EARLY REACTION: 'Iron Man 3' − The Mandarin Is Marvel Studios' Most Daring Super Villain Yet

Iron Man 3 screened in Times Square last night, and though it's practically impossible to talk about the Mandarin without spoilers, I've got to say that he is the most daring creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. As Ben Kingsley, who portrays the villain, said again and again and again in the trailers, "You will never see me coming," and that line resonates even more now that I've seen the movie.

Director Shane Black, who also co-wrote the movie with Drew Pearce, created a character that took me completely (and happily) by surprise. And, after all that blogosphere grousing — myself included — about casting the half-British, half-Indian Kingsley in the role of a character that, based on the Marvel comics universe,  is a China-born descendant of Ghengis Khan, the Oscar-winning actor turns out be a genius bit of casting. There's only one other actor I could imagine doing justice to the part, but I'm going to hold off on sharing his name for now for fear that his body of work would be too much of a clue.  Maybe I'll drop it in the comments section after the picture opens.

The Mandarin: A True 21st Century Villain

I have a feeling Black and Pearce's construct for the Mandarin is going to piss off a lot of comic-book purists (while, at the same time, making die-hard fans of The X Files smile),  but I applaud them and Marvel Studios for taking the chance. The Mandarin turns out to be a villain for the media-saturated, perception-is-reality 21st Century, and that's a lot more memorable (and unsettling) than some dude with magic rings.  I wish I could write more about this, but that's about as far as I can go without spoiling a key chunk of the movie.

What did I think of Iron Man 3 overall?   I liked it, but it didn't blow me away. In part, I wish that Marvel, Pearce and Black had taken even more chances with the movie.  In addition to the Mandarin storyline, Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts character gets an interesting subplot, but the movie's ending left me with the distinct impression that  Marvel is so concerned about messing with the success of the Iron Man franchise that it waffled on really exploring the possibilities.

Superhero Movie Saturation Point

There's another factor, too, that is largely personal. My enjoyment of digital effects laden superhero movies is approaching its saturation point. Despite being one of those scrawny, bespectacled geeks who came of age poring over The Amazing Spider-Man and Deathlok The Demolisher,  I've reached a point in life where movies about human struggles are vastly more engrossing than superhuman ones.

Downey and the Iron Man franchise remains my favorite of the genre because the actor brings so much humanity and wit to his character, and so, besides the surprising Mandarin reveal, I was grateful for the subplot involving Tony Stark's mostly unsentimental relationship with a wisecracking Tennessee boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins) whose aid he enlists. My favorite line from the movie, which evoked a mixture of gasps and laughs from the audience, came when Harley reveals his fatherless existence to Stark.  "Dads leave," Downey replies. No need to be a pussy about it."  I'll remember that line long after the action sequences have faded.

The Problem With Trailers

And they are already fading. Let's just say that an army of Iron Men is cool to behold, but it does not necessarily make for better action sequences. But what does? The first effects-rendered action sequence that has turned my head in a long time is the scene from the most recent Pacific Rim trailer in which a Jaeger robot uses an oil tanker as a Louisville Slugger to bash in the skull of a Kaiju.   Speaking of trailers, they diminish the impact of some of the best action sequences in Iron Man 3 (and other tentpole movies) because they reveal too much play for months before a movie's release.

By the way, I think most moviegoers will disagree with my assessment of Iron Man 3 based on the reactions of the crowd that saw the movie with me.  The 3D glasses that were being passed out came in a number of collector's variants, and entering the theater, I encountered a scrum of moviegoers jostling each other to get a particular version.  During the movie, the crowd's reaction was enthusiastic and, after watching the disappointing post-credits scene with Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner, I heard a middle-aged woman excitedly telling someone on the other end of her cell phone, "I can't wait to see it again."

If you've seen Iron Man 3, let me know what you think in the comments section.

More on Iron Man 3

'Iron Man 3': Is The Mandarin An Extremist Fringe Republican?

