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Review

Sticking to the Original Blueprints Keeps Iron Man 3 Working


“The world is getting weird,” declares faithful former bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) early in the first act of Iron Man 3. He’s not wrong. Everybody’s favorite genius billionare playboy philanthropist is back for a fourth round, facing a changing world, and a changing self. After the invasion of New York, and the start of the Avengers, there’s plenty on the table for Mr. Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to handle, from terrorists to his mercurial relationship to his own obsessions. Fortunately for us, though, IM3 doesn’t take too steep of a dive into Tony’s demons. It stays at a neat cruising altitude: charming, effusive, with requisite explosions aplenty. Much like the most used and battered of Tony Stark’s suits, Iron Man 3 has some loose pieces that rattle, but it holds together for a fun, familiar ride.

Material under the cut contains arc-reactor-powered SPOILERS. Read at your own discretion.

IM3 kicks off with our hero in a bad place. Still in mental recovery from a small fiasco involving a wormhole some time ago, Tony’s been in a wired-up cocoon of his own devising, which involves…not recovering at all. Building suit after suit on sleepless binges, Tony’s begun to worry the people in his life, including best pal Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and freshly minted C.E.O. and Tony’s #1 squeeze Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). His relationship with Pepper in particular is taking some hard hits, exemplified when a misunderstanding over a giant stuffed rabbit (yes, the one from the trailers) escalates into a full-scale fight. Pepper, her own life full of the corporate responsibilities of Stark Industries, is trying to keep her cool with the frustrating man she loves. But even her patience is tried when an automatically controlled suit attacks her by accident in the middle of the night.

The world outside will hardly give Tony a moment’s rest, however. Bio-tech entrepreneur Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is encroaching on Tony’s company and on his love life. The product he’s pushing is Extremis, an unstable compound developed by bio-chemist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) that can heal wounds and regrow limbs, but has the unfortunate tendency to, nine times out of ten, turn its recipients into human bombs. Killian and Hansen are unconcerned with the defective product (or are they?), blinders on in the search for perfection beyond human frailty. The search is one that Tony himself might relate to too closely for his own comfort. After all, it is his own sense of frailty in the wake of the New York invasion that’s kept led him on a panicked manufacturing spree.

As though that wasn’t enough to handle, up pops a new terrorist superstar claiming ties to Tony’s old favorites The Ten Rings; a confusing clash of dramatic cues known only as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Hijacking the airways to claim responsibility for a series of bombings, The Mandarin gets on Tony’s personal radar after Happy is critically injured in an attack at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The link between these two foes seems impossible at first, but slowly comes together in an interesting, sinister, and yet oddly humorous coup for the film, one we hesitate to spoil for anyone, even with our warning.

There are some interesting ideas at play here, and, though the film doesn’t have time to follow each one of them through, it gives a few space. In particular, the focus on Tony’s PTSD is compelling, with Downy Jr. delivering some of his best performances of the series. Countering any appearances of vulnerability with harsh quips, Tony’s defensive reactions are both acerbic and understandable. This highly in-character, if slightly overused, reaction helps the audience to connect on a more basic level, essential when there’s so much else going on.

And there is a lot going on. Cover-ups. Mysterious ties between terror and the Vice President. Global bio-weapons conspiracy. Fire-breathing bad guys? When the loose threads finally begin to wind together, the film loses its momentum instead of picking up, leading to a weak conclusion and a pile-up of questions. (Why don’t the suits have better security protocols in place? Wouldn’t there be more guards around the Mandarin? Would Aldritch Killian really risk his elaborate, highly funded plan to have a pissing match over an obsessive crush? Aside from the excuse of mistrusting authority, why doesn’t Tony share his amazing crime-scene analysis and ability to trace the untraceable Mandarin’s signal with S.H.I.E.L.D., or someone else who could help? Etc.)

It’s best not to think too hard, or you’ll miss the point…that there is none. IM3 is another puzzle piece meant to get us between points in the grander scheme of the MCU. One could see this as a stunting factor – the film can’t make any large-scale changes – or see it as a blessed freedom to do whatever it pleases. IM3 imparts enough goodwill that it secures the latter, getting away with a hasty wrap-up that includes Pepper’s offscreen recovery from Extremis she’s been unwillingly infected with (what?), as well as Tony’s sudden discovery of the key to ending his arc reactor dependency (whaaaaat?). Like Tony, the movie would rather smash a wall than worry about fitting everything through the front door. Details, details, the film says breezily, and carries us right along.

There’s one area where more attention should be paid, and it’s right there in the title. At this point in the run of Iron Man movies the use of multiple suits, gadgets, and A.I. to help Tony is well established. But the dependency on fantastic technology may have reached its saturation point here. Such is the overuse of tech in the movie that it feels like there’s nothing special about wearing one of the suits, which can, evidently, be easily commandeered, remote controlled, or used by the totally inexperienced. When Tony performs a daring maneuver to rescue the rapidly falling crew of Air Force One, the sequence has all the tension and excitement one could hope for. But at the fall’s conclusion, when it is revealed that he was remotely controlling the suit, suddenly the daring stunt feels like a cheat. If the heroes aren’t in the path of danger, our investment in their safety, and in their success, drops.

