First, the makers of Iron Man 3 decided that the Mandarin’s propaganda videos would make the villain really, really resemble and echo Osama bin Laden. I don’t think that’s necessarily offensive or exploitative; I think that’s hitting the notes that stir fear in our subconscious in a very effective way. (Ben Kingsley talks a bit about it here.) He hates the United States of America for reasons that seem unclear, he’s determined to teach us a lesson, and he launches random, explosive terror attacks at various targets.

But making the Mandarin a ‘fake’ figure, created by a greedy Pentagon contractor who seeks to “control supply and demand of the War on Terror” … well, it’s one step away from joining the 9/11 Truthers…

Except that the terrorists we see in the real world are not in fact driven by ‘anonymous behind the scenes guys’ like shady defense contractors. The Boston bombers were not secretly being manipulated by Halliburton. The guys who killed our ambassador in Benghazi were not being paid by somebody who wanted a fat contract to provide embassy security in the future. This is conspiracy-theory thinking, and not only does it not fit in well in an Iron Man movie… it takes what had been this movie series’ most thoroughly menacing, frightening figure and turns him into a quick, cheap joke, and refocuses us on Guy Pearce’s Killian villain. Meh.