Iron Man doesn’t have the best rogue’s gallery in comics, however one villain does rise above the rest as a true iconic arch nemesis. The Mandarin was an international mastermind, who’s motivation was to rule the world. His gimmick was that he wore 10 rings, each with a different, almost magical power. The Mandarin filled an important mythological role in Iron Man’s comics. If Iron Man was the armored knight, the Mandarin was a dark wizard. Though the Iron Man movies referenced the Mandarin slightly, he has yet to be seen. As a character that was inspired by magic, the Mandarin is difficult to adapt to a live action movie. What options are available to bring this villain to life?
Translate the Comics Directly
Jon Favreau has stated that Iron Man 3 will be something of a continuation of the Avengers. The world Tony Stark now finds himself in will be the world he shares with The Hulk, Captain America, and Thor. The fantastic elements of the expanded world, opens up potential to for the Mandarin to stretch his legs. The comic had it that the Mandarin find an alien spacecraft. It’s technology was behind the seeming magic of his rings. The Thor movie states that the “magic” enchantments that Asgardians uses are just a form of science that humanity has yet to discover. With that established in the Marvel Movie-Verse, its not too much of a stretch to have this origin verbatim for the Mandarin. Personally I think this would clash with the political themes of the first two Iron Man Movies, but it is a viable possibility.
Terrorist Master Mind
In the first Iron Man the terrorist organization which captured Tony Stark was called “The Ten Rings” Obviously that is a direct reference to the Mandarin. Who is the leader of this organization? Its shown that they have members from all over the world. Each enemy Tony Stark has faced have been rival businesses. What if in the third Iron Man the leader is a member of a wealthy foreign organization. He could be similar Ernst Stavro Blofeld from James Bond, who is trying to manipulate the world to his own desires. To keep continuity of tone throughout the series,I would make the rings largely symbolic for power. Perhaps each terrorist cell leader wears one of the ten rings signifying them as a leader answerable only to the Mandarin.
My personal favorite would be to make the Mandarin, Raza, the terrorist leader in the first film. Throughout the film Raza is seen fidgeting with a large ring. He was scarred by Stark during his escape attempt. The greatest arc nemesi are always linked in their origins, it would be epic to see him have a rise in power due to dealing with Iron Man . I’d imagine Raza killing the other leaders, taking their rings for himself, and appointing himself the true leader. The Mandarin could be the title he takes.
in the first movie he said: “Long ago, the bow and arrow was the ultimate technological achievement. It was used by Genghis Khan to forge an empire that stretched across Asia, from the wintry woods of Ukraine to the Eastern shores of Korea. Now, whoever holds the weapons manufactured by Stark Industries rules the world… and soon, it will be MY turn.” and “Tony Stark has created the ultimate weapon: a masterpiece of death. A man with a dozen of these could rule all of Asia.” If that isn’t the dialog of a would be world conqueror than I don’t know what is.
I’d prefer the rings to be symbolic for power instead of actual weapons, but if they did make them weapons I would steer away from aliens like in the comics. Although it was a detail easily overlooked, the Ten Rings aided Whiplash in acquiring the materials he needed to build his arc reactor, getting to Monaco, and eventually escaping jail. They now have the technology which powers Iron Man. To make the rings weapons I would have them upgraded to house mini repulsor rays, similar to iron man’s gauntlets. The Mandarin could go as far as to have a arc reactor installed in his chest like Tony Stark to power them.