Buried way down in this press coverage of the new Marvel movies announced at ComicCon, there’s mention of Ben Kingsley portraying the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 and how this is one exception where whitewashing is a good thing.
I’m a bit conflicted. On the one hand, it really sucks to have Asian characters erased from fiction because Hollywood studios don’t think audiences will watch us. On the other hand, the Mandarin isn’t exactly an Asian character I’d like to see in anything ever. Don’t get me wrong. I like me an Asian villain. I really enjoyed the way Irrfan Khan portrayed Rajit Ratha in The Amazing Spider-Man. So fucking sinister and evil but in such a cold, calculating way. I can’t wait to see him in the next two films. But the Mandarin is more a caricature than a character. He was born of an era that was fearful of the eastern YELLOW PERIL. In an age where conservative blowhards are irrationally predicting the end of our economic dominance thanks to the coming of the great Chinese buyout, do we really need a reminder of that era?
Still, movies reinvent characters all the time. Peter Parker got parents in this latest incarnation. That’s something that even the comics haven’t dealt with. It’s possible that Iron Man 3 could reinvent the Mandarin so he’s not a pastiche of an Asian villain but rather an actualized person. The best villains in fiction never believe they are the villain. A sympathetic take on the Mandarin could be kind of awesome which is ultimately why I’m disappointed that he’ll be portrayed by Ben Kingsley. Not to dis Kingsley, but the Mandarin could be raised to levels of unparalleled awesome if portrayed by someone like Andy Lau. He’d be my first choice. He can totally pull off the sympathetic villain role. Or if you want a name that Westerners will recognize, Chow Yun-Fat would be freaking awesome.
There’s a real missed opportunity here. Kingsley will certainly be a draw, especially for non comic fans. But the Iron Man films have already won over throngs of non comic readers.
No, Comics Alliance, it’s not okay.
From: Comics Alliance