This disparity is in highest form at the film’s explosive climax. Amidst the kinetic ballet of 40+ Iron Man suits fighting the Extremis-laced baddies are the real nail-biting moments of watching an unsuited Don Cheadle (and his brave stunt doubles) fling themselves into danger to secure the President. The Iron Man movies lavish love on the tech, and they’re expected to. But the dazzle of coordinated CG is no match for the jeopardy of real, human bodies put in harm’s way.

Humanity isn’t only preferable where action is concerned. The parts everyone always talks about from Iron Man, the parts that make us like that film, and invested us in Tony as a character, are the parts where he is definitely, vulnerably, human. Everyone can dismiss the forgettable final battle between a suited-up Stane and Iron Man, spatially confused, and laden with VFX. But we love watching Tony build the suit, figure out problems and kinks. For the middle third of IM3, as we are transposed into a Spielberg film (there’s an earnest, but not treacly kid sidekick), Tony responds to the question of who he is by saying he’s a mechanic. This simplicity of fact is what guides the better moments of these movies, especially this latest. A series of scenes that involved Tony dealing with a traumatic attack by going to a hardware store and building devices are some of the best in the film. An arrogant, if delightful, genius, Tony is at his most relatable, and most interesting, when he’s got to figure his way out a jam without the full aid of his billionaire workshop. Sure, we laugh at Tony the Playboy, but the heartiest responses in the audience I viewed it with were reserved for Tony the Mechanic.

Ironic to a franchise about engineering brilliance, it is the human element, whether wisecracking, worried, or rising to the challenge, that remains the most compelling part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Tony Stark is fond of intoning, he is Iron Man. That’s a good thing. It’s just the way we like it.

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  • Anonymous

    [Spoilers]
    When Tony says he fixes Pepper I’m not sure if he removes Extremis from her, or just fixes it’s little addiction/explosion problem. Which leads me to my next point.
    Could Pepper be the Marvel movies universe She-Hulk? She has super-strength, resistance, endurance, and regeneration.
    If a Uni-Beam through the middle could kill the second-level bad guy, why didn’t Tony use that on the other people?
    [Spoilers]

  • Anonymous

    No mention of Shane Black’s lazy and uninspired influence into the screenplay, absurd buddy comedy routine with the kid, questionable Christmas setting, emphasis on VFX over intelligent material, Killian’s overall plan if he actually had won, underdeveloped Extremis plot device, successful and effective use of Pepper, and finally, not just ignoring comic book fans in favor of the larger mainstream audience they’ll get money from, but just a big FU to comic book fans who would just like to see a film adaptation be half as thoughtful as the source material.

    Go read Extremis. If you have Amazon Prime, watch the motion comic for free. It’s an hour long, and much better than Iron Man 3.

  • Amy

    My guess (other than it’s not in the script,) would be because he had to wait for it to build to full power again.

  • Anonymous

    While it had some weak parts, not least because this is the third time the main villain is a genius immoral entrepreneur (yawn), I liked it overall and I think the middle part actually worked better than both the beginning and the end – unusual in a blockbuster!
    I did not really care for the “twist” – but I can see the point it made and I can live with it.
    Where I almost screamed at the screen was the final narration where Tony fixes everything – because the mechanic is apparently a genius biologist as well – including Pepper who was Kick Ass AWESOME! I hope it was just the ‘splosion thing fixed…

  • http://www.facebook.com/hailey.ferraro Hailey Ferraro

    I can’t be the only one that wanted a suit to be hidden in the bunny? Right? I mean, explosions start and Tony activates a suit he made just for Pepper and it flies out of the bunny?! I feel like they missed a moment there.

  • Anonymous

    A friend of mine commented that if you have a character like Iron Man, the only way to make him relatable and interesting is to have him out of his iron suit as often as possible. And I guess this movie did that well…? In fact, I don’t know if you’ve read Linda Holmes’ analysis, but she had many interesting things to say about the symbolism and themes of the many out-of-iron-suit parts of this film: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/05/06/181560276/

    There was something flat about this plot, and you’re probably right that it was because they couldn’t make too many changes to the Marvel movie universe. One thing to be said, though, is that the character of Rhodey came into his own. If they’re [flagrant, unfounded speculation ahead] planning on writing RDJr out of the series (he’s mentioned being ready to leave the franchise, I believe), they did a good job of promoting Cheadle/Rhodes as a replacement Iron Man. He lacks the charisma of Tony Stark, but I was super impressed by Action!Rhodey in this film.

    Overall, this was entertaining but kind of forgettable. There were many, many unanswered questions and glossed-over details (my biggest question: if the Ten Rings is the Mandarin’s organization, was it really Killian who worked with Stane in the first film? So confused).

