Iron Man 3 Director Defends The Infamous Mandarin Twist

Iron Man 3 may be one of the highest grossing MCU films, but when it comes to the fans, the film couldn’t be more divisive. On one hand, people like its personal self-contained story about Tony Stark, further examining him as a character. On the other hand, people disliked the use of the Mandarin, one of Iron Man’s most prominent villains in the comics. Shane Black, director and writer of Iron Man 3, has heard the complaints, but he still thinks the twist works. He argues, in fact, that it might work too well.


For those who need a quick recap, the Mandarin in the film is a terrorist figure played by Ben Kingsley who turns out to just be a buffoonish actor hired by a corporation to be their front man. Fans felt this was a disservice to the character, and it’s frequently used as the prime example of the MCU villain problem. Marvel even made a one shot about the "true Mandarin" as an apology. While speaking with IGN, Shane Black was asked how he felt about the twist three years later.

We may have done our job a bit too well in a way because we succeeded in actually having a surprise in the middle of a big summer movie where you normally know virtually everything about it before you go in. And when I say we did our job too well it meant some of the fans felt fooled. They felt I think that they'd been led down one path and then sold a bill of goods. It's hard. Because I want to please the fans... but in this case I thought and we all thought that it was just a very interesting and very layered decision to take the Mandarin [in].

Shane Black makes a point. Through trailers, commercials, and other promotional materials, movies often reveal the entire film before it hits theaters. The trailers for modern blockbusters like Independence Day: Resurgence and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have spoiled plots and twists for moviegoers to the point that almost nothing is a surprise by the time you sit in the theater. If nothing else, the Mandarin twist caught everyone off guard, and it might deserve respect for that. All the promos for the movie painted the Mandarin as such a badass that it was a real right turn when it turned out the opposite was true. It’s understandable why people are upset about the twist but, in the context of the movie, the twist is excellent.


Shane Black goes on to say that if giving a second chance to make the same movie, he would never change the twist. "The minute you start to govern your creative impulses based on anticipation of someone else's response or their expectations then you're going to fail," said Black, "You're going to fail them too." As a film fan, that’s a comforting response to hear. As long as it works for the story, then go ahead and twist it like a pretzel. You can’t please everyone.


How do you feel about Shane Black’s answer? Are you still sore about the twist or are you over it by this point? Sound off in the comments below.

Matt Wood

Matt has lived in New Jersey his entire life, but commutes every day to New York City. He graduated from Rowan University and loves Marvel, Nintendo, and going on long hikes and then greatly wishing he was back indoors. Matt has been covering the entertainment industry for over two years and will fight to his dying breath that Hulk and Black Widow make a good couple.