By now you will have seen the latest Iron Man 3 trailer (if you haven’t then head here to see it). It gives us a good look at Sir Ben Kinglsey as The Mandarin. Director Shane Black spoke about how tricky it was to make sure the character worked on the big screen.
Possible spoilers ahead.
I consider the fan base to basically be Marvel’s job. Mine is to be a fan and I am one and I have been from a young age, of Iron Man, so for me, I just please me and I hope that pleases the rest of the fans. It should. For instance, one of the joys for me has always been seeing how you take a villain from the comic book and realize him in a slightly more realistic way for the movie, render him for movies in a way that’s recognizable, but different. And that’s fun. Like the Joker in “The Dark Knight” is not the Joker from the comic book, but there’s just enough of him that you recognize him and go, “Wow, what a creative way of interpreting the Joker for motion pictures.” So that was our task here too. The fans love this character the Mandarin and we just said, “Well, what we don’t want is this potentially racist, stereotype of a Fu Manchu villain just waving his fist.” But we found a way, I think, to get an iteration of the Mandarin that we like. We got very excited about having cracked this story when we found out that we could include The Mandarin and give him a character that would be a perfect match, the ultimate Iron Man villain, but without relying too heavily on what the comic book stereotype was.
In the comic the Mandarin also has 10 rings which have various powers. The movie version does not seem to have those abilities. Black explained how it will work in the film.
The idea of just a real world interpretation of this guy who, I hate to break it to you, but he’s not from space in this. The rings are rings. They’re showmanship. They’re accoutrements. They’re paraphernalia of warfare that he sort of drapes himself with. He studies Sun Tzu. He studies insurgency tactics. He surrounds himself with dragons and symbols of warlords and Chinese iconography because he wants to represent this sort of prototypical terrorist. We use as the example Colonel Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now,” this guys who may have been an American, may have been a British National, someone who is out there doing field work, supervising atrocities for the intelligence community who went nuts in the field and became this sort of devotee of war tactics, and now has surrounded himself with a group of people over which he presides, and the only thing that unifies them is this hatred of America. So he’s the ultimate terrorist, but he’s also savvy. He’s been in the intelligence world. He knows how to use the media. And taking it to a real world level like that was a lot fun for us.
I cannot wait to see Iron Man 3 when it opens in the UK on 25th April. I hope they explain why the Mandarin has a Captain America shield tattoo on the back of his neck. Any theories?