Iron Man 3 director explains that shocking Mandarin twist

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May 16, 2013, 1:27 PM EDT (Updated)

The third Iron Man film included some pretty good twists that caught most fans off guard, and now director Shane Black has explained why they decided to make a shocking change to the comic canon.

Spoilers ahead!

As we know by now, the threequel reimagined the iconic Iron Man baddie the Mandarin as a fake figurehead played by Ben Kingsley, who turns out to be a hilarious Shakespearean actor just trying to work the gig. This opened the door for Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian to be the real villain, rocking some fiery Extremis technology.

So why the fakeout? Why not use Iron Man’s most frightening villain as an actual, you know, villain? Basically, because it was too easy. Here’s Black’s reasoning:

“I would say that we struggled to find a way to present a mythic terrorist that had something about him that registered after the movie’s over as having been a unique take, or a clever idea, or a way to say something of use. And what was of use about the Mandarin’s portrayal in this movie, to me, is that it offers up a way that you can sort of show how people are complicit in being frightened.

They buy into things in the way that the audience for this movie buys into it. I think that’s a message that’s more interesting for the modern world, because I think there’s a lot of fear that’s generated toward very available and obvious targets, which could perhaps be directed more intelligently at what’s behind them.”

Fans have been divided on the decision, but for the most part, it really did work. It caught viewers off guard and subverted expectations in a pretty satisfying way. Pearce was a serviceable villain and actually had a pretty legitimate bone to pick with Tony Stark, as opposed to the Mandarin just popping up out of the shadows three movies into the franchise.

What did you think about the twist?

(Via Total Film)