  • Anonymous

    Really liked the twist with the Mandarin. I thought it was really good meta. I also felt like Black’s decision to forego anymore Avengers elements (other than the delicious cameo at the end) made for a much more coherent movie than Iron Man 2. I hope The Winter Soldier manages to do the same even with Fury and Black Widow playing big parts.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but he killed the second level guy on Air Force One with plenty of time to recharge before facing Killian. Plus with all of the armor jumping he shouldn’t have needed to recharge.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    He also wasn’t in the suit when he did that. So that may have something to do with it.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t help but be a little disappointed with the film. The franchise has always been known for its comedy but I think this film went too far and killed much of the tension it successfully built in the first half. It’s never more apparent than during the big twist. At first, I was curious about where the film was going but after seeing the result, I’m wondering if sticking closer to the comic wouldn’t have been better.
    And the remote controlled suits are a bad idea. There is a much better finale to be made with only three Iron Man suits filled with Tony, Rhodey and Pepper.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I enjoyed the hell out of it. I liked that it didn’t get too bogged down trying to explain WHY The Avengers and SHIELD aren’t there, they just aren’t and the movie expects you to go along with it.

    Keeping him out of the suit worked really well thematically and storywise. Part of the problem in 2 was how he spent TOO much time in the suit, but thematically it worked because the suit was a crutch. Here, he had to deal with things without the crutch, and it worked even better.

    Yeah, I’ll be happier to know what fixing Pepper means. And while I’m glad that Tony got his heart problem fixed(HOW??) I don’t get why the movie is painting this as him walking away from the suit. I mean Rhodey doesn’t wear an arc reactor, and he has a suit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.scott.bailey Greg Scott Bailey

    I got that “She-Hulk” vibe as well with Pepper. To which I wouldn’t really complain if they made that kind of change from the comics version; Jennifer Walters. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Paltrow in Avengers 2 as well.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I agree, but I would still love to see Angie Harmon as a more comic book version of the She-Hulk.

  • http://twitter.com/sara_smile Sara

    I enjoyed the film a lot, I have my own idea about the ‘twist’ with the Mandarin only because he is known to be a manipulator and the like. And I couldnt help but think of the Clint Barton quote the whole time with AIM “Its not the same without the big head little legs guy”. But anyway…I liked that they did touch on the PTSD, some of which I think is more than just from NY because they never delved into what happened to him after Afghanistan. I wish there were more Rhodey moments in it though, I think they dropped the ball with that one personally.

  • Anonymous

    I agree about not explaining too much where Shield were. If I have to hear someone ask “But where were SHIELD/other random hero?” after every single one of these stand alone movies, I might actually start saying mean things over the internet.

    The answer is, and always will be: They had other shit to deal with.

  • Anonymous

    But that was the suit that got killed by the truck- the prototype Mk 42. Maybe it was the only one powerful enough?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I was thinking it’d be much smarter to keep Ms Potts invulnerable, seeing as how she’s the bad guys’ go to for manipulating Iron Man.

  • Anonymous

    LMAO! Me too! A couple of guys were talking about the film in the comic shop yesterday and talking about how Agent Coulson’s death wasn’t even mentioned. I bit my tongue so hard it bled! Internally I was screaming, “Don’t you people internet?!?!”

  • Anonymous

    the Christmas setting bothered me too. It didn’t add anything to the story. Watching a Christmas film or a film that Christmas is in for no reason, in May is just annoying!

  • http://twitter.com/FroWillis Sarah

    I learned that I am emotionally attached to the dumb robotic arm. I was so happy to see that he survived the wreckage.

  • http://twitter.com/FroWillis Sarah

    I figured that the initial electromagnetic chest doohicky was because in the middle of the desert there simply wasn’t the proper surgical means for the shrapnel fragments to be removed. Tony being Tony just never went to the hospital to have them removed because that would mean taking time off for surgery.

  • Nick Hall

    Settings movies at Christmastime for no reason is kind of Shane Black’s calling card. He does it for every movie he writes.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I guess? But during 2 it’s all about how the reactor is killing him, if it was so simple, why not then? IDK, it’s just wierd.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.adkins.77 Brian Adkins

    Agreed!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.adkins.77 Brian Adkins

    I was under that impression as well. But yeah,.least she got the villain at the end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.adkins.77 Brian Adkins

    “Pepper” and “Happy” are nicknames just like “Rhodey.” ;-)
    And no,no one can just remote control Tony’s suits. Only Tony. He tells Rhodes this when the Col. wants Tony to “suit him up.” Tony can’t because they are only “coded” to him. The suit that was remote controlled was Rhodes’ War Machine/Iron Patriot armor. Guess Rhodes either isn’t as good -or as paranoid-as Tony. Maybe he should be. lol

  • Anonymous

    He found out about a brilliant new surgeon called Stephen Strange.

    In Marvel phase 3 after Stephen Strange has his accident and learns magic Tony will remember what Strange did for him and use that to bring him into the Illuminati

    But wait you say, Stephen Strange was a neurosurgeon, a completely different field of medicine than removing weird glowy things from people’s chests. Shhh.

  • Anonymous

    Me too!!! I was so upset when the house was being blown up and one arm was hovering over the other “dead” one!
    Was I the only one who was annoyed and upset that all the suits got kaboomed?

