I think this can be explained a bit easier. Let's use.....The Wizard of Oz as an example. The final twist of that movie is that, there is no wizard controlling everything & granting wishes, just a random magician. But he created the concept of a Wizard of Oz, & was able to give an illusion of that. Therefore, if you wanted to see the Wizard, you couldn't because it was just a concept, but you could see the man that created that concept. Aldrich Killain was the Wizard of Oz in that sense. If you wanted to see The Mandarin, you couldn't because he's just a concept in the movie. But Aldrich was the man that created that concept, therefore he is The Mandarin, just not literally. The dragon tats & fire-breathing were more of a shout-out to Fin Fang Foom if anything. Also, I liked the twist myself since I thought it was clever to go a different direction like that. Ben Kingsley was menacing when he needed to be, & entertaining when he was "Trevor".