“The Mandarin scares the shit out of us”: MCU Writer Explains the Backstory Behind the Worst Villain in Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man Franchise

The Mandarin became a subject to be feared even within Marvel Studios in Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man trilogy.

"The Mandarin scares the shit out of us": MCU Writer Explains the Backstory Behind the Worst Villain in Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man Franchise


Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man trilogy has a story that is both good and bad. The first film in the series is one that kickstarted an entire franchise, but from then on the two movies that followed did not create as big of a hype as fans had initially expected. There were various characters explored in all three movies including the villains. One such villain was the Mandarin.
robert downey jr iron man 3-2Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3
Although Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gave justice to the character in the most beautiful manner possible, Iron Man 3 had issues regarding the character. The Mandarin and the complaints that followed alongside Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of the character were not per se attached to the actor itself but how disappointing the villain had been. One reason for the same was how much Marvel executives feared the stereotypes that followed his character.


The Fear of Having the Mandarin in Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man 3

Speaking in MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, it was revealed that Jon Favreau introducing the Mandarin in the first movie was not something he was willing to let go of. Since the villain was a significant part of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man’s story in the comics, he wanted to incorporate him in the trilogy as well. Chris Fenton, who was a part of DMG Entertainment explained to Tim Connors that bringing Mandarin to the Chinese audience would be a risk if he was made in a manner similar to that of the comics.
Ben KingsleySir Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin
“The Mandarin scares the shit out of us.” He added, “The Mandarin looks and acts like the stereotypically derogatory Chinese man. Not only does he have a long spiny beard that he’s constantly straightening with his fingers, he regularly speaks in uber-‘Chinglish,’ constantly saying Chinese-cliché types of proverbs.”
The comics saw him as a stereotypical Chinese man, one that had a long beard and a dialect that screamed to be of a cliché. It was a very dangerous territory to tread into, one that came with risks and massive backlash. That is to say, Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slatery also brought about a great number of disappointed fans who wanted to see the Mandarin.


The Redemption of the Mandarin

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gave the Mandarin his much-awaited spotlight. Revealed in MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau stated that he did not want a Mandarin similar to that of the comics, specifically focusing on the ten rings. That was what Simu Liu’s film focused on, and did it the right way.
MCU's Phase Four VillainsTony Leung as The Mandarin
“You’ve got to do the Mandarin,” Favreau said. “The problem with the Mandarin is that the way it’s depicted in the comic books, you don’t want to see that. He has ten magical rings—that just doesn’t feel right.”
Tony Leung’s portrayal of the character was significantly moving that fans were confused about whether to hate his character or not. After Iron Man 3 had a fluctuating flow of villains, it was the 2021 film that set his character up perfectly. Alongside the magical ten rings that is. Not only was Sir Ben Kingsley’s role given redemption, but even Leung’s character poked fun at how easily the public came to believe that he was the Mandarin, a villain named after an orange.

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