EDITORIAL: Why the Mandarin in IRON MAN 3 is a Missed Opportunity

EDITORIAL: Why the Mandarin in IRON MAN 3 is a Missed Opportunity

We all know how Mandarin was handled in Iron Man 3. Despite departing from the source material, which is fine, I talk about why it was a missed opportunity.

Look, I actually liked Iron Man 3. I really did but the more I watch it, the more disappointed I am in the film. I still like it but I realize the potential it had and wish it had reached that potential. And despite the Mandarin retcon that happened in “All Hail the King”, I still think this a missed opportunity from a narrative standpoint.

We know that trilogies are the norm for stories in Hollywood. That trilogies tie up all previous stories into one final package, wrapped up all neat and tidy. For superhero movies, it seems like the origin is what gets them in the first film and then they go on to do their superheroic things in the second film, separate, almost entirely, from the first film, and then the third film revisits the origin.

So when Iron Man 3 seemed to revisit Iron Man with the Ten Rings organization and Mandarin as the leader of the Ten Rings, it was exciting. Iron Man was my favorite movie of the first phase prior to The Avengers. To flesh out the terrorist organization that Iron Man had been so successfully founded on would’ve been a perfect modernization of the Mandarin that would’ve narratively tied up his origin. Iron Man’s story would’ve reached its logical conclusion.

Instead, though, the Mandarin was turned into a punchline, not once, but TWICE (with Killian revealing he was the Mandarin and then getting hit the face by Pepper). Not only did this not bring closure to the Iron Man trilogy but it had ten of the most confusing minutes in the entire MCU. How did Tony suddenly remove all the shrapnel? Did he inject himself with Extremis? Why hadn’t he done it before if it wasn’t because of Extremis?

Obviously, we can appreciate that Marvel has gone back and revealed that the Ten Rings and the real Mandarin are still out there but it was revealed in One-Shots. These One-Shots often spawn television shows not plots that come to fruition in movies. Despite Marvel revealing this, we aren’t going to get another Iron Man solo film until Phase 4 (or so we can guess).

It’s just a shame for me. The trailers and advertising for the film were so good. I was alright with the corny jokes in the film, even at times that it didn’t seem entirely appropriate or seemed out of place. But after the first hour of the movie expired, it became a social commentary that is best used for Oscar winners. I know that Marvel has always used the strategy to tie their movies to real-world issues and that is clearly present with Captain America’s “Big Brother” issues in the next film (that I still haven’t seen, lucky Europeans). However, the first film did such a good job tying in Iron Man’s modern origin with something that was hugely threatening to us: terrorists. Not only did the third film entirely ignore it, it also went to make fun of the notion that terrorists are something to be feared in the first place.

And that is the biggest issue: it doesn’t even stay true to what had been established by the Iron Man trilogy already.

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