Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hope for the Classic Mandarin? IRON MAN III Spoilers...

Found an interesting article this morning surfing the Internet. Marvel is going to do a short film focusing on Trevor, who in a major plot twist in Iron Man III was revealed to be a drug-addicted British actor rather than a terrorist mastermind. The kicker is, if this article is true, that the REAL Mandarin who is more in line with his comic-book counterpart will put in an appearance. And apparently he's not happy about what they were doing in his name.

That would be really cool. As I've said before, the Mandarin is a character with a long history in the Iron Man universe. I admit some of his depictions have verged on if not crossed the line into Yellow Peril-esque racism (seriously, look at those teeth) and a portrayal Chinese people (or at least their censorious government) find offensive risks losing money. However, there are perfectly legitimate ways to have a powerful Asian male villain without turning him into some kind of racist cliche that has overly-long fingernails, laughs evilly for extended periods, wants to turn the hero's pretty (white) girlfriend into his opium-addicted concubine, etc. This depiction makes him less exotic, even though someone I know from an Internet forum still played the "it's offensive" card by comparing him to some kind of "Japan Will Buy The World" evil corporate mogul. However, it's not like there're only two ways to portray a character.

Someone else I know online claimed having a real Mandarin with both Trevor and Killian Aldrich being decoys was overly-complex and too much like Game of Thrones. However, this could be explained by having Aldrich (who seems to have some kind of Asian fetish due to the tattoos revealed in the climax) coming up with the whole shtick completely on his own, perhaps basing it on something he'd only heard about. It turns out there really is a Mandarin supervillain who regards Aldrich, at best, as being a useful distraction or amusement or at worst, an upstart who needs to be squashed. Think the character of Asajj Ventress who appears in the Star Wars books and comics--she's a pit fighter on some backwater planet claiming to be a Sith and when Count Dooku, a real Sith lord, shows up, he's more amused than impressed.

We'll see how they manage it. One of the comments suggested Kingsley could play the real Mandarin with Trevor being a double, or even TREVOR being the real Mandarin who is just pretending to be a drugged-up loser. That could actually be funny.

Also, in previous posts on the Mandarin issue I've criticized Shane Black as being a left-wing Hollywood type trashing a beloved character in the name of political correctness. I still think that, but this article here showed that he was willing to engage with critical fans in person rather than blowing them off as entitled white racists or whatever the Internet Social Justice Warrior lingo is or simply saying, "The movie made a billion dollars so I don't have to listen to anybody." I will give him props for that. It's easy to mock your critics online or simply ignore them--actually talking to them in person is more difficult, especially if you're as busy as Black no doubt is. Even if I don't agree, I can still respect bravery and having the backbone to stand up for one's position in public.

(I'd have liked the article to go into more detail about Black's rationale, but that's the writer's fault, not Black's.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised that there are any posts on the Internet that actually try to defend Mandarin's significance as a character in the comics. Not because he's not worth it, but because it's almost as if people will tell you that you are wrong for ever questing what Iron Man 3 have done to the Mandarin and ever doubting that it's not a good movie. I've met many rabid Iron Man 3 apologists, and some of those "individuals" told me that I should kill myself because I don't like the movie.

    Nevertheless, I think you have some good points, and some that aren't very true.

    First of all, this whole thing about Mandarin being interested in the enslavement of the white men's world is completely false. Mandarin's motivation never had any xenophobic overtones. All he was seeking was the power and nothing but that. He never wanted to enslave one particular nation. He wanted the entire world to grovel at his feet. And, what is more important, Mandarin is partly white due to his mother being British woman.

    Second of all, this whole "Mandarin is too racist" argument needs to be put into rest, seriously. I know that if you'll show people the image of the Mandarin from Tales of Suspense comics, not many will have high opinion about him as a character. But if you'll show to people - or just tell them to read - the entire run by John Byrne, they will be most definitely enthusiastic about the character. John Byrne's Mandarin was multi-layered, well-written, profound character who had deep personification and had emblematic past with Iron Man. Put that Mandarin into a movie, and you have not only a great villain, but an awesome character all around. If people will keep looking back at Silver Age Mandarin, there will be no future for him as a character - which shouldn't be the case.

    Now, that by no means says that the only problem with Iron Man 3 was the Mandarin, oh god no. First of all, the movie would have to also fix its poorly written script, rewrite some of the dialogues, and make the tone more consistent. As it stands, Iron Man 3, with or without the Mandarin, is mediocre at best.