  • Anonymous

    I think the idea was that Killian was using the Ten Rings name as a front for the cover-up, rather than him being a part of the Ten Rings himself?

  • Anonymous

    I’d gone in with the assumption that they wouldn’t give her her own Rescue suit properly, so I wasn’t so dissapointed, but it would have been nice if she could have been in the suit for more than 5 seconds! I love that she got Killian in the end, but was pretty annoyed by the quick fix on both her at the end. I guess maybe they couldn’t make it permanent because of filmverse continuity? :/

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, it was probably just an excuse to use the ‘look at my inappropriate giant rabbit present’ gag. It served no other use in the film whatsoever!

  • http://twitter.com/All4Av Avalon

    My favourite part was Tony dancing. ‘Nuff said :D

    I was entertained throughout the movie and I don’t ask much more from that. But I do agree that a little more variety on villains would be welcome.

  • http://twitter.com/FroWillis Sarah

    I actually cried out! Dummy is the best.

  • Anonymous

    Marvel Phase 3 definitely doesn’t need the Illuminati.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it was a special suit for her, it was just that the Mark 42 was unique in that it wasn’t coded just to Stark.

  • Anonymous

    You could say the same about Die Hard. And you’d be wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I loved it. Did it have it’s rough spots? Sure. Most of them I can handwave a bit (Why didn’t Tony contact SHIELD? 1) He doesn’t trust them and 2) Things spiraled out of control much more quickly than he meant it to–Tony had JUST found the dog tags when Maya came to the door. Why didn’t Tony get Bruce to help 1) See previous reason 2. 2) At no point could any of the problems in this movie be solved by adding a berserk smashing monster to the mix.)

    What I’m mostly getting, from talking to coworkers and other fans is that if you were a fan of the Iron Man and Avengers movies, then you’ll probably love it. If you’re a fan of the Iron Man comics, you’ll probably hate it. And you’ll probably hate it because, as my coworker put it, “they take Tony Stark’s biggest, baddest villain and turn him into a clown.” Personally, having never really gotten into the Iron Man comics (mostly enjoying Tony on the periphery of whatever else I’m reading), I thought the take on the Mandarin was brilliant. In the comics, he started out as a massively racist caricature. In the movie, he’s SUPPOSED to be. He’s an amalgamation of everything that current American culture finds Scary And Foreign. And it’s all a construct. That’s brilliant. (The argument against him basically being Russel Brand I can understand, but I think there’s something to be said for showing us a Big Scary Terrorist and then not only making him Not A Threat, but making him ridiculous. That’s an old kind of medicine, goes back to Looney Tunes mocking Hitler and before.)

    Though I empathize (sympathize? I get those two mixed up) with people who are purists–I’m still livid over changes made to my favorite DC characters, so, yeah, I know that feel, bro.

    The other argument I keep hearing is he wasn’t in the suit long enough and…again, I can see that being a legitimate complaint, but I think it works with the whole point of the movie, in fact, the trilogy, really, being Tony learning he doesn’t need the suit. I mean, we come in and he is literally transforming himself into part-machine. He’s that far gone.

    Mostly, though…it makes me feel like this movie was made for fangirls. Holy cats, it has EVERYTHING that my time in fandom would make me put on a list of Things Fangirls Like:
    -Tony out of suit more often so we can enjoy him in tight, form-fitting clothing.
    -PTSD Tony (Whump. Is that Whump? Or at least H/C bait?)
    -Tony Snark
    -Tony spending time with a child
    -Tony taking said child under his wing and training him in the ways of SCIENCE (too young for coffee? Eat candy to stay away)
    -Tony Stark never, ever sleeps
    -Tony and Rhodey being bros. (Rhodey being awesome sadly isn’t on the list of Things Fangirls Like, but it is on my list, because he was fantastic)
    -SCIENCE BROS

    I don’t think we’ll ever get a perfect, plot-hole-free comicbook superhero movie. It’s just not a thing that happens, and that’s fine. You just have to hope the movie gives you a fun enough ride with endearing enough characters that the plot holes just don’t matter.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I cheered a little bit when I saw that he’d retrieved Dummy.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    Yeeeah, I don’t really get why he did it. Unless all of the suits were just the results of him building increasingly weird and single-use-type armor (y’know, like Arctic Suit Batman stuff) and he just decided he’s rich enough to say screw it and start with a clean slate.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I loved Rhodey in this film, and I’m glad, because before I was liking Howard better than Cheadle as Rhodey, and I really didn’t want to. But I thought Rhodey got a hell of a lot to do. Off on his own for a while, breaking out of a prison without even knowing if Tony was around. Then being a soldier and leading the fight on the tanker and finally that freaking awesome rescue with the President. And he got to do it while being fun and a little bit goofy so you could totally see him and Tony being buddies from way back.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I will say that’s the one thing I would’ve added. Just because I think Coulson’s death is a contributing part of Tony’s PTSD (most of it is, y’know, plunging through a wormhole to an unknown end of space and committing genocide then nearly dying unfathomably far from anything like home. But I think a Good, Average Man dying trying to help him brought back shades of Yinsen.) and he was Pepper’s friend. Even a quick throw-away line about Phil would’ve been nice.

