Clue: it’s a massive spoiler.
SPOILER ALERT: this article discusses major plot points of Iron Man 3. Save it for later if you want to remain narratively innocent.
Trailers nowadays don’t seem to shy away from showing the highlights of a film in order to appeal to more people, but for a price: you end up knowing what’s going to happen, when, and to whom (I’m looking at you, Prometheus trailer). When the third trailer for Iron Man 3 was released, I couldn’t help but feel they were doing it again: the Mandarin destroys Tony Stark’s house, all the Iron Man armours are summoned by Stark in an epic final battle, and I thought there wouldn’t be much left to surprise me.
Alas, I was wrong. It turns out they did save a surprise, a plot twist of sorts – but I cannot say I liked it. It was saved for the Mandarin himself. He’s the villain of the film, played by Ben Kingsley, an actor with awards galore under his belt. Previous to the 2008 film, I didn’t know much of the character. Still, there was one thing I was certain of: the Mandarin was one of Iron Man’s most iconic nemeses. He was Tony Stark’s Lex Luthor, Magneto or the Joker, if you will; no less than his arch-enemy.
Let that sink in for a moment. The Mandarin is Iron Man’s greatest foe. And while director Shane Black had previously mentioned he wanted to take some liberties with the character, the crux of the issue is what the character is in the trailer, and what the character is ultimately revealed to be in the film. And here comes the plot twist: the man Ben Kingsley plays is not the Mandarin.
It came as a disappointment to see him play a buffoon, going all “ole ole oleee!” while watching football on the telly
Kingsley’s character is actually a British actor hired by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) to pose as the terrorist behind a series of bombings. Kingsley’s performance is top-notch, of course, but the fact remains that for those, like me, who were expecting Kingsley to portray an all-powerful, despotic, merciless villain, it came as a disappointment to see him play a buffoon, a comic-relief character going all “ole ole oleee!” while watching football on the telly.
Imagine X-Men: Days of Future Past is already out. Imagine you watch it, excited because you think it’s brilliant that both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender are playing Magneto. What would you think if it turned out McKellen and Fassy were both playing not Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, but a dummy, a puppet pretending to be Magneto but who is really a nobody, a nonentity of little interest to the plot of the film? That’s the impression I had when I saw Kingsley’s character sipping his beer and grovelling before Stark.
While Iron Man 3 tries its best to make you see that the Mandarin was Aldrich Killian from the start, it is (at least for me) much too late to undo the damage. I went to see the film expecting to find Kingsley portraying an interesting, ruthless and intelligent villain. Seeing him reduced to playing a cringing actor wannabe felt like a waste of potential. It made me feel cheated.
Featured image: Marvel Studios