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|“||... I had a thought that would guide me for years to come. Anonymity, Tony. Thanks to you, it's been my mantra ever since, right? You simply rule from behind the scenes. Because the second you give evil a face, a Bin Laden, a Gaddafi, a Mandarin, you hand the people a target.||„|
|~ Killain confessing his reason behind the bombings to Tony Stark held captive.|
|“||It's a glorious day, Savin. This time tomorrow, I'll have the West's most powerful leader in one hand, and the world's most feared terrorist in the other. I'll own the war on terror!||„|
|~ Aldrich Killian to Savin|
Aldrich Killian is a major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as the main antagonist of the 2013 film Iron Man 3, the third and last installment of the Iron Man trilogy, and a posthumous antagonist in the 2021 film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
He was portrayed by Guy Pearce, who also played Kendall Duncan in Bedtime Stories, Fernand Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo, Leonard Shelby in Memento, Charlie Rakes in Lawless, Peter Weyland in the Alien franchise, Emil Harting in Bloodshot, Ebenezer Scrooge in the 2019 miniseries adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Thomas Clay in Tom Clancy's Without Remorse and The Reverend in the 2016 western movie Brimstone.
Aldrich Killian grew up with a number of physical disabilities that he was never able to accept, and spent most of his life trying to overcome them in any way that he could. Killian's tenacity and blind determination in fighting for a better life were seen by some as irritating, as he often came across as obnoxious. Killian couldn’t accept the cards that he was dealt, and, as intelligent as he was, had a real drive to change himself and become a different person.
Extremis and Becoming a Terrorist
On New Year's Eve 1999 in Bern, Switzerland, Killian initially asked for Tony Stark's support for his project under Advanced Idea Mechanics, only to be shunned and ignored by the latter: Tony lied and said that he would meet him on the roof of the building, but never came.
After his realization that Tony had ignored his proposition, Killian briefly contemplated suicide. Afterwards, Killian's lonesome presence on the roof caused him to relish in his state of anonymity, in which he decided to work on his own in creating an expansive and covert business for himself.
Over the years, through his privately funded organization A.I.M., Killian created a team to further research and develop Extremis, which imparted unusual levels of physical strength and cellular regeneration to human subjects.
Iron Man 3
Manipulating the War on Terror and Creating The Mandarin
After he cured himself of his disability through Maya Hansen's research of Extremis, Killian conducted many illegal experiments, of which several resulted in the explosions of his test subjects. Killian then decided to masquerade his failed experiments as terrorist attacks, but needed someone to fulfill the role of a supposed leader; a feared terrorist who would publicly take responsibility for said "attacks".
After he researched the history of the Ten Rings, one of the most feared terrorist groups in the world, and how they were historically affiliated with an ancient figure called The "Mandarin", Killian decided to give that name to his own fake terrorist. Killian found failed British Actor, Trevor Slattery and paid him in money and drugs to play The Mandarin.
Whenever one of Killian's experiments with Extremis failed, and caused explosions and a great number of civilian casualties, Killian's men hacked the American TV signals and relayed TV broadcasts of The "Mandarin". Surrounded with the iconography of The Ten Rings, The "Mandarin" would constantly declare that those supposed "attacks" were "another lesson" for the American people. However, neither Killian nor Slattery knew that The Mandarin was real.
Confronting Stark and His Plan
Killian approached Pepper Potts of Stark Industries to join him in the funding and research of Extremis. At first, Pepper was amazed by Killian's physical changes since she last saw him. Then, Killian began the pitch and explained Extremis by using a 3D hologram of his own brain and showed how Extremis could upgrade a person's entire DNA. However, Pepper argued that the concept would be highly weaponizable and refused. Killian then said goodbye to Pepper and left Stark Industries.
By masking his illegal activities, Killian was able to conduct his experiments while perpetuating a new "War on Terror" that he could monopolize and control. When Tony publicly threatened The Mandarin, Killian answered by sending his men to attack Tony's Mansion. Upon discovering that Maya attempted to save Tony due to him holding the knowledge of perfecting Extremis, Killian then decided to kidnap Pepper as leverage.
