Iron Man 3 might prove to be the most financially successful Marvel Studios production in between The Avengers and its summer 2015 sequel, but it may also be its most controversial. And it's all because of one major deviation from the source material.
Ever since Iron Man released in 2008, giving birth the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans of the comics and those who worked on the project were dying for the chance to properly introduce Iron Man's archenemy from the books known as the Mandarin. With Shane Black taking over the director's chair for the threequel and co-writing a script with Drew Pearce, they finally did, but not really.
In the biggest twist the Marvel Cinematic Universe has presented so far, Ben Kingsley's heavily advertised Mandarin character was a decoy, not only in the film but for moviegoers. Instead, the "cameo" appearance by new supporting character Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) was actually a major role and Killian ended up being the primary antagonist, even calling himself the Mandarin at one point in the final act of the film.
For Marvel Comics readers however, he was no Mandarin and according to the latest rumor, we still may meet the "real" one. Kingsley revealed last week that he was shooting a super secret project for Marvel Studios, one that involved the same crew from Iron Man 3. No details were revealed by the knighted actor outside of that but we speculated that it would be for a Marvel One-Shot short film that will likely come attached alongside the home video release of Thor: The Dark World or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
I even suggested that the fact Marvel would want to bring Kingsley's character of drugged out Brit actor Trevor Slattery back, and giving more attention to that somewhat touchy subject, would mean that perhaps Marvel wants to make up for the Mandarin adaptation (read: deviation). Perhaps they could turn Kingsley into the villain Mandarin we know from the books by giving him the 10 magic rings that the Iron Man franchise wanted to stay away from in its efforts to remain tech-based and not magical.
According to Latino-Review, most of what we theorized may in fact, be true with the one key difference being that someone else will be playing the Mandarin. They claim to have knowledge of the Marvel One-Shot Kingsley has shot and that it revolves around the "real" Mandarin being upset with Aldrich Killian and Trevor Slattery for tarnishing his name and if true, it could be used to introduce the idea of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something we know from talking to Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige is part of the Phase 3 plans after The Avengers: Age of Ultron. We're talking about Doctor Strange, a property that's not officially greenlit, but on that Feige confirmed is coming in Phase 3 alongside Ant-Man.
While introducing magic in a Marvel One-Shot is a neat way to do so, and is especially fitting if it comes with the Thor 2 DVD/Blu-ray, the idea of introducing another Mandarin (i.e. not Ben Kingsley) would be essentially retconning the story of Iron Man 3. Marvel Studios made a creative decision and them going back on one of that magnitude could be more problematic than bringing The Avengers' Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) back from the dead to star in his own TV Show. Then again, perhaps Marvel Studios is setting up for the inevitable Iron Man 4 in Phase 4 or whenever Robert Downey Jr. re-signs or is replaced after The Avengers 3.
Expect to find out more in the coming months. The only things we can confirm are that Ben Kingsley is making a return appearance in some unannounced live-action project and that there will be original content (Marvel One-Shots) coming with every home video release of a Marvel Studios movie. If it's not a short film or feature appearance, then Kingsley is going to appear in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and we don't find that very likely if whatever he shot was filmed with the Iron Man 3 crew.
Should Marvel Studios re-introduce a magic-based Mandarin or has that ship sailed?
Iron Man 3 is now available on home video. Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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