In the Comics: The Mandarin is a Chinese megalomaniac hellbent on world domination, with powers derived from 10 magic rings that contain alien powers.
But in the Movie: He's just a terrorist with supreme jewelry game.
Does the Change Work?: Yeah, it's cool. You know, it's hard to fuck things up when you cast Sir Ben Kingsley. Still, the taming of the Mandarin character is strange only because Thor and The Avengers already took the Marvel series to space and beyond. With Iron Man 3 picking up after Avengers, there's no real need to de-mystify the Mandarin in an attempt to reach a wider audience. One need only to look at the Avengers box office returns to conclude that audiences have more than accepted otherworldly superhero plots at this point.