New details on Mandarin’s original role in 2008’s Iron Man reveal part of his villain plan and rivalry with Tony Stark before the MCU plan evolved.
Marvel Studios’ original plan for Mandarin in 2008’s Iron Man has been revealed. The first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe saw the studio figure out how to make the best possible solo film for Tony Stark, which meant changing the plans quite often. When Iron Man was originally conceived, the plan was for Stark’s primary comic antagonist known as The Mandarin to be the central villain. This left Obadiah Stane as a secondary villain who could be a threat down the road, but Marvel eventually decided that it was best to leave Mandarin out of Jon Favreau’s film.
The MCU might have canceled plans for Mandarin to be in Iron Man, but the desire for him to be in the universe never died. This eventually led Marvel Studios to use the character as part of a significant fakeout in Iron Man 3. The movie controversially promoted Ben Kingsley as Mandarin only to reveal he was a failed and drunken actor hired by Aldrich Killian to play the part of a global terrorist. Marvel eventually teased the “real Mandarin” was out there, though, in the All Hail the King One-Shot. It wasn’t until Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that Tony Leung brought the MCU’s updated take on Mandarin to the big screen.
Shang-Chi’s interpretation of Mandarin proved to be worth the wait, but Iron Man could’ve introduced him right from the beginning, albeit in a very different fashion. As part of The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, producer Jeremy Latcham revealed Mandarin’s original canceled MCU role. Mandarin was envisioned to be the main villain of Iron Man and a rival to Tony Stark. Mandarin had a building right next to Stark Industries and wanted to get Stark’s inventions for himself. Latchman’s self-described “crazy terrible” and “underwhelming” story saw Mandarin drill a hole underneath Stark Industries that would allow him to steal Tony’s technology.
Marvel’s inability to crack Mandarin’s story ultimately worked out for the best. However, it’s still fascinating to consider how much Iron Man and what came after could’ve changed if he was included. Mandarin’s story would be completely different from the one shown in Shang-Chi, as he likely wouldn’t be the father of Shang-Chi and a century-spanning conqueror. Iron Man’s Mandarin plan probably would mean he’d lean more into technology, not mysticism, and tie that into the powers and origins of the Ten Rings. If Marvel did tease the Ten Rings’ other-worldly roots, that could’ve set the stage for Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and much more right away, too.
With only a few details now known about Mandarin’s original Iron Man role, it isn’t clear if Marvel Studios saw him as a villain that could continue to threaten the MCU and Tony Stark. Mandarin very well could’ve died at the end of Iron Man, much like Obadiah Stane, or be kept around for sequels. At the very least, this would’ve allowed the MCU to bring Iron Man and Mandarin’s long-standing comics rivalry to the screen in some fashion. The changes that came to Iron Man and Tony’s later death before Mandarin properly joined the MCU make this a missed opportunity, even if it didn’t hurt either character.
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- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Jul 28, 2023
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