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Why Marvel’s Kevin Feige Stands By Iron Man 3’s Controversial Mandarin Twist

Ben Kingsley as Fake Mandarin in Iron Man 3

This fall, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally bringing in The Mandarin, with Tony Leung playing the character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The introduction comes eight years after Ben Kingsley played someone we originally thought was The Mandarin in Iron Man 3, only for it to be revealed he was an actor named Trevor Slattery who was hired by Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian. That twist was met with polarizing reactions, but Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stands by going down this unusual creative route.

Along with confirming that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will indeed feature a match-up between Abomination and Wong, Kevin Feige talked with Rotten Tomatoes about how The Mandarin has been teed up in the MCU since the beginning, as the Ten Rings organization, which he heads, kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man. Feige continued:

And going back to Iron Man one: We’ve been talking about that when we do bring this character to the screen, [we] only wanted to do it when we felt we could do it supreme justice and really showcase the complexity of this character, which frankly we couldn’t do in an Iron Man movie because an Iron Man movie is about Iron Man; an Iron Man movie is about Tony Stark. So Shane Black, in his film and his script that he co-wrote, came up with this fun twist that we love to this day, and it turned out to be Trevor Slattery. Just because that version wasn’t real didn’t mean there’s not a leader of the Ten Rings organization, and that is who we meet for the first time in Shang-Chi.

It’s ironic that Kevin Feige and the rest of the MCU brass felt they couldn’t do justice to a proper Mandarin in an Iron Man movie considering that he’s one of Tony Stark’s greatest enemies in the comics. Mandarin and Iron Man have tussled numerous times since the former’s debut in 1964’s Tales of Suspense #50, just 11 issues after Tony Stark first hit the scene. So instead, Iron Man 3 director and co-writer Shane Black decided to put a twist on The Mandarin mythos that saw Trevor Slattery performing the character as part of Aldrich Killian’s Extremis-filled plans for AIM. Shortly before he was defeated, Killian claimed he was the real Mandarin, though he had nothing to back it up aside from a dragon tattoo.

Whether you liked Iron Man 3’s Mandarin twist or not, a year later, the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King revealed that there was a legitimate Mandarin out in the world, and he was not pleased with how Trevor Slattery made a mockery of his name. Now we’re finally getting to meet The Mandarin, a.k.a. Wenwu, although since Tony Stark died in Avengers: Endgame, we won’t see an Iron Man vs. Mandarin fight in the MCU. Instead, Tony Leung’s version of the character has been reimagined as Shang-Chi’s father, and the rings he wields are a different kind of weapon from the alien devices he wears on his fingers in the comics.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows Simu Liu’s eponymous protagonist being yanked out of the normal life he’s lived for the last 10 years when his father, who raised Shang-Chi to be an assassin, demands he rejoin the Ten Rings. We’ll see how this father/son conflict shakes out when the Shang-Chi movie arrives on September 3. And as always, peruse through CinemaBlend to stay apprised on more news concerning upcoming Marvel movies.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.