Iron Man 3is silly, but it's alsoboldly entertaining, and channels a rich spirit that has long vanished from mainstream action movies, thanks to Shane Black's long association with and fondness for the genre. Sadly, it also drags an iconic Marvel villain through the mud for what amounts to a cheap joke, involving entirely unnecessary toilet humour.
In the threequel, the Mandarin is initially presented as an international terrorist to be feared, and capable of attacking Iron Man on a scale not yet encountered or even conceived. He is as untouchable as the tradition image of the super-villain, and he deserves his top billing, even if his accent is infuriatingly odd, and his rings disappointingly not magical.
But then Shane Black pulls a fast one, and it is revealed that the Mandarin is an empty symbol - a misdirecting front for a criminal arms business, played by an alcoholic, lecherous English actor called Trevor.
In the comic universe, the Mandarin is more than a symbol, and while The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3 have both gone big on the importance of symbolism in superhero movies recently, there is something lost when a hero is forced to fight a concept or an ideology. It might be smart, but it's a lot harder to engage than it is with someone like the Joker.
We wanted to see a threat grand enough to really put Iron Man through his paces which we almost got with the Extremis soldiers, until they somehow lost all of their regenerative powers in the final battle - but the issues of racism that would have probably underpinned a true adaptation all but made that impossible. So instead of the world-striding super-villain, with incredible scientific skills, a tight sense of honour and his iconic rings, we got a washed up English puppet without any real power at all, as a comment on the evils of rampant corporate crime.
Even with the modern pre-occupation with "realism" in superhero movies, it would have been far more welcome for the Mandarin to have been the real deal - a superhuman martial artist with the skills to cause Iron Man more than a mild headache, and unfortunately the legacy of this iteration of the character will come at a cost to the next Iron Man film.
Because when you've diluted your most iconic villain - and it is seriously akin to making the Joker a figment of Batman's imagination - where next can you go?
Do any other iconic villains deserve to go on this list? Share your own picks below in the comments.