The Mandarin's Tattoo
There's no mistaking the tattoo adorning the back of Sir Ben Kingsley's neck as the Mandarin, Tony Stark's new nemesis: that's a Captain America logo with an 'A' reminiscent of the one atop Stark Tower (or the iconic 'A' used by anarchists), last seen in The Avengers. We're going to bet that the Mandarin isn't the head of the Steve Rogers fan club, so the exact meaning of the mark has caused an uproar among fans. But Marvel studio head Kevin Feige provided clues to its meaning when the decision was first made to cast a non-Asian actor as the new antagonist: "It's less about his specific ethnicity than the symbolism of various cultures and iconography that he perverts for his own end." It's not much to go on, but it seems far more likely that the Mandarin has adopted the symbol of Earth's Mightiest Heroes as yet another opportunity to co-opt a cultural icon for his own twisted purpose.
The Weight of Genius
The first time it was revealed that Warren Ellis' Extremis story line would be used for the plot and conflicts of Iron Man 3, we were elated. Hailed as one of the best Iron Man stories to date, its emphasis on Tony Stark's evolving perception of what his powers really are, and how a human being so inextricably linked to technology can develop a sense of identity. From the trailer, the journey looks every bit as trying and addictive as it was in the comics. Tony fusing his body with the Extremis nanovirus (he is seen going in for the procedure in the trailer as well) will obviously be an important element of the film, even if Guy Pearce maintains his role as Aldrich Killian is simply "cameo stuff." Clearly the procedure will work its way into Tony's personal life. Whether the armor components next to the bed are a sign that Tony can't feel at ease without his armor close enough to immediately suit up, or that he's obsessed with perfecting his creation, expect to see a more frayed and fragile Stark this time around.
Air Force One Attack
The attack on the airplane depicted in the trailer was one action sequence recently spoiled by a Marvel insider (lending credence to the rest of his claims), but requires further inspection. At first glance the image of Iron Man's hand tearing into the plane and attacking a gunman, and the Iron Patriot-armored Colonel Rhodes attacking yet another seems treasonous. Many are already citing the scene as proof of the Mandarin's ability to take over Stark's arsenal of flying suits. There's plenty of reason to suspect sabotage when it comes to the forty other Iron Man suits rumored to appear, but that doesn't seem the case here. For starters, Iron Man is seen rescuing the passengers of the aircraft - likely Air Force One - moments after they begin falling. And the unnamed individual at the receiving end of Iron Man's opening salvo? He's sporting a black t-shirt and Kevlar vest, which doesn't seem like a Secret Service uniform. What's most likely depicted here is Iron Man and War Machine foiling an attack by the Mandarin on the President, and if the rumors hold true, the action sequence ends with some incredible aerial problem-solving on Tony's part.
Two of the shots featured in the trailer that left us stunned were those featuring a moving Iron Man suit clearly not being operated by Tony Stark. But the context and nature of the Extremis virus offer an explanation that could be incredibly inspired. On a broad level, the Extremis 'virus' heightens brain activity and cognitive speed, making Tony Stark's subconscious far more active than a normal person's. Add the telekinetic connection with his armor, and Tony's subconscious suddenly has a physical form to take, and a means to manifest itself. The suit is first seen pulling Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) off of a sleeping Tony, having possibly assembled itself in his sleep to defend him (is the ensuing fight that leaves the armor scattered at the bedside?). Following the destruction of his Malibu home and Pepper being placed in danger, Tony is shocked to see the armor looming over him, prepared to fight. If this really is the relationship being hinted at - between Tony and the parts of himself he won't acknowledge - then the possibility for character development and confronting demons is truly exciting.
The Ten Rings
Ever since the terrorist organization that kidnapped Stark in the first Iron Man was shown to bear the name 'The Ten Rings,' an appearance of the Mandarin has been expected. We've gone into depth on the reasons for and against the Mandarin relying on the magical rings he utilizes in the comic books, with the grounded approach to this facet of the Marvel universe shedding off most sources of mysticism. We're still going to suspect that the rings are merely a sign of wealth and power (as they usually are), since the Mandarin doesn't even wear them in every shot of the trailer. Most likely included as a nod to fans. The rumors so far have Mandarin incorporating the same Extremis virus into his own body, granting him strength akin to Stark. But with growing reports claiming the final showdown will involve armies, not a one-on-one fight, we'd bet that the Mandarin's powers will mostly be seen through weaponry, not magic or cybernetic enhancements.