These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Alternate Character Interpretation: While Killian admits it's a flimsy excuse on their part to justify the assassination, exactly how responsible was the President in keeping oil barons out of prison after they caused a major oil spill?
A popular theory about the Mandarin is that Trevor Slattery was all just an act so he would get a reduced prison sentence, and that he used the mind control ring on Killian to have him say he's the real Mandarin. Of course, this was later Jossed in All Hail the King, where it was revealed that there is a real Mandarin who is upset that Slattery impersonated him.
Author's Saving Throw: In the Marvel One ShotAll Hail The King, it's revealed that the real Mandarin is still out there and is neither Trevor nor Killian, thus saving the character for those who did not like the twist.
Killian, especially after he claims to be the true Mandarin. Fans either treat him as a cliché villain with poor motivations and characteristics that are exactly the same as inthe twoprevious movies and bears no similarities to the Mandarin from the comic, or see him as a much cooler (and still faithful) version of the character.
Trevor Slattery also gets this treatment — he's either one of the funniest characters in the movie, or a disgrace to the Mandarin's character. Or both.
With All Hail the King, fans are kinder to the characters, knowing that neither of them were the real Mandarin.
Harley. Either he's an Ensemble Darkhorse whose chemistry with Tony Stark compliments the movie or is only there to pander to the kids. Though Tony's own apathetic and non-stereotypical treatment of him does make him more well-liked than most Tag Along Kid characters.
Broken Base: The movie could write books on how much it divided people.
Fans are divided over the film's tone, which appears Darker and Edgier, but still has a very comedic tone.
The Mandarin's Race Lift. People tend to be either understanding of it or refuse to watch the movie entirely because of it.
The reveal that "the Mandarin" is an actor, and that Killian is the "real" Mandarin. Trevor's fake Mandarin is based on the classic Yellow Peril version of the character, whereas Killian in this movie is based on a more modern version, a suave, manipulative businessman who works from behind the scenes. However, All Hail the King reveals he wasn't the real Mandarin after all, so this may not apply.
The fact that Tony doesn't spend much time "suited up", and vice versa (the Mark 42 and other suits get a lot of screentime without Tony actually inside). While some enjoyed seeing how badass Tony can be without the suit, others wanted to see Iron Man spend more time as, you know, Iron Man (and the suit as his armor rather than a remote-controlled robot or a JARVIS-piloted drone).
The destruction of all Tony's suits and the removal of his ARC reactor at the end. Some feel it's a sign of how much Tony has matured since he first put on the suit. Others see it as a needless de-powering of a hero and are upset at the implication that he won't be Iron Man anymore.
Pepper suddenly becoming an Action Girl and busting out moves that would give more experienced superheroes a run for their money, especially since there was no build-up to the moment save for her awkwardly attempting to use the Mk 42 earlier in the film. For some it broke the tension of the climax and had people laughing rather than being amazed at her becoming a badass at the last second.
Counterpart Comparison: Killian has a lot in common with Buddy "Syndrome" Pine from The Incredibles. After being shrugged off by his idol, he devotes his entire life to making his idol's a living hell, solely for the sake of getting back at him for being an ass a few decades ago. You'd think a man that brilliant would have found something more constructive to do with his discoveries. This comparison is brought up in a relatedHow It Should Have Ended.
He is arguably an even closer expy of Edward Nygma / The Riddler from Batman Forever, seeing as how both began as nerds (with near-identical glasses and hair, even) who turned to evil after the billionaire genius (but not their superhero alter-ego) they admired brushed them off in one meeting, but only really go off the deep end once they gain superpowers (Super Intelligence via stealing brainwaves, in Nygma's case), after which they become wealthy and vengeful rivals to their former idol. Both also are attracted to the lead girl but hold her hostage at the end to get at the hero.
As mentioned in Base Breaker, Killian still has similar motivations to the previous Iron Man villains; a fellow visionary/scientist who has a vendetta against Tony.
Now that it's official, as of All Hail the King, that Killian isn't the MCU's real Mandarin, one can more calmly compare Killian to the comic Mandarin. Despite the differences noted before (powers and ethnicity and motivations, to be specific), he still uses advanced stolen technology (albeit not alien technology bordering on magic) combined with terrorism and tactical corporate warfare to mess up Iron Man's life, started off with nothing and built his way up, and is capable of destroying one of Tony's armors with his bare hands.