    But probably inelegant. Best to mention SHIELD as infrequently as possible, really, lest anyone start wondering why they’re not taking down this terrorist in particular.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I’d been hoping for Rescue, but the fact that she got to do the classic “jumping on top of the love interest to protect them from falling things” pose was nice. And then the part where she’s the one that ultimately beats the villain.

    Also, movie passes the Bechdel test, and Pepper gets to be a strong, complex character on multiple levels, so I’m reasonably happy.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I thought it gave us a pretty clear grounding on about how long it had been since the events of the Avengers. And I dunno, I kinda like seeing it happen in a movie that isn’t about Christmas. It’s always a little weird that even though the commercial Christmas season takes up about a sixth of the year, nothing ever happens during it…?

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    Oh, yeah, and adding to the wall of text:

    I don’t think it felt like cheating to realize Tony wasn’t in the air during the skydive scene because in that scene the conflict isn’t “Will Tony Stark Survive THIS fiasco?” It was “Will Tony save them all?” We all know Iron Man sure isn’t gonna hit the ground and die just from being tossed out of a plane, but Jarvis told him he’s got a dozen people falling and can only carry four. That moment is still pretty tense.

  • Kim H

    I don’t know. I think what makes Pepper so cool is that she’s pretty normal. In the comic books when she got powers she didn’t want them. She’s perfectly able to do what she has to with what she’s got. And she knows and likes that about herself. She doesn’t need super powers to kick ass

  • Selina_Elessar

    Not just anyone can control Tony’s suits. The Iron Patriot armor is the only suit to be used by the bad guys in this film. Also Tony asks Rhodes, ‘The rebrand, was that AIM?’ And that’s when they put it together. I’m sure Rhodey didn’t paint his suit, which means the geniuses at AIM had access to it long enough to recode it so that anyone could be in it. Also, Tony is the only one to remotely control a suit, unless I’m forgetting something. And I’m having trouble remembering, but wasn’t Tony in his suit when he rescued the falling people from the Air Force 1? I didn’t think that was a remote rescue.

    Also, no movie is perfect, but I loved this one, it was darned close. It had less plot holes than ‘Dark Knight Rises’ and a more entertaining lead who actually did stuff the entire movie, whereas Bruce spends a bunch of ‘Rises’ walking with a cane or in a cell. (Still liked that movie, though.) Also, I haven’t read the comics, but from what I’ve read about them and heard, they don’t have the greatest continuity, either.
    Finally, I don’t know how people can argue that Rhodes was underutilized. He was more kick-butt and had a bigger role in the main action in this movie than the previous ones, perhaps combined. He was one of my favorite parts, so yeah, I wouldn’t have minded more, but the movie IS ‘Iron Man’ not ‘War Machine.’

  • Selina_Elessar

    I don’t think he’s walking away from the suit. He ended with saying, “I AM Iron Man.” The exploding the suits was symbolic of him committing more to Pepper and saying, “You come first. You’re more important. This is me apologizing for ignoring you and worrying you and letting you fall.”

    Similarly, getting the shrapnel removed and losing the reactor are symbolic. It bugged me that the surgery was so easy, so why wait so long? at first. Now I’m thinking he just didn’t feel like bothering. It was an issue of ‘other stuff I’m working on is more important, I don’t have time for surgery,’ and ‘I can tough this out and if I have a surgery, I’ll look weak and people will know that the reactor isn’t perfect and I’ll look bad.’ He didn’t tell Pepper it was poisoning him in 2, so why would he get it removed and have to tell her what happened? So having the surgery was symbolic of his admitting he didn’t need it to prove himself good enough, he’d figured out he didn’t need it to be Iron Man, and I like to think that just like the surgeon removed the shrapnel, Tony’s going to work on removing the remaining negatives in his life, move on, and allow himself to start healing for real, instead of ignoring the issue(s).

    Also, I agree–I didn’t care SHIELD wasn’t involved, it wouldn’t have made sense. Tony doesn’t roll like that, he doesn’t call for help, people call HIM for help. Also, I agree that other heroes are busy dealing with other messes.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    Agreed with just about all of that (including the AIM bit. Makes sense in retrospect. You don’t make them say to the audience “Hey, my suit was upgraded by the bad guys” just so Tony can get a password). And especially with proactive Tony versus reactive Bruce.

    Tony wasn’t in the suit during the air rescue, though. Because the second he lands the people safely in the water, he turns to fly across a highway and gets hit by a mack truck and the armor just falls apart and we see Tony still in the very lovely speedboat, coming back to himself.

    Still a pretty thrilling scene.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rodimusben Ben Lundy

    I enjoyed the film until it hit a brick wall with the Mandarin reveal. Talk about utterly ruining an iconic comic book character. I was fine with reimagining him as a Bin Laden-type terrorist (which tied in nicely with Iron Man 1); it was a logical real-world equivalent of the would-be world conqueror from the comics. But then that came crashing down and the real villain turned out to be another greedy industrialist… just like the last two Iron Man movies.

