The prospect that has us most excited for Iron Man 3? The Mandarin.
Without the Iron Man movies, we wouldn't have had The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, or The Avengers. Robert Downey, Jr.'s crass and cunning playboy Tony Stark and his arsenal of weaponized super suits paved the way for a new era of superhero movies. But Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were also test grounds, with Marvel Studios figuring out just what they could get away with in one-off comic book movies while building towards continuity in larger worlds. So, while Iron Man was the character who built a foundation for the Marvel Movie Universe, he's also the character in need of the most improving. Specifically, in the villain department.
Iron Man 2 suffers the most from Marvel's growing pains. Iron Man functioned as a swift, playful origin story, but the sequel was tasked with evolving Stark as a character, integrating members of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson) to broaden the mythology and setup for The Avengers, and create a compelling narrative for the film's two villains, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Whiplash (Mickey Rourke). The movie whiffed in the third category.
The faults of Iron Man 2 make the third installment that much more exciting. The upcoming movie appears to have gone back to the basics, building off what worked so well in the first movie (Stark's loose connection to raging terrorism by way of technological innovation) and making it even more personal and dangerous. Ben Kingsley is set to appear as "The Mandarin" in the new movie, and from what we can tell — from past trailers and a few moments in the new TV spot, seen below — he's been tasked with creating a character on par with the best of cinematic supervillainy. And he's making it work.
Will Kingsley's Mandarin live up to the greats of comic book movie evildoers? Does he have that much competition in the first place? Check out our poll for a list of our favorite villains, vote on your pick, then head to the comments to tell us what makes the perfect adversary.
What will it take to create a memorable villain in the Iron Man universe? The answer may be as simple as "Ben Kingsley."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures]