Iron Man 3 pissed many people off because of the antagonist, despite his showed his melee combat skill, calling himself the real Mandarin and showed his Dragon Tattoo, not even the comic Mandarin has that. But many fans didn’t buy it. The reason is very simple and understandable
I already criticized it enough. Of course, the film does not have to follow the comic as long as it has its own good story. I will try to put away the comics and discuss about the real antagonist, Killian.
In the comic, Killian only showed up for 2 pages then committed suicide, his persona in the movie is totally original.
His goal is quite clear.
1. To make the Extremis virus flawless and use it to create an army of super humans.
2. To control the U.S. government and the terrorist organization together.
3. To avenge Tony’s humiliation.
Overall these are quite ambitious goal.
To rule is more difficult than to destroy, beside raw power, he would need to let some people see the benefit and work for him. Killian and his mutants are powerful but they could not conquer US or the world directly, not yet. That’s why he tried to control the United States to help his research and increase the number of the mutants.
Antagonist with such a goal needs to be really really smart. Beside the fighting skill for Superhero movie villain, he also has to be a master manipulator. Unlike Bane or Joker, he wants to rule rather than create chaos or total destruction, so he has to be more careful and hide his true face as good as possible.
But in this movie, Killian clearly showed he does not have such intelligence and management skill to be the antagonist who could handle such goal. It does not even fit his character.
He paid Pepper a visit in the beginning of the movie, along with that bald guy. This showed he could not calm his personal emotion. He does not love Pepper, he was just thinking of "Now I’m rich and powerful, I’m going to mess up with your girl!” Would Pepper be interested? Since he wants to take revenge on Tony and spent effort on it, he should be very clear about it. And knowing that Tony is Iron Man and a technology expert, isn’t it risky to come to his girlfriend and introduce his product? If he really wants to make a try to let Tony work with him, he could just get someone else to meet Pepper to not make himself connected with the project. That would be much safer. But he didn’t choose the safer and smarter way, the reason has been told before. He was there to mess with Pepper because she’s Iron Man’s girlfriend.
Next, he arranged a series of missions for his servants, but it wasn’t executed well, actually too bad. Even for a superhero villain and evil organization.
Let me talk about this bald guy, It’s obvious that he is the no.1 thug of Killian, that’s why he was sent to do so many important missions. However, remember the government was alarmed with so many terrorist attacks inside and outside US. Why did he choose to bring the bald guy with him when he paid Pepper the visit? Won’t people recognize his face and affect his later missions? When he was doing this missions he also doesn’t use any disguise. Happy suspected him later because he saw him in the hall before.
And the performance of the bald guy was quite…unexpected. He was supposed to get the stuff from that poor guy who later became the bomb. No doubt he should keep this as secret as possible, his boss created the Mandarin partly to cover the accident of the experiments.
However the bald guy, showed his power, publicly, on the street. WOW. He could try to run away, or run to somewhere then finish Happy. I’m not sure is the explosion an accident or planned by Killian. Either way the bald guy’s reaction is very stupid. If he didn’t expect the bomb, why did he use the power before so many people? How is he going to explain it? Killing everyone to silence their mouth? That does not seem like a plan. If he knew the guy is going to explode, why didn’t he run away? There also could be survivors since people already started to run when he fought Happy. After the explosion, he was actually knocked out and took a little while to recover, when the police could be there any minute and capture him. Strangely nobody was there when he waked up, even though they should be fully alarmed since many attacks happened before.
If the US government or Tony could think even a little about it, they would ask the survivors and check what happened from the scene. It’s easy to find out the bald guy was there, then he would be identified to be a AIM member since people saw him in the hall. Killian’s AIM would be exposed, and his plan would be ruined. Especially he talked about the project with Pepper, that is another evidence.
Of course, other villains all made mistake and sometimes retarded mistakes. But usually they only make mistake in the final battle, or something like spare the protagonist. Even if they made mistake in the first half it’s usually not very big. Well in Iron Man 3, the antagonist and his top servant made such fatal mistake in their first move, well that’s really bad.
The bald guy is quite powerful, but he really didn’t have the brain to be the top assassin of AIM, and obviously he didn’t learn from his mistakes in the next mission, glad the good guys also didn’t.
