Speculation regarding whether or not Iron Man’s arch-nemesis The Mandarin would appear in this summer’s Iron Man 3 was running rampant long before the first trailer was finally released. However, now that we know that Sir Ben Kingsley is going head-to-head with Tony Stark in writer/director Shane Black’s film, the real question is: Does the character deliver?

Both previous Iron Man films arguably featured weak villains that resulted in unsatisfying final battles. This time, Marvel is coming off of the epic Manhattan invasion in The Avengers, and it’s essential that the finale of Iron Man 3 keep that momentum going strong. We’ve previously heard nothing but praise for Kingsley’s performance as the leader of the Ten Rings.

Now, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly (via Comic Book Movie), star Robert Downey Jr. continues to single out Kingsley’s performance as one of the film’s greatest strengths. Here’s what he had to say:

“Sir Ben is probably going to steal the movie. There are a lot of contenders who may, but right now he’s probably at the top of that list. He came in as, obviously – speaking of training – as such a technically proficient instrument. And then what proceeded to happen was the release of more vintage, old-school Favreau [improv] stuff with a Shane Black twist on it. It was kind of frightening to witness, I’ll tell you that much.”

 

Much has been said about how chilling the Mandarin will be in the finished film, and casting such an acclaimed performer as the Oscar-winning Kingsley was clearly a smart move for Marvel. Downey’s comments indicate that Kingsley’s performance as the Mandarin could be more in line with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki than previous Iron Man foes, as some fans have hoped.

Furthermore, Downey’s comments regarding the fusion of Favreau’s and Black’s filmmaking styles is in keeping with what we’ve expected, given Favreau continued role as co-star and producer of Iron Man 3. The Mandarin’s appearance had, of course, been previously hinted at in the first Iron Man film. So it’s only fitting that the director who ushered in the franchise should see this storyline through to conclusion.

Iron Man 3 releases May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.

Source: Entertainment Weekly (via Comic Book Movie)