As we mentioned in our most recent episode, Thor: The Dark World is now available as a special early release from iTunes.
With Thor: The Dark World and with the digital extras in the early release comes the newest Marvel One Shot, “All Hail the King.”
Daniel and I reviewed it in the last five minutes of our episode about the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode T.R.A.C.K.S. That review was spoiler free.
This review will not be. I just had some thing I needed to get off my chest. So, if you want to hear our thoughts about “All Hail the King,” without spoilers, go ahead and listen to our review.
This is the first real misstep for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I think. Fortunately, it's a short film that's an extra on the Blu-Ray. Unfortunately, it undermines a risky creative decision that they made in Iron Man 3.
First, the good. This movie was funny. Trevor, Ben Kingsley, was hilarious in Iron Man 3, and this short story is all Trevor. I enjoyed many of his lines and and the way he delivered every single one of them. He was a hoot.
Then there's a special guest cameo that I'm not going to spoil here, but if you like the Iron Man movies, this is a welcome cameo. And also funny.
And the music sets the tone. Iron Man 3 took us to the 80s. All Hail the King takes us to the 70s, with a brief trip to the 80s again.
The story set up isn't bad: a reporter gains access to Trevor, only to reveal that he's something else entirely.
Now, the bad. The story. It's all set up to retcon something fans got mad about.
This short story completely undermines the decision to have the Mandarin be a smokescreen and to have the man behind the mask be a shallow, addled, almost unwilling participant.
I know, people who don't even care about the character of The Mandarin were up in arms about it. “That's a classic Iron Man villain, and they treat him like that?” Someone who never read comics said that. He had never heard of Mandarin until it was revealed to be the villain of Iron Man 3. True, some comic book fans were also unhappy with what they did with the Mandarin in the movie. And there are some people who truly are fans of Mandarin, or at least fans of Mandarin because they are fans of Iron Man and Mandarin is one of the strongest rogues in his gallery.
But that is what made the character work so well. It turned expectations upside down. It was grounded — terrorists work using a false face, hiding behind a mask that will make you scared. The entire move of Iron Man 3 operates on a theme of identity and how we hide our true identities behind masks. From Tony Stark to Killian to Mandarin to Iron Patriot being used to get close to the president when someone else was behind the mask, that was the theme of the movie.
I guess it could be said this continues that theme, with the reporter being a false identity, but it declaws the gleeful subversiveness of the Trevor subplot.
Trevor. He is the face of a terrorist organization that is striking fear in the hearts of a nation . . . and he's really a shell of a man with no convictions except to score drugs, score with women, and score his next big break as an actor.
I can understand people not liking it. But it works in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, putting an almost believable spin on an unbelievable character. It also suggests that Killian is behind the Ten Rings, which is behind the attack that caused Stark to become Iron Man in the first place.
Now, all that is sort of a mess. All Hail the King retcons Iron Man 3's retcons.
And the ugly. And it suggests to me that Marvel caved.
It doesn't fix anything. It's not like the next Iron Man movie is going to be a Mandarin movie, because the next two Iron Man movies are Avengers movies.
Iron Man 3 was the button on the Iron Man trilogy. It wrapped up the Ten Rings, it gave us a villain from Tony's past, it had some social commentary — mostly with Trevor.
All Hail the King undermined that all. Why? Why undo a risky creative story decision? Why undo it, when there is more than likely not going to be a return to that character? Unless Ben Kingsley is going to make a cameo appearance on Agents of SHIELD, I guess.
Final thoughts. Ben Kingsley is funny, with incredible comic timing. All Hail the King unnecessarily complicates and retcons. I respected the creative decision to turn things on their heads, and I liked the thematic elements it represented. This feels like fan service. Most people who were complaining didn't care about Mandarin before, and won't care about him after.
The one positive: this may cause some fans who actually cared about the character before the movie to be happier. But it also gives them the false hope that Mandarin will be back. Because I simply don't believe he will.
This short, by the way, possibly would be PG-13. There are numerous drug references, sexual innuendo, and a surprising spurt of violence.