Tony was captured by Eric Savin when he discovered the truth about Trevor. Killian kept him captured and had Pepper as his hostage. Killian injected her with Extremis in order to further motivate and antagonize Tony to work for him. With Tony's continued refusal to help him, Killian decided to leave him in captivity while he kept Pepper as his personal "trophy". When Maya had a change of heart and tried to convince Killian to set Tony free by threatening to overdose of Extremis, Killian then casually shot and killed her.
Killian's soldiers also managed to capture Colonel James Rhodes, as Killian needed to use The Iron Patriot armor in order to kidnap President Matthew Ellis. Killian then used his Extremis powers to slowly heat up The Iron Patriot Suit until Rhodes was forced to leap out and tried and fought his way out. Killian then used his fire breath to stop Rhodes, who was so shocked, that he then gave up.
The Battle on the Norco and Abducting President Ellis
After his men abducted President Ellis, Killian planned to orchestrate a live feed by showing the murder of Ellis, only for Stark and Rhodes to interrupt and attack their base with the help of Tony's J.A.R.V.I.S. controlled Iron Man Suits. In the ensuing battle, Tony finally found Pepper, only for her to be trapped under debris. Before Tony was able to rescue her, an angry Killian attacked him with Tony distracting him in order to rescue Pepper.
While Pepper seemingly died after she fell to her apparent death, Killian approached Tony for a one-on-one battle. The two then engaged in a brutal fight with Tony switching between various Iron Man Suits as Killian destroyed each one after another. Since Tony was unable to attach any more extra armor onto himself, J.A.R.V.I.S. sent the Mark 42 Prototype to aid him in his battle. Tony then kinetically attached the armor onto Killian in order to stall his movements.
After he commanded the suit to pin Killian against the wall, Tony then activated the Mark 42's self-destruct function, which then seemingly blew Killian up in the process.
However, thanks to his Extremis powers, Killian survived the explosion, and, after the complex in which the two were fighting was demolished, confronted the battered Tony. Advancing towards Tony, Killian was proud of his crimes, asserted to be The "Mandarin" himself, and elaborated that the two should stop wearing "false faces". Just before Killian was able to attack Tony, Pepper, who survived her fall with the help of her newfound Extremis abilities, attacked him. Just before Killian was able to retaliate, Pepper ripped a repulsor arm from the Mark X Suit, attached it to herself, utilized its capabilities, and finally killed Killian with it.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Remembered by Wenwu and Slattery
Aldrich Killian doesn't appear in the film due to already being long dead, but is mentioned a couple of times. While dining with his sons Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing alongside the former's friend Katy, Wenwu recalls how an American terrorist decided to impersonate him for his own needs by posing like the leader of the Ten Rings and calling himself the Mandarin, mocking Killian's chosen nickname as the "Mandarin" is the name of an European dish.
Killian is also mentioned by Trevor Slattery, whom Wenwu had captured for impersonating him. When meeting with Shang-Chi and Katy, Slattery doesn't seem to remember Killian's name, referring to him as the "Producer", and mentions how participating in Killian's ruse led the Ten Rings to kidnap him with the intentions of executing him, though his Shakesperean skills convinced them to spare him and become the "court jester" of the Ten Rings.
Personality and Traits
By injecting the Extremis Formula into himself, Aldrich Killian's disability was cured and he was able to utilize its full power. Killian was then granted super strength, durability, heat-based abilities, and high-speed regeneration. Killian was also shown able to breathe fire akin to that of a dragon. Killian's body was adorned with dragon tattoos, which fueled his claim about being The "Real Mandarin".
