The Avengers almost included another Marvel villain. Sounds routine, doesn’t it? Well, not quite, as this one’s got a fascinating geopolitical bent to it.
At the time of its release, boardroom man Chris Fenton was President of the Chinese-based DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group, a studio that was in talks to co-produce a movie with Marvel. In his new book Feeding the Dragon, Fenton revealed that DMG were offered the chance to tease a character from that film in the post-credits scene for The Avengers, and one of the options discussed was to feature Iron Man’s arch nemesis The Mandarin in the teaser.
For a variety of reasons, however, it never happened. DMG were deeply apprehensive about agreeing to portray a villainous Chinese character out of fears that such a move would fall foul of the Communist Party. They favoured showcasing Shang-Chi – a heroic character – instead, but eventually they decided to pass on the teaser altogether.
Marvel fans were left confused and disappointed by the version of The Mandarin ultimately shown in Iron Man 3 (the movie that DMG co-produced), and at long last we have the answer as to why his appearance was so radically different to that of the comics. Fenton’s book also describes at length the serious concerns DMG had about The Mandarin’s stereotypical, potentially offensive characteristics and evidently, they and Marvel decided to swerve the problem altogether by casting two white Westerners (Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce) as a totally revamped on-screen Mandarin. The Avengers‘ post-credits scene, meanwhile, would ultimately go over to a then-Josh Brolin-less Thanos.
Honestly, this has left me highly inclined to purchase the book, and thanks to Bleeding Cool for providing the passage from Feeding the Dragon. As the title suggests, it documents Fenton’s attempts to break American movies in the Chinese market. I’m sold.