Marvel fans know that Iron Man 3 will prove to be a turning point for the studio's efforts. Following the record-breaking success of The Avengers, Tony Stark's latest adventure has the responsibility to continue raising the stakes and proving to audiences that a single superhero can be just as compelling as a whole team of them.
One way in which the film will attempt to outdo last year's blockbuster event is by presenting an even more action-packed finale than the New York battle of The Avengers. However, Iron Man 3 will also broaden the scope from an American threat to a more global presence. This has, of course, been somewhat assumed ever since The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) was confirmed to be the film's primary antagonist.
That character (as his name might suggest) has his roots in China, and in order to maintain a level of authenticity with Shane Black's superhero sequel, parts of Iron Man 3 were even filmed in the country. Commercially-speaking, this would also help the film earn a Chinese release, as the country only allows a limited number of foreign movies (including Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained) to see release there. It even appeared for a while that the film would be a Chinese co-production.
However, Marvel has now announced that the studio has declined the opportunity to file Iron Man 3 as a co-production with Beijing-based DMG Entertainment, with whom Marvel collaborated on the film's Chinese elements. Still, the film marks the latest entry in Marvel's flagship franchise – and its first of two 2013 efforts, the other being Thor: The Dark World – so overseas grosses, including those in the growing Chinese film market, will be a critical part of the success.
Therefore, the film will release different versions in both the U.S. and China. Both will feature Chinese actor Wang Xuegi, but the Chinese one will include scenes featuring actress Fan Bingbing and additional footage specifically tailored for Chinese audiences.
From a marketing standpoint, this move is a no-brainer for Marvel. Given the central role that China plays in The Mandarin's backstory and Iron Man comics as a whole, it makes perfect sense for the studio to release a slightly tailored version of the film that will play up those elements a bit more and offer an incentive for Chinese audiences to see the film. It's also quite unlikely that any of this added footage will drastically affect the story of the film or result in any foreshadowing "button scenes" that will hint at what's to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At the end of the day, however, Iron Man 3 is a long-term investment for Marvel, and releasing a slightly different version in China – especially considering the assistance the studio received for DMG – is a smart business move for a company that has made a reputation for smart business decisions in the past few years.
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 and Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015.