At this point I feel like Marvel is wasting their One Shots on home video. In the beginning that was where they belonged; A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor’s Hammer and The Consultant are both minor nothing efforts. But once they got to Item 47 things changed, and last year’s Agent Carter upped the ante. And that ante has been upped yet again with All Hail The King, the Marvel One Shot included with the Thor: The Dark World Blu.
This short catches up with Iron Man Three’s Trevor Slattery in prison (Seagate, for those interested in the little nods to comics), where he’s living like a king. Because he turned state’s on all his Ten Rings compatriots he has a nice, private room, and because he’s famous he has a whole posse of fans who back him up whenever things in prison get too physical. He’s also the subject of a documentary, and the short shows what happens on the last day of filming when the documentary filmmaker reveals his true colors.
The short, written and directed by Iron Man Three co-writer Drew Pearce, is great. Sir Ben Kingsley gets a lot of space to play around in the Slattery character; he was used the perfect amount in Iron Man Three, and giving him more screen time here, in a side project, feels the right way to return to him. Kingsley is having a blast, delivering plenty of wonderful jokes and sinking right into the clueless, egocentric character who represents all of our worst stereotypes of actors.
If all the rest of the short - including major potential repercussions for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (more on that later) - weren’t enough, there’s an extended sequence showing the opening title of Slattery’s rejected 1980s pilot, Caged Heat, where he plays a KGB cop in Florida. It’s absolutely hilarious, and a note-perfect parody of cop show opening titles from the era. Also, it features a monkey drinking vodka.
As for the way it impacts the MCU… here be spoilers.
Yes, it’s true: there is a real Mandarin, and he’s not happy about Slattery using his name. But rather than a retcon this feels like an expansion, a pulling back of the curtain to reveal more of the picture. The short doesn’t actually show the real Mandarin - it ends with the implication that he’s right outside the door - but it’s certainly setting him up. How will that play out in future films? It’s an interesting question - although it’s also a question whether this thread will ever get picked up, especially if the Iron Man series is over.
All Hail The King also includes a cameo in the end credits that is great, and reminds you how rich this universe has become in just a few years. What I really appreciate about the cameo is the way it makes everything feel fun, like actors are willing to come back and do a day of work because they like the characters and the people making the movies. It was what thrilled about Dum Dum Dugan in Agent Carter, and it’s what makes this so nice. It reminds you of the feeling you got as a kid reading the Bullpen Bulletin, reading about the hijinks the Marvel writers and artists and editors got into when they were working together or playing softball against the Distinguished Competition. Sure, a lot of that wasn’t true, but the way it presented a happy family vibe is part of what also makes the MCU work as a larger concept.
But seriously, this short, like the two before it, is so good it should be seen on the big screen. Adding One Shots to the latest Marvel movie a couple of weeks after release could give the films a shot in the arm at the box office, giving fans a reason to see it again instead of waiting for home video (especially as the window shrinks). And these shorts are so good they deserve to be seen on a big screen with an involved audience.