He and that pretty woman were trying to grab the files to keep the experiments as secret, so it should be done as quiet as possible. And what did we see? The female assassin used her fire hand against ordinary people, and keep chasing Tony for a while. The bald guy burned down the water tank and grabbed the kid to threaten Tony. Their goal is to prevent the experiment and virus as secret. And why are they using the power of the virus publicly? Especially the bald guy is a known member of AIM. His attack on Tony would immediately be linked with those terrorist helicopters which attacked Tony’s home. Are they trying to cover the experiment or let people know about it? The female assassin totally could try to get close and ambush Tony, anything would better than show her power publicly to attack. They are the elite assassins of a top level evil organization, but we don’t see them have the brain of an average level criminal.
Mr. Bald guy here again survived, not saying that he is not dead, but like last time, this time he was knocked out by Tony. But still he didn’t get noticed or captured and still got away, after he and the female assassin created such as big mess. And no one, including that kid report about him to help the government to further investigate the identity of him. This man really is lucky, he played with fire twice and still didn’t ruin his boss’ plan. I guess Killian picked him because of his luck.
From these two missions, we can see these mutant assassins are all powerful, but lack the calm mind to do missions without being noticed. Especially Killian wanted to control both sides, which means they have to hide their purpose really really well. But looks like these assassins love to show their power publicly, maybe because they suddenly gained such power and it corrupted their mind. Not everyone knows to not be driven by their power. It’s quite understandable but Killian didn’t try to control his minions to ensure the plan goes well. He even did similar thing himself in the beginning.
Now we see the funny thing, Killian’s character development is very reasonable compare to the flash in the beginning. His minions are also understandable. However they really didn’t show the mind, the skill to create and expand such a powerful evil organization. How did they make it? It would require a calm and intelligent leader who could put reason before personal emotion and control his minions well, but we don’t see Killian fit it or even try to do it.
In addition, that pretty scientist, Dr. Maya’s action also showed Killian is not successful as a leader. She invented the virus, she knew Killian was doing those experiments. That means she’s very crucial to his plan, if she was caught by anyone, then that means GG Killian’s plan. And to such an important figure, he didn’t even keep an eye on her, let her run to Tony and almost got killed by his helicopter’s missile? She and Tony are the biggest hope for the perfection of Extremis, and he let the helicopters shot, almost killed them both without knowing who was there? WOW that’s really stupid.
Since he needs Tony to work for him on the virus, why did he inject Pepper before Tony agreed? Even if Tony started to work on the virus, it’s highly possible that Pepper would die before he made it perfect. Won’t that let Tony hate him more and disagree to do so? Later he killed Maya when she used her life to threaten him, well it’s not the wisest move, and he could agree first then think about an idea to keep them both to work. I think he also takes Maya as his trophy and was enraged when she turned to Tony’s side. But compare to the previous mistakes, it’s not that dumb. So here goes one of his most important scientists.
The virus is the core of his plan and it’s still not perfect. Allow me to take a speculation. I believe the bodies could handle the virus forever, it might still cause explosion to those “successful” people.
The ambush on Iron Patriot is probably the best move they made in the whole movie. Later they succeed on the president after the security didn’t to check on the true face of Iron Patriot, yeah.
And if they did, the bald guy’s face would be seen and AIM’s plan would be revealed again, nice.
Overall, in fact, Killian’s characterization from the beginning of the end is quite nice and very reasonable. He was snubbed and humiliated by Tony and swore to take revenge. He’s a "I am powerful and rich now I’m going to humiliate you!" type of villain. But put him on the position of the antagonist who could manipulate both sides, create so many terrorist cells, keep the experiment as secret and control his minions well, is a bad move, it’s too much for his character to handle. He could not control his minions to do the job well, he could not even control his own emotion when he has to. However, if he was characterized to be a real great manipulator, that would not fit the Killian we saw in the flashback because it’s too big of a change.
So his character was designed and developed well, but he was given the wrong role. If someone else is the real criminal mind behind everything and Killian is just a newly recruited servant, the story would be much better, and connected better with Iron Man 1’s Ten Rings. Who would be the best? The Mandarin.
So even if we forget about the comic, put Killian on the chair of the antagonist is still a bad move because he does not fit it.