    Essentially, the plot has been the same in all three films. With Mandarin I was hoping they would close out the trilogy with something truly epic. Instead we got a retread, punctuated by even more humor than before (which RDJ is great at, but you have to have the right balance to be able to take the movie seriously).

    Two thumbs down.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure he DID kill the dude with the Uni-Beam through the middle. He shrugged off having half his head blown off earlier. With enough time, I think he would have regenerated, Wolverine-style.
    It’s just that then the plane blew up too.
    And even then I’m not 100% sure he’s dead-dead. (but having his Extremis supply dry up, that seems like it might just kill him)

  • Anonymous

    In my head, the only way the SHIELD empty plot-hole makes any sense is that Nick Fury has just been fired by his bosses for over-stepping in New York, and SHIELD is in disarray. (this also neatly ties into Captain America: Winter Soldier, where Robert Redford just shows up as the new guy in charge)
    (a throwaway line would have tied it together better, but can be forgiven if they pick it up quickly enough in Captain America)

  • Anonymous

    I feel like there’s something interesting in the genius immoral innovator plot thread–all the villains are mirror images of Tony. “You create your own demons,” he said–because the truth is that he was one of those villains without even realizing it not so long ago.
    Maybe they can do something with that plot thread in Iron Man 15. (I kid, I kid…)

  • Anonymous

    And with the pilot for Whedon’s SHIELD show in the can in which a certain agent plays a major role =D

  • Anonymous

    That’s what I thought, too

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I think that Tony is a different side of the same coin as the villains, or was on that route but because of what happened to him he got off that path is an interesting take on it.
    Although I don’t really want to keep seeing it.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, you played the ol’ Die Hard card. I have not seen that in the longest time…

  • Anonymous

    I need to re-watch the Avengers, because I don’t remember any cues from that on the time of year it all went down. I haven’t seen it since it was in the cimena. I just took it that IM3 was a few months later.
    I suppose I don’t enjoy the Christmas side to it because it makes me think I can only watch it at Christmas time. I’m odd, like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicole.e.currie Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    Man, when they went down, and then a little later Jarvis went out…I’m not too proud to admitt I cried a little.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicole.e.currie Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    Yeah, the’ jumping on top of the love interest to save them’ pose, coupled with the mutal “I got you’ was one of my fav parts.
    Seriously, it made me realize that I absolutely love them as a couple, and it’s because they really do protect each other.

  • Gackles

    Your friend is in idiot.

  • Gackles

    Iron Man 3 is an epic letdown. We were promised the Mandarin but instead we are victims of an embarrassing hoax. I love a good super hero movie but this one was almost insulting (if I actually cared about this stuff). I wanted to leave the theater as soon as the ‘hoax’ was revealed but figured I stick around to see how badly they can ruin Iron Man…. and boy did they ever. Any remotely good review of this movie is absolutely paid for.

  • Gackles

    How can you like an Iron Man twist that renders his arch enemy (and one of the best Marvel villians) a drug addicted hoax? I really don’t get how anyone could like this movie. Please enlighten me.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    The scene that got me like that was when Tony admitted to Pepper how screwed up he still was, and the he just kind of lowered his head against her chest and she held him. It was just such a vulnerable and sweet moment, and I loved that the Big Superhero Movie wasn’t afraid to make their male hero vulnerable and let his girlfriend be strong for him there.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    I guess that’s a thing too. I’ll watch Christmas-set movies any time (Love, Actually is one of my favorites), but beign set in Christmas time gives me an excuse to watch them again come December.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    Because not everyone was a devotee of the Iron Man comics, so not all of us see The Mandarin as Tony Stark’s arch enemy? That’s one possibility.

    Another is being able to examine the movie as something separate from the comics and finding (personally) that the change works for the story being told in the movie.

    To the vast majority of people, I hate to say, the Mandarin is simply not iconic. Except, perhaps, as a racist caricature. The Terrifying Foreign Other. So that’s what they made him, but literally, even in the context of the film, a caricature. Making him a buffoon, I think was pretty much the same as any Looney Tunes short portraying Hitler or a generic Nazi commander as a punchable goofball.

    But again, mostly, it’s that most people who didn’t specifically read Iron Man comics just aren’t invested in the character of the Mandarin. I know it sucks–I’m a DC fan of old, and I can’t stand seeing what the nu52 has done to some of my favorite characters, I know that feel, bro. But even with the nu52, when the story is still well-written, even if they took Character X and completely screwed him/her over and took out everything that made that character unique and fun…if the story’s still well-written, well, there it is. I don’t have to like it, but it doesn’t make it a bad story.

  • Anonymous

    “the focus on Tony’s PTSD is compelling,…if slightly overused…”

    I was afraid of comments like this.

    [CN: possible ablist language, disablism, sexism and of course, SPOILERS!!]

