Iron Man, though, is a smart franchise and initially, despite its comic-book soul, took an admirably unsympathetic view to Islamist terror, portraying Tony Stark as an unapologetic arms merchant who properly believed his weapons were keeping America safe from the barbarians, and who was in turn kidnapped and abused by Taliban-types in Afghanistan who hoped to get him to make a weapon for them. There’s a nice scene in which Tony uses his Iron Man suit to rescue innocent Afghan villagers from their evil oppressors.

Yet Iron Man 3 is a huge step backward that openly mocks the War on Terror via the villain the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). With Islamic imagery introducing his regular hijacking of TV airwaves, he denounces America and warns of more terrorist attacks such as the one at a Chinese theater in L.A. in which a human bomb detonates, Palestinian jihadist-style, in a crowd, nearly killing Tony’s bodyguard (Jon Favreau).

The Mandarin (despite being based on a Chinese character in the Iron Man comics) is meant to remind us of Osama Bin Laden and the Islamist brutes who beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on camera for the crime of being Jewish. The Mandarin does something very much like this in Iron Man 3.