Epileptic Trees: There are theories that Trevor was actually the real Mandarin all along and he was fooling and manipulating everyone, including Killian or that the true Mandarin is neither Killian or Trevor and is still out there. Funnily enough, the latter theory is now confirmed as of All Hail The King.
Amusingly, Ben Kingsley himself thinks the first theory is possible, according to an IGN interview.
And Killian is played by Guy Pearce. Imagine Leonard's shirtless scene in Memento but with tattoos of dragons instead of reminders and more muscle.
Eric Savin is also rather attractive in that policeman's uniform.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Both of the two previous films showed Tony's Malibu home getting wrecked which, aside from his altercation with Rhodey stealing the Mark II armor, can be Played for Laughs. But here...
Genius Bonus: One character mentions that Wernher von Braun wanted to send human beings into outer space, but instead had to create the V-2 rockets. What they don't mention is that von Braun started working for NASA after World War II, and developed the Saturn V - the rocket that brought man to the moon. That being said, the subtext was that idealistic science only progresses through militarism before it can be used for good, since von Braun being forced to work for the Nazis was how his work was first brought to the attentions of the Americans, who recruited him to work on the space-program after the War. The same way that Hansen's work on Extremis was meant to help amputees, but was now being used to create psychopathic super-soldiers. Hansen clearly believes that the technology will eventually be perfected and used to benefit others as she had hoped.
Harsher in Hindsight: Maya being present in Tony's house when the Mandarin's attack takes place means that Killian's Dragon pretty much just tried to kill his head researcher — and on his boss' orders. It's not 100% clear if Killian knew she was there at the time, but we could imagine some pretty harsh words being exchanged when she got back to HQ.
The film ending with Tony eagerly planning his next big project. From the looks of Avengers Age Of Ultron, his newest vision is going to do a lot more harm than good.
He's Just Hiding: Brandt and Savin. Tony's last line to the latter does sound like Tempting Fate. Also, some believe Maya could be alive, too, due to the theory that she secretly injected herself with Extremis, even though the cut on her forehead was still there up to and after her death.
The Mandarin's "You'll never see me coming." line becoming prophetic due to the twist. And, of course, his advisors telling the people helping him with his messages not to look at or talk to him are rather reminiscent of crew and extra strictures for his real profession.
Any of the interviews about the Mandarin before the movie came out. It's not just limited to Ben Kingsley, either. Robert Downey Jr. gets in on the act too.
Guy Pearce was originally considered for the role of "Henri Ducard"/Ra's al Ghul from Batman Begins, before they ultimately got Liam Neeson. Amusingly, the plot twist involving Killian is similar to the plot twist from Batman Begins involving "Ducard".
After the whole business with the Hammeroids, the 'House Party' Protocol looks rather hypocritical.
Rhodey being able to kick ass without the Iron Patriot or whichever suit shouldn't be surprising since he once foughtJackie Chanto a stalemate.
Combined with an Actor Allusion; Happy repeating "Badge" to Savin in the Stark Industries office becomes even funnier once we get to the end credits and see that actor James Badge Dale played the role.
Apparently when Tony was fourteen years old, he still needed a nanny. Fastforward to 2014 and we're introduced to Hiro Hamada, a fourteen-year-old robotics genius who has a nurse bot for a nanny.
The Mandarin crosses it when he kills a corporate executive on live television, even after President Ellis complies with his request. This is subverted later on when it's revealed that the murder was staged to begin with. Trevor even mentions that he wasn't ever allowed to handle real guns, meaning the one he used was a prop. The end credits briefly show his "victim" getting back up after the cameras stop rolling too, suggesting he was actually in on the whole thing.
Killian murders Maya Hansen to further torment Tony after showing him a kidnapped Pepper in agony. Not to mention turning Extremis subjects into unwitting Action Bombs.
What he later intends to do to the president, and to broadcast it on live television to send a message to Americans is truly horrific.
Gary, the Iron Man-obsessed cameraman that Tony runs into.
The one guard that has the sense to surrender to the frigging Iron Man.
Guard:[surrendering] Honestly, I hate working here. They are so weird.
