As the film that launched a whole universe — and cinema's highest-grossing franchise — it is strange to look back at Jon Favreau's Iron Man and see how far we've come. With #RobertDowneyJr. sticking on that red and gold suit and #JeffBridges in a villainous turn as Obadiah Stane, it wasn't perfect, but it was a damn good start. Now, as we head into the #InfinityWar saga, it turns out that the start of the #MCU could've been a totally different tale with some very different talent.
The Mandarin Cometh
Speaking to Uproxx, Marvel head honcho #KevinFeige revealed that an altogether more memorable name was due to emerge from Tony Stark's rogue's gallery in the first feature. While Stane was always supposed to be part of Iron Man, Feige remembers that Bridges's role was originally outlined as a secondary villain —similar to Christopher Walken in Batman Returns:
"As you may recall, when he was hired, he was a secondary villain to the Mandarin. And as we were prepping the movie we realized we didn’t want to do the Mandarin in that movie. And when we took him out and made Obadiah the lead villain, Iron Man became what Iron Man became. But what was required is that Iron Monger [Obadiah Stane] had to go down into that arc reactor."
Stane was by no means a bad villain, but he certainly ranks as one of the more mundane entries in the current climate of big bad bosses that Stark and his Avengers pals have faced. It is interesting to note that the plan was to use Mandarin from the get-go, and as Stark's most notorious foe, you can't argue that it doesn't makes sense. Why Mandarin was removed is still a mystery, but with certain racial connotations and the use of "magic" rings, maybe he was just too much of a gamble to kick-start the expanded universe.
Bridges has already told us how Stane was supposed to live to fight another day instead of taking a tumble into that arc reactor, but that was another pipe dream plan that changed in the Iron Man process. Given what we got, it is hard now to imagine the movie without Bridges's bellowing bravado going up against Downey Jr.'s cocky upstart, so maybe it all worked out for the best. That being said, kicking off the MCU with Mandarin instead of that botched Iron Man 3 plot may have worked in Iron Man's favor.
Even with Iron Man ditching Mandarin, at least there were still signs of him (quite literally) lurking in the background. When Stark is captured by the terrorists, you can see a Ten Rings flag behind him as a nod to the organisation that the Mandarin leads. Iron Man 3 may have introduced Sir Ben Kingsley as the faux Mandarin, but with news on a fourth Stark solo being kept an iron-clad secret, no one knows what happens next.
Whether Feige plans to return to the Mandarin remains to be seen, however, the storyline was certainly redeemed by the acclaimed Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King. Whatever the MCU's plans are for Phase 4 and beyond, returning back to the start and telling the tale of Tony's terrorist adversary would be one hell of a way to tie everything up in a big neat bow.
Check out a teaser from All Hail The King and don't forget our poll below
Would you have preferred the Mandarin for 'Iron Man'?