Screenwriter Drew Pearce explains how the big twist in Iron Man 3 came to be
It is December 2013 and IRON MAN 3 came out more than six months ago and is ranked as the highest grossing film of the year. Forgive me if I don't think spoiler alerts apply to this film any longer. But, in the event that you want to preserve your knowledge in case you are waiting for Christmas to get the Blu-ray of the movie, please turn back now. For the rest of you, read on.
IRON MAN 3 screenwriter Drew Pearce has so far not said much about the character twist in the movie that enraged many fans of the Marvel superhero and his arch-nemesis. Still, many considered it a cool update to the character for the Cinematic Universe. Pearce was recently asked by Vulture about what the hardest scene he has ever had to write and he indicated it was when Tony Stark learns the true nature of the man he has come to know as The Mandarin. Take a look at an excerpt from Pearce's comments and head on over to Vulture for the rest.
Hopefully, the movie's done well enough by now that this doesn't count as a spoiler, but we obviously chose to take a direction with Sir Ben Kingsley's version of the Mandarin that has a huge surprise. He turns out not to be the thing that the movie — and the marketing of the movie — purports him to be, which is this canon-based archnemesis to Iron Man. It gets to the trickiest thing of all the superhero movies out at the moment, which is: What makes for an interesting villain? Often, they're just there as a dark reflection of the hero, but Shane Black, who directed Iron Man 3 and who I co-wrote the movie with, told me that the key to making massive movies in this machine that will try to sand the edges off of what you write is to go into it with bold strokes. For the Mandarin, I'd been kicking around lots of ideas about false faces and terrorist pop stars and I was really worried about telling Marvel — I thought we'd get strung up — but Shane said, "Fuck 'em, this idea is kind of indelible. We should run towards it." And to both of our surprise, when we pitched it to Kevin Feige, who's the president of Marvel Studios, he took it in and said, "I love it." He'd been trying to crack the Mandarin concept since the first Iron Man. The Mandarin was actually in the first Iron Man up until six weeks before they shot it!
In the end, I don't have a problem with the twist itself or the marketing they used for the film. The poster advertised Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, the trailer called him The Mandarin, and all of those involved with making the film called him The Mandarin. To then find out he is not is a difficult thing to grasp and if the character were not so iconic, I am sure the masses would have agreed. But, imagine if we watched THE DARK KNIGHT and found out two-thirds of the way through that this awesome performance by Heath Ledger was a trick and the real Joker was Harvey Dent. It feels like a cheap shot to comic fans, especially since Guy Pearce's Killian ends up being such an under-developed villain. His big "I am the Mandarin" only to be quickly dispatched was anti-climactic as well.
Going back and re-watching IRON MAN 3 I can appreciate the twist more, but I still think the rest of Killian's plot was under-developed. What do you think? Do you buy Drew Pearce's explanation and motivation?