'Iron Man 3': First Look at Ben Kingsley as new villain The Mandarin -- EXCLUSIVE

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Ever notice Ben Kingsley is either trying to destroy the world or trying to save it?

Behold the man who helped do “absolute good” in Schindler’s List and Gandhi as he shifts into absolute bad mode for Iron Man 3 as the international terrorist known as The Mandarin.

Comic book readers are very familiar with Tony Stark’s multi-ringed nemesis, but those who know this corner of the Marvel universe only from the movies can now bow their heads in subjugation before a new acquaintance.

Check out the full image below, along with a new poster for the film.

“Some people call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher,” The Mandarin snarled in footage from the movie previewed last July at Comic-Con. “Lesson #1: Heroes – there is no such thing.”

Expect to hear a similar monologue in the Iron Man 3 trailer coming out tomorrow, playing over footage of The Mandarin’s black helicopters launching missiles into the seaside home that is Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man headquarters. As the structure detonates and collapses into the sea, all of his armor and equipment sinks with it. (USA Today’s Brian Truitt has some other cool images from that wreckage over here.)

The thing about our dear teacher The Mandarin is, he knows the world is going to need more than one lesson. And he’s going to make sure we get more than one lesson (to paraphrase a classic line from Citizen Kane.)

Photo: Zade Rosenthal — Click for a larger version.

In the comic books, The Mandarin was a Chinese exile who ventures into a remote, forbidden valley and discovers a crashed alien spaceship. Inside the ship are ten rings, each with a different power, which allow him to seek revenge on a world he considers unjust.

But this version of The Mandarin will not follow that same backstory, said Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. Don’t expect aliens, even though The Avengers and Thor opened up this unified cinematic world to the presence of extra-terrestrials.

Iron Man 3 will be more about a clash of technology, Feige says and those who have been paying close attention to the previous two films know that The Ten Rings is a term for the terrorist group that kidnapped Tony Stark in the first movie, and gave the villain Whiplash some assistance in the sequel.

In that way, The Mandarin (who for a time was going to be the main villain in the first film) has been a part of the Iron Man series from the beginning, albeit as the off-screen manipulator.

“A lot of this movie is about characters going back into the shadows for various reasons and characters who have been in the shadows coming out and into the light for the first time,” Feige says. “It is Tony who, for various reasons, finds himself receding into the darkness. I don’t mean emotional darkness, I mean literally ducking out of the spotlight. And we’ll see other characters stepping up who have pulled strings from the background, starting to show their hand.”

Kingsley is not, of course, Chinese, but Feige says they wanted to blur the background of this version of The Mandarin. “It’s less about his specific ethnicity than the symbolism of various cultures and iconography that he perverts for his own end,” Feige says. From his samurai hair, to his royal robe, to his bin Laden-esque beard, and the AK-47 he keeps at his side, Kingsley’s interpretation is a hodgepodge of various warrior motifs.

In his attempt to rid the world of its oppressors by replacing them, The Mandarin considers himself a twisted version of absolute good.

“Don’t all good villains?” says Feige.

For more comic book movie news

Read more:
Iron Man 3‘ and ‘Thor’ 2 to be released in 3-D; ‘Ant-Man’ to follow ‘Avengers 2′
‘Iron Man 3′ back underway after Robert Downey Jr. injury
Marvel’s ‘Phase Two’ goes micro (‘Ant-Man’) and macro (‘Guardians of the Galaxy’)

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