Essentially a foil to Tony Stark in terms of personality, Killian was described as one of Tony's very own demons, in which Killian was a "mistake" that Tony had committed in his old life. Initially describing himself as one of Tony's greatest fans, Killian grew to resent him after he was shunned by the latter. While Justin Hammer wanted to be seen as Tony's superior, Killian wanted to be just like him, and originally idolized Tony. Acting as a parallel to Tony, Killian was egotistical, obsessive, arrogant, and immature in his dealings. Killian saw his creations not as a distraction, but as his purpose, as he sought to exploit war and death for profit. Killian also desired the women who were associated with Tony: he hired Maya Hansen and killed her when she displayed feelings for Tony, as well as described Pepper as his "trophy." Killian's goals revolved around wanting to punish Tony by systematically giving him the same sense of desperation that he felt thirteen years ago.
Powers and Abilities
Thanks to Extremis, Killian displayed various superhuman abilities, such as being able to regrow entire body parts, strength, an enhanced healing factor, a touch that was able to melt Iron Man's Armor, and, at one point, channeled the heat that was produced by Extremis and spat fire at Colonel Rhodes. Killian was highly-skilled in martial arts, in which he was able to effectively tear through many of Iron Man Suits with ease and even bested Tony in melee combat.
- Superhuman Strength: Extremis enhanced Killian's muscles to the point of being able to tear several Iron Man Armors with his bare hands.
- Enhanced Agility and Reflexes: Every time that Killian battled with Tony on The Narco, Killian had both reflexes and great agility from Tony's blasts.
- Regenerative Healing Factor: Killian used Extremis to heal his previous disabilities, as it was the original intention of Extremis: He was able to heal superficial wounds almost immediately, and regrew severed limbs in a matter of seconds.
- Exothermic Manipulation: Hosts of Extremis were able to consciously raise the temperature of parts of their bodies. The effect could be controlled to the extent that it might only scorch skin, or increased to the point where it could cause steel to turn into a molten state.
- Fire Breathing: An advanced control of Extremis granted Killian the ability to breath fire, and he used it as an offensive power against Colonel Rhodes when he took control of The Iron Patriot.
- Genius Level Intellect: Killian was a totally sophisticated genius.
- Master Scientist: Killian started to study many scientific fields in order to cure himself from his disability and managed to get revenge on Tony by successfully becoming a great scientist.
- Expert Businessman: Killian was able to turn A.I.M., a privately funded think-tank, into the primary systems contractor for the United States Armed Forces and the United States Government.
- Expert Martial Artist: With Extremis genetic technology, Killian was a powerful martial artist.
- Unnamed Father
- Stark Industries
- Tony Stark/Iron Man - Former Idol turned Enemy
- Pepper Potts - Former Employee, Crush, and Friend turned Enemy and Killer
- Maya Hansen † - Former Co-Worker-turned Enemy and Victim
- James Rhodes/Iron Patriot
- Matthew Ellis
- The Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King suggested that Aldrich Killian did not actually invent the identity of The Mandarin, and instead stole the alias from the actual leader of the Ten Rings. The film's depiction of Killian was initially described by Shane Black as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of The Mandarin, but the release of said short has suggested otherwise; in the comics, Killian was a scientist who helped develop the Extremis Virus, sent it to a terrorist group, and committed suicide later on. The version of Killian seen in the film was an amalgamation of himself, M.O.D.O.K. (as leader of A.I.M.), Firebrand (a supervillain with the most identical superpowers to how Killian was represented on film) and the modern incarnation of the Mandarin; which meant that the All Hail the King one-shot most likely hinted at a more traditional version of the character.
- Interestingly, despite not even being the true bearer of the name of the Mandarin, said alias was the only one directly used by a villain in the entirety of the Iron Man trilogy.
- In the non-canonical video game Iron Man 3 - The Official Game, it was revealed that Killian's consciousness had been "downloaded" by A.I.M. prior to his physical death and was uploaded into a new, enhanced form: M.O.D.O.K.
- In the Lego Marvel Super Heroes Video Game, Killian worked alongside The Mandarin and Loki against Iron Man and Captain America. Curiously, in the video game, he was killed by Captain America and by Iron Man after his boss battle.
- Aldrich Killian is the first main antagonist in the Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.