“I’ve got red in my ledger. Now I need to wipe it out”

And we’re back with our recurring feature titled RED LEDGER, where staff of MCUExchange convenes to say something nice and constructive about things in the MCU that people haven’t been necessarily kind to. Today, we’re all about the very controversial Mandarin twist in Iron Man 3.

The Mandarin twist was certainly a bold choice and one that was probably a little ahead of its time. As the MCU has evolved during Phase 3, we now regularly see major twists that differ drastically from the traditional comic lore, some of which are even bolder than Iron Man 3’s twist, and they tend to now be well received. On the surface, I think the particular twist in Iron Man 3 wasn’t a bad idea overall. It’s difficult to portray the Mandarin on the big screen, and treating him as a fictional scare tactic is a plausible and timely way to do so. That being said, I think it would have received much less backlash if a) Trevor Slattery’s stupidity wasn’t as prevalent and b) if Aldrich Killian was compelling in any way whatsoever. – KJ Callahan, Feature Writer

I actually thought that it was a well-executed twist that was properly foreshadowed. Ben Kingsley was brilliant as the washed-up British actor turned scapegoat. Not to mention it fed into the commentary of the military industrial complex creating its own enemies (figuratively and literally). If only the true villain was more complementary to this twist. – Pierre Chanliau, Editor

I actually quite liked the Iron Man 3 twist. At the time, I didn’t know much about the Mandarin’s character and quite liked the unique take that was first presented. The short shots of the titular villain built up this grand enemy only to give us a surprisingly convincing actor who was just playing a “part”. Yes, it is a disservice to the original character but it was a rather fitting message at the time. It even holds quite true to today’s “Fake News” discussions, as media can be used as a tool of propaganda. There were many unique perspectives on the importance of media. It was more about sending a message than giving us a classic by-the-numbers villain. I personally would’ve preferred if the last act didn’t turn Killian into that very archetype but I praise Marvel Studios for making such a risky move. They were facing criticisms “superhero fatigue” and “all Marvel films are the same” so they needed to surprise people. We can’t deny that they did exactly that! – Joseph Aberl, Editor

Being a film fan and a comic book fan and a comic book movie is hard. As a comic fan, you have to look at whether the film captures the essence of what made the material so good on the page. As a film fan in general, you have to appreciate the craft of creative freedom that’s right before you and the vision holding everything together, insulated from any biases towards the source material and not slavish to the fandom. It’s why I think Iron Man 3 is a bold film. The Mandarin twist is what defined that film, for better or worse. The essence of Shane Black‘ penchant for comedic buddy cop thrillers distilled into that very moment. In the 20 vastly divergent films Marvel Studios has put out, Iron Man 3 still stands out for its daringness in burning sacred comic book text. – Charles Villanueva, Editor-in-Chief

When I first watched Iron Man 3 in theaters, I absolutely hated it. I was quite enjoying myself until a certain Mandarin turned out to be a big fat phony. I was enraged that I didn’t get a proper representation of the Mandarin. They had a good thing going with the scary terrorist videos, and the Mandarin was built up to be quite a scary villain. After years to rethink and rewatch, I actually pretty much love the movie now. What they ended up doing, while a disservice to the character of the Mandarin, was quite a genius concept. Aldrich Killian used a fake terrorist so Iron Man and the government wouldn’t have their sights set on him. This would be the perfect twist in a military or spy film. It wouldn’t be too out of place in a superhero movie if it wasn’t projected onto an existing comics character (and Tony’s arch-enemy), but I have learned to get over it. Perhaps the All Hail The King One-Shot’s retcon that there IS a real Mandarin helped me with that. However, the film is still really cool, has great action, and has a great score and is still loads of fun to watch, regardless of what I may have initially thought about Mr. Slattery – Curtis Johnson, Feature Writer

By its very definition, a plot twist is something that surprises us. Superhero films are based on comic stories that have been around for decades, and some of them have been read by millions of people around the world. That makes surprising those people really hard since they already know the source material. Thinking of that, Shane Black‘s beautiful mind decided he should give everyone a surprise, not only casual moviegoers but the comics fans as well. It may not have turned out the way he intended to, but absolutely no one can deny they were VERY surprised when The Mandarin was revealed to be… not The Mandarin. It is probably one of the biggest plot twists in the MCU, whether you like it or not. The script caught us all by surprise, making it a legitimate, nearly perfect plot twist. – Tiago Fiszbejn, News Writer

While many fans were excited to see what kind of threat The Mandarin would be for Tony Stark, there are some unfortunate hurdles to overcome when bringing such a character to life. The Mandarin was created in an era that was a lot less culturally sensitive than we are today. This means that an evil guy from China sporting a Fu Manchu and calling himself “The Mandurian” would certainly raise a lot of eyebrows. So Marvel decided to avoid the controversy altogether and do something incredibly unique. And whether or not you like or hate the twist, you can’t deny that it was pretty darn surprising. It also gave us Ben Kingsley’s incredible performance as both Trevor and The Mandarin. He expertly portrayed the intimidating terrorist and then 20 minutes later he steals the show again as the clueless actor. And if you haven’t seen All Hail the King, the One-Shot with him in prison, please go watch it because it addresses some of the concerns many fans have about the twist. It’s also just 13 more minutes of Ben Kingsley being hilarious. – Alex Lurie, Feature Writer

Have something nice to say about Trevor Slattery? Join the fun and let us know in the comments!