    (Note: I do not speak for all people with PTS nor any other mental illness) Frankly, from my own experience of post-traumatic stress, his reaction was pretty spot on. He was being triggered by phrases and/or situations (mentioning New York or not having the suit, etc), and his reaction was to panic. Having no therapy or outside help on just HOW to cope with this, I don’t feel it was overused at all.

    In fact, every time, I could empathize with him. Those panic attacks…I remember having them in middle school, at my father’s house; I would wake up, almost exact time every night (no, our house wasn’t haunted or anything), regardless if I had taken a sleeping pill or not, and the adernaline would kick in…and I would think “Crap I’m awake, I can’t control, I can’t control…” and I would get swept away in a flurry of fight or flight. It was…SO…painful; I felt like I was dying and/or losing my mind. Unlike Tony, for the longest time I had NO idea what my triggers were; so, you can imagine how “fun” that was.

    Now, of course, while my experience of the movie was positive regarding Tony’s brush with PTS, it could have been triggering for others. I think that’s super unfortunate (I cannot WAIT for media to catch up, already, and have Contant Notes/ Trigger Warnings beforehand).

    “Would Aldritch Killian really risk his elaborate, highly funded plan to have a pissing match over an obsessive crush?”

    AGREED. Why was Pepper in this movie again? Oh right; to be Tony’s “main squeeze”; because remember, wymenz life revolves around the menz. Totes…let’s not forget the little “love triangle” they tried to pull (with, when Pepper first seeing Guy again after what, ten years? she reacted with “Wow, you are different and/or possibly handsome!” Don’t know for sure, since PEPPER WAS NEVER ASKED). Another thing Pepper wasn’t asked, nor had control over, was getting then losing her powers. While she kicked ass (and I mean, I was cheering!!) in the movie…doesn’t make up for it. These things bothered me. A lot. And the suits being blown up at the end, because Pepper wants him to pay attention to her (and yeah, he wasn’t, that’s true, but this plays into the “Women Distract Men from Very Important Things”, which is problematic on so many levels), which was only seen as positive because Tony cared about her. Had he not, Pepper would’ve been put in a MUCH harsher light.

    There was also this underlyning theme in the movie that physically disabled people are Not Whole, and would jump at the chance to “find a cure” for their disability. UGH. Physically (and mentally) disabled people are normal human beings, with a wide range of feelings and emotions, even towards their own disabilities. This can include (possibly, though I do not want to speak for all) frustration at the disability. But this outside view society has of disabled human beings is troubling…and that’s putting it lightly.

    Here’s some links to learn about disabilities:

    http://tigerbeatdown.com/2012/11/26/so-sorry-your-disability-tragedy-porn-isnt-sad-enough-ian-buckwalter/

    http://www.shakesville.com/2010/12/discussion-thread-disability.html

    All of those criticisms aside, I LOVED the movie. Oh man; SO much fun! Like I said, cheering and clapping through most of it. When the Marvel logo came on with “I’m Blue” playing in the background-AHH! Memories!! Man, I bought that album and listened to the hell out of that song lol. And Trevor, the fake terrorist? Awesome!! Tony being Tony-VERY AWESOME!! I actually grew a bit more respect for the man, seeing as the first two Ironman’s were him being a douche (which he still has a LONG way to go, but good for him for admiting his problems in this one). Overall, I give it a “YAY!!!11 Eleventy!!” I could be biased, given as I’m a HUGE huge huge The Avengers fan, and this gave me my cake so I could eat it, too :D

  • Amber Barnes

    I really, really, really hope not. I’d rather see Rescue come from Pepper’s Extremis injection rather than just a ubiquitous standing for my fav Marvel superheroine.

  • Anonymous

    Eeeee I can’t wait for the SHIELD show, I’m so excited!!!

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Well said.

  • Anonymous

    YES. Same :) Very sweet moment.

  • Anonymous

    Love, Actually gives me the icks, but to each her own =D

  • Lynn Parry

    I think the purpose on the IM3, in the grand sheme ofthe MCU was to make way for the Extremis armor. I cant be the only one to think that, the MK42 is clearly inspired by the pre-Extremis armor.
    Since Tony could “fix” Pepper we know he figured Extremis out. I figured that he infected himself with a stabilized version of Extremis (like in the comics) to be able to survive the operation.

  • http://twitter.com/realheatherlynn The Real HeatherLynn

    I was incredibly unhappy with Iron Man 3, in part because of the hype that your site built up (not in a bad way, LET ME EXPLAIN). I’ve never read a lot of comics (although that’s changing) and to learn about Pepper Pott’s Rescue story line was amazing to me. There’s so much story there! And then all the references to it in interviews made me more excited to see IM3 than anything else, and I was so incredibly disappointed by the movie that I’m unable to see past it. I think the movie changed tones too often, was unfocused, and overall was a fluff movie – and that’s not what Marvel’s been in the movies recently. It was an action movie, sure, but especially after Avengers and the other movies, Marvel has proven they can do an action movie that’s way more than an action movie, and this wasn’t it. One thumb way down and one thumb hesitantly down from me. Also, is it just me or does it seem like they really strayed away from the trailers? (And the ending sealed the deal for me disliking the movie, what with the heals and all.)

