky finger:
Check out the trailers and Comic Con '09 clips for yourself; every scene that Hammer appears throughout the progression of the film shows him wearing the same ring.
Don't forget to take into account Jon Favreau's attention to detail with these films and his way of putting emphasis on something that is easily overlooked (i.e. the repetition of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division in the first film). Where Raza would handle the Mandarin's need for soldiers, Hammer would be his ally in the technological world. Of course, this could just be an example of a rich industrialist wearing his favorite overpriced jewelry.
But the association makes perfect sense. . . at least to me.
I'd like to know your thoughts on the matter. Am I over thinking this similarity or is it a realistic assumption that Justin Hammer is the second of the Mandarin's henchmen that we are introduced to?
UPDATE: A few users have brought up a solid point that I completely overlooked. In the Iron Man movie novelization, Obediah Stane removed Ten Rings cell leader Raza's bejeweled ring and wore it for the rest of the story. Though the ring Stane wears in the film looks different from the ring Raza wears, it's safe to assume that they look very similar for a reason. Why this was left out of the film has yet to be revealed. Remember that the Iron Man 2 novelization is due out in the beginning of April, so keep your eyes open for more hints on this theory.
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