Marvel Studios Says Iron Man 3 Villain The Mandarin Isn't Chinese, He's International

Iron Woman? If Pepper Potts Has A Future In Armor, She Needs To Kick Villain Ass

REVIEW: 'Iron Man 3' Proves Its Mettle Despite Symptoms Of Franchise Fatigue

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  • CBFAN! says:

    It was ridiculous. I won't spoiler the twist, but i hated it. It completely ruined the movie for me. I expected much more. The movie was a real letdown. It isn't even a contender for movie of the year.

    • Rony Glen Rodriguez says:

      I totally agree, they have to at list know who the characters are , and not just change them as they please, it ruined the movie for me, and it make Ironman look week etc. etc

  • Frank DiGiacomo says:

    Interesting. I wish we could discuss this more. Perhaps next week. I never expected this to be a contender for movie of the year, but I did expect to have more fun than I did.

  • Thought it was amazing. Everyone is saying how much they hated the twist, and I must admit it took me by a huge suprise!!! But the more you look at it and the more you watch the trailers, the more you realise how clever it is. Not too happy with the ending- not the ending in general but one part of it. Something that is removed let's say...Overall though I thought it was amazing! Very funny- already seen it twice. Think they could've developed the villians a bit more but I really hope we see this film do well- afterall it's not easy to create the third installment of such a popular franchise and please eveyone...ESPECIALLY after the huge success of the Avengers!!!

  • Morgan Wong says:

    Can you explain why The Mandarin made you think of The X-Files? I just can't figure that one out.

    The movie was okay, but it was a little bit of a letdown. While the other 2 Iron Man movies and The Avengers had humor, this one is a comedy through and through. The real problem with the movie though, is the Extremis lava soldiers. Their powers were inconsistent through out the movie. Sometimes they were unkillable, sometimes they would just die, sometimes they gained superstrength, sometimes they could puke lava.

    • Frank DiGiacomo says:

      Re: "The X-Files," I thought the whole Mandarin construct was a kind of comic take on The Syndicate and the Smoking Man. Aldrich Killian is a one-man Syndicate -- he exerts his power anonymously -- and his "Smoking Man" is the bumbling actor Trevor, who portrays the Mandarin. I realize it's not an apples to apples comparison, but I certainly thought of Chris Carter when the IM3 plot twist was revealed.

  • Tommy says:

    The Mandarin was Iron Mans chief super villain in the comic book and what the film has done to that character by making him into a parody/joke is a betrayal of the comic book.

  • JF says:

    I really thought that this movie was one of the worst marvel superhero entry in a long time. Perhaps it was because it had to follow behind Whedon's stellar "The Avengers" or perhaps RDJ's schtick is finally wearing thin. On the other hand, I liked what they did with The Mandarin here although it was predictable. But like one of the comments mentioned, how does Ben Kingsley's Mandarin reminded you of "The X-Files"?

  • ND says:

    we are the last country in the world to see this movie, how funny is that!!!!!!!!!!!

  • saha we says:

    mandarin is actually conned artist..booooyaa!!

  • Rudi says:

    This movie is as entertaining as hell...in good way. Well, I agree with the author, while it deviates from the comic, the director of this movie sure know how to twist his imagination to the current events of the world. That's more realistic from dude with ten rings, which make him the lord of the rings. Okay joking aside, I'll say this again, This movie is, while not the greatest movie out there, entertaining in its own way. (I'm looking forward for the rise of the next hero, The Red Hot Pepper!!)

  • Ben says:

    First have of the movie was very good and intriguing. The 2nd half was a let down. the mandarin!! come on big dissapointment. the bad soldiers very weak. I love Tony and his character development but the movie was 3 out of 5 for me

  • eljune c.balana says:

    for me iron man is good movie to watch for everyone cause i im the idol of iron man and im very happy to watch when the actor tony stark she wear the iron man suits.

  • john vincent r. gallemit says:

    i really, really like movie
    because of the graphics and effects are amazing
    cool stuff for me

    hundred percent cooool

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