The Destruction of the Chinese Theatre was an accidental detonation caused by Jack Taggart, who overdosed on Extremis. His overdose resulted in a violent explosion that destroyed the theatre, killing several civilians and injuring others, including Happy Hogan. It was subsequently framed as a domestic terrorist attack, which the Mandarin claimed responsibility for during his campaign on the United States.
Trevor Slattery, posing himself as the Mandarin, claimed responsibility for a bombing that decimated an area of the United States. Immediately afterwards, the supposed Ten Rings bombed four other areas over the course of eighty weeks, one of them being the Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.
The bombing attacks had whipped the country into a frenzy, with the public in a state of mass panic and the international community bewildered by the total lack of forensic evidence. Around the same time, Pepper Potts was approached by Aldrich Killian, who had founded a privately-funded think-tank A.I.M. and developed a regenerative treatment known as Extremis.
Suspecting that Aldrich Killian had something to hide, Happy Hogan discreetly followed Eric Savin to TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, where he had arranged a meeting with Jack Taggart. Hogan watched Savin as he expressed his concern about Taggart's addiction to Extremis before handing him a briefcase containing several injections. As Taggart prepared to leave, Hogan collided with him in order to check the briefcase. He proceeded to help Taggart pick the spilled injectors up off the ground, only to try and flee the scene after witnessing the effects of Extremis on Taggart's face.
Savin, who recognized Hogan from their earlier encounter at Stark Industries Headquarters, collided with Hogan and began taunting him, causing Hogan to reveal that he had one of the injectors in his possession. When Savin tried to take the Extremis dose back by force, Hogan punched him in the face and broke his nose. Savin allowed the Extremis to heal his injury before picking Hogan up and throwing him across the forecourt.
Taggart, meanwhile, had injected himself with a high dose that was causing his body to rapidly build up energy. He desperately called out for Savin's help, only to explode seconds later and emit a shockwave that decimated the surrounding area. Hogan, having managed to hide behind a nearby cart, barely survived the blast but was severely injured. Savin, meanwhile, lost his right leg in the explosion but was able to walk away due to his Extremis powers allowing the limb to regrow.
Threatening the Mandarin
- "Here's a little holiday greeting I've been wanting to send to the Mandarin. I just didn't know how to phrase it until now. My name is Tony Stark and I'm not afraid of you. I know you're a coward. So I've decided that you just died, pal. I'm gonna come get the body. There's no politics here. It's just good old-fashioned revenge. There's no Pentagon. It's just you and me."
- ―Tony Stark[src]
Following the explosion, the Mandarin hijacked television signals across the country and claimed responsibility, comparing the destroyed movie palace to a fortune cookie. He then proceeded to speak directly to Matthew Ellis, announcing that his campaign would end with the Ellis' "graduation."
Meanwhile, Tony Stark visited a comatose Happy Hogan at Los Angeles Mercy Hospital and subsequently called the Mandarin out in front of several reporters before leaving to conduct his own investigation into the terrorist leader.
While reviewing footage from the explosion, Stark noticed that Hogan was using his remaining strength to point to where Jack Taggart had been standing, a realization made evident by Taggart's dog tags. Upon further inspection, Stark discovered there were no bomb parts within the blast radius. He reviewed incidents with a similar heat signature as the "bombings" orchestrated by the Mandarin and discovered that one such incident took place in Rose Hill, Tennessee in 2012. Stark ordered J.A.R.V.I.S. to chart a flight course to Rose Hill and prepared to depart as Aldrich Killian ordered Eric Savin to destroy Stark's mansion.
Behind the Scenes
- In early storyboards of Iron Man 3, Happy Hogan was originally supposed to die in the explosion of the Chinese Theatre.