Replacement Scrappy: The Iron Patriot seems to be an in-universe example for War Machine, given how its color scheme and nomenclature aren't as "cool". Rhodey himself seems to agree, given how his password for the federal database is "WARMACHINEROX".
The Mark XLVII having more yellow plating than red.
The Mandarin not being Chinese. This was possibly not to piss off the Chinese, due to them being major sponsors of the film. Plus, there's the fact that a Yellow Peril character doesn't play well with audiences in general.
Upon seeing the trailers and reading pre-release materials, a few people complained that the Mandarin wouldn't be Asian, not have the ten super-powered rings, and more resemble a shadowy behind-the-scenes villain than the character who could go toe-to-toe with Iron Man in the comics. After seeing the movie, more people complained about Killian being the Mandarin.
The appearance of Iron Man's greatest foe on the silver screen angered many after The Reveal. While Word of Godconfirmed◊ Killian to be the true MCU version of the Mandarin, many still feel he's far too different (having none of his powers, motivations or even ethnicity) from his comic book counterpart. Of course, it probably doesn't help that the fake Mandarin was played by Ben Kingsley, a highly decorated actor, while the true one was played by Guy Pearce — who's also a good actor in his own right, but not the one fans were expecting. May be undone in the future, as All Hail the King reveals that the Mandarin is a real person and simply hasn't appeared yet.
Maya Hansen, the creator of Extremis, ends up being unceremoniously killed off.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Tony's panic attacks get a lot of build up, but don't interfere with fights, especially the finale. Though it's implied that he gets over them in the middle of the movie, when he understands he doesn't need his suit to be Iron Man.
Extremis; in the comic, this was considered one of the best story arcs, and led to Iron Man getting an upgrade. The movie version is never used on Tony, instead used to give the villain and his goons superpowers. What really makes it a waste is how the film has all the set-up of the arc that lead to Tony's decision to take the upgrade: he's currently unable to sleep due to mental troubles, he's upgrading his suits but can't make them as pragmatic as he wants them, and he nearly gets demolished in a fight with Extremis-users to show how out-matched he is by them. Instead, however, they resolve the arc by having Tony choose to actually get a downgrade, which wastes the set-up they could have used for adapting the arc.
Why did none of the security agents check to make sure it was Rhodes in the Iron Patriot suit, when in fact it was Savin (one of Killian's henchmen) in there on a mission to kidnap the President? Especially since Rhodes had been AWOL for half a day.
Tony daring the Mandarin to attack him can be understood with the emotional strain he was under. Not so much his sitting and waiting for the attack afterwards as he turns out to have no real plan ready for it. At the very least, he could have gotten Pepper out of harm's way.
The Untwist: It's not particularly difficult for a Genre Savvy viewer to guess that Killian is the real Mandarin (or, at the very least, that something is off with the whole "Mandarin" thing). The film spends a lot more time on Killian than Ben Kingsley's Mandarin, with the former being established as a villain fairly early on and the latter not actually getting that much focus, and mostly just dropping by in the middle of everything else that's going on to say he's committing acts of terrorism. By the time Trevor is unmasked, a reasonable person may very well make the obvious guess that Killian is the real mastermind, which is exactly what happens.
The Woobie: Trevor Slattery. He had a very severe problem with alcohol and drugs - however, rather than helping him, Killian took advantage of this to manipulate the weak-minded Trevor into passing himself off as a terrorist mastermind, all while actually feeding his addiction by giving him more drugs and alcohol. Trevor's actually oblivious to the whole thing, and has no idea people are getting killed. Then, at the end, he's arrested for something he wasn't even aware that he was doing. Somewhat softened by that, while getting arrested, he ends up receiving the fame, publicity, and adoration he'd always sought, so his story ends on a somewhat happy note for him.
Then Trevor gets kicked around even more in All Hail the King, undoing the above semi-happy ending, where his interviewer, actually a member of the Ten Rings, sends him off to be killed by the real Mandarin. So now the poor guy's getting killed by a highly dangerous terrorist mastermind just for things he didn't know were wrong.
Of course, this might be more Jerkass Woobie if you take the view that he probably did know what was up but was happy to pretend it wasn't happening — plausible deniability for himself. And even if he didn't know that people were dying, he seemed to be aware that he was sending threatening terrorist messages to the President and that he was part of a criminal conspiracy, and as All Hail The King shows, that's more than enough to land you in jail.