A week ago, we wrote about how Ben Kingsley was working on a secret project for Marvel, and speculated that the project may be a new One Shot short film for an upcoming Blu-ray/DVD release. If the guys at Latino-Review are to be believed – and they typically are when it comes to Marvel scoops – this is indeed the case: but there’s even bigger news here that demands discussion.
(Spoilers for Iron Man 3 ahead.)
In Shane Black’s summer blockbuster, it was revealed that Ben Kingsley’s version of The Mandarin was nothing more than a goofy actor named Trevor Slattery. Undercutting the legacy of Iron Man and Mandarin’s comic book battles in the movie version of this story was one of the most creatively interesting story decisions Marvel has ever made, but I know there were a lot of fans who were not thrilled with that reveal. I’ve heard people complain that this would be the equivalent of turning The Joker into, well, a joke, instead of portraying him as the ruthlessly diabolical villain he is in the Batman universe.
Here’s where it gets crazy. In LR’s scoop, they reveal the plot of the new short film:
The REAL Mandarin is furious with Aldrich Killian and Ben Kingsley’s character Trevor Slattery for the mockery they made of the real Mandarin’s identity and legacy. The real Mandarin wants to set the record straight.
Yep, apparently there’s a “real” version of The Mandarin out there somewhere. LR’s report claims that “Marvel wants to make [the twist in Iron Man 3] up to fans,” so that’s why they’re going down this path with the new One Shot. This could set up a differently-cast Mandarin as a major villain down the road. One might argue that Marvel has already laid this groundwork; it wouldn’t be too hard to bring back Raza, the leader of the Ten Rings terrorist group seen in the first Iron Man film, as the “real” Mandarin, complete with ten actual magic rings. It’d certainly fit nicely into Marvel’s Phase 3 (which will reportedly contain a Doctor Strange movie that also heavily features magic).
Then again, director Shane Black said in an interview with EW that Guy Pearce’s character is the real Mandarin in Iron Man 3. “Ultimately we do give you the Mandarin, the real guy, but it’s Guy Pearce in the end with the big dragon tattooed on his chest.” Could this be a case of Black not knowing the full scope of Marvel’s master plan? Could Kevin Feige have plotted this arc all along, in a sort of Bourne Legacy-esque, “pulling back the curtain to reveal a whole different layer of understanding” sort of way? It seems plausible, given the balls it took to lead up to The Avengers without knowing if it would work or not.
But the more depressing option is that Feige and his Marvel cohorts heard more vocal complaints than praise about their creative choice to have Kingsley play the cowardly Trevor instead of an expected take on Mandarin. (The people who bitch about things are always the loudest, aren’t they? Just ask Damon Lindelof – oh wait, you can’t. He quit Twitter because people were constantly bitching at him about the ending of “LOST,” which went off the air over THREE YEARS AGO.)
If Marvel is doing this as a reaction to the negative feedback from Iron Man 3, I’ll be very disappointed. Feige doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would rework the Marvel Cinematic Universe in order to ease the pain of some pissed off fan, especially when IM3 racked up $1.2 billion worldwide. But if LR’s scoop is accurate, there is a “real” Mandarin out there, and either A) Feige kept Shane Black and IM3 co-writer Drew Pearce in the dark about it during the entire time they were developing their take on one of Tony Stark’s greatest adversaries because they were on a need to know basis about the studio’s future plans, or B) Feige didn’t have any ideas about another version of The Mandarin roaming around out there somewhere, and the Marvel folks just came up with the idea to appease a bunch of bitching fanboys.
Let’s hope it was option A, or Feige and his team could be setting a dangerous precedent moving forward.
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