By Kendra James and Arturo Garcia
Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin via Comics Alliance
If you haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet and you remain blissfully unspoiled where it comes to the movie’s main villain, turn back now for there are major spoilers ahead. Unlike the marketing teams for certain other summer flicks (hi, Star Trek) Marvel and Disney did a good a job of hiding The Mandarin’s origins and plot line for you to ruin it for yourself now.
But here’s a clue: The Mandarin is not Khan.
For those of you who don’t know anything about The Mandarin aside from the Ben Kingsley casting controversy, I’ll let the Marvel wiki break it down briefly:
Born circa 1920, the future Mandarin was raised by his embittered aunt following his parents’ deaths, and as an adult he used his brilliance and family wealth to attain prominence in the Kuomintang Party’s reign over China. The Communist Revolution of 1949 cost him his position and power, although the population he had once commanded still regarded him with nigh-mystic awe. After years of seeking some means of regaining greatness, he ventured into the mysterious Valley of Spirits, where he discovered the millennia-old wreckage of a starship of the reptilian Kakaranatharian, or Makluan, extraterrestrial race, and the ten mighty rings which had powered the vessel
…Iron Man visited China to investigate the Mandarin for the U.S. government. Using the rings and his own combat skills, the Mandarin nearly defeated Iron Man, who nonetheless outwitted him and escaped. Soon after, the pair again clashed when the Mandarin pulled Stark surveillance missiles from the sky to use for his own purposes, then manipulated the Chinese government into test-firing a missile which, unknown to them, was intended to trigger world war, but Iron Man defeated him both times.
It’s your standard superhero/super-villain dichotomy after that. The Mandarin is to Iron Man as Lex Luthor is to Superman. China has always been an important part of his back story as his original base of power, and the Mandarin had always been portrayed as Chinese. So when it was announced that Ben Kingsley would be playing The Mandarin we were all, by rights, slightly perturbed to say the least. But after seeing the finished product, Arturo and I differed on how we watched it all play out.