  • http://twitter.com/realheatherlynn The Real HeatherLynn

    I was more upset over that than Pepper’s “fall”! (Although I also knew Pepper wasn’t dead and the movie didn’t spend enough time on her fall for me to even have a proper emotional reaction.)

  • http://twitter.com/realheatherlynn The Real HeatherLynn

    I’ve never read Iron Man comics and I felt cheated too! I mean, if you’re going to commit, FUCKING COMMIT.

  • http://twitter.com/Tonks07 Mandy

    Soo oo glad to see I wasn’t alone in my feelings about the bots!

  • http://twitter.com/Tonks07 Mandy

    ” I loved that the Big Superhero Movie wasn’t afraid to make their male hero vulnerable ”

    I also thought about this during Tony’s PTSD/anxiety attacks. How often are male main chracters shown dealing with something like that? In a fairly realistic way even! I love that they were willing to go there and have those down moments of having Tony dealing with/reacting still to all these huge things that happened to him.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    It’s part of what makes Tony such a dynamic superhero that resonates with the larger audience, I think. We keep seeing movies that go: “Yeah, this is what superheroes would be like if they were in REAL LIFE!”

    But then it’s just a lot of tech specs or super-seriousness, and very rarely touches on the actual *emotion* that would be involved going through what many of these heroes go through. (I think DKR *tried* but it just sort of rang hollow, like going through the motions. I never felt the emotional empathy with Bruce’s manpain that I did for Tony PTSD in all three movies.)

  • http://twitter.com/Tonks07 Mandy

    It didn’t bother me. *shurg*

    I wondered if it was a director’s quirk of some kind. Just because I was thinking of similarities to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (also with Shane Black & RDJ) with the Christmas setting and voice over bookending the movie and witty one liners.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the point was that he was the guy behind the ten rings? He was the “real” mandarin – and the ten rings always seemed kind of mercenary and unusually made up for a terrorist organization. Hard to say though. So many of the more series-related plot points in this movie were kinda vague.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the point was that he was the guy behind the ten rings? He was the “real” mandarin – and the ten rings always seemed kind of mercenary and unusually made up for a terrorist organization. Hard to say though. So many of the more series-related plot points in this movie were kinda vague.

  • Petrinka

    I feel the exact same way (especially about Love, Actually). Thank you for making me feel like I’m not an exclusion.

  • Anonymous

    Presumably Pepper had a vested interest in not blowing up. There’s nothing to show that she had her powers taken away, nor that they were taken away forcefully. IIRC, she tells Tony she’s afraid she’s going to burn him, he touches her anyway, and promises that he can fix it. That all seemed pretty straightforward to me, not sure where this “forcibly removed against her will” stuff I keep seeing around is coming from.

    The other thing that puzzles me is the assumption that she’s against him being a superhero because it’s meaning he’s paying less attention to her. This is where I start wondering if I saw the same movie as everyone else. I never saw anything about her being opposed to Iron Man exactly, just to him being self-destructive. The thing I saw was a character who, in response to trauma, stopped sleeping, isolated himself, and went on an extremely obsessive suit-building spree, and in response, his partner worries about him, and is frustrated that he won’t get help for his problems, and tries to get him to take a break from the obsession, and get some sleep. She wants him to let go of the self-destructive obsessive thing he’s got going. That’s like the complete opposite of “Omigod, my boyfriend’s stupid hobby is distracting him from ME”.

  • Petrinka

    Whew! I thought I was the only one that was upset by this. Also, when Jarvis was going “offline” because the suit was so badly damaged (along with the house). I believe I got misty-eyed.

  • Anonymous

    Seconded.

  • Anonymous

    “IIRC, she tells Tony she’s afraid she’s going to burn him, he touches her anyway, and promises that he can fix it.”

    Yes, being afraid of your new found powers is the same as saying “I don’t want them anymore”. Hmm…no. I have issue with her powers being forced on her, then taken without actually asking her what she wanted. And this whole “my boyfriend can fix my problem cuz I can’t handle it” is problematic. Social context and all.

    “The other thing that puzzles me is the assumption that she’s against him being a superhero because it’s meaning he’s paying less attention to her.”
    What you explained is a good point that I forgot, regarding his obsession with building the suits. But yes, in the social context of movies playing this trope, that last scene was close enough to it that it irked me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.murray.9822 Amanda Murray

    Sure, she beats the villain… then instantly starts whining again. The line (“That was really violent”) would have been really funny if she wasn’t the only real female character we got. I don’t count Maya, who was completely neutered in this movie. In the comics, Maya was the mastermind behind Extremis, who uses both Killian and Tony as pawns, in the movie, SHE is the pawn. So awful.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just being afraid of new powers. It’s being afraid of exploding. Actually exploding. I mean, that was the whole driver of the movie. People with extremis exploding. Like bombs, and killing a lot of people around them in addition to themselves. That’s why it was such a threat to Pepper to inject her with it. And that’s why you’d have to assume she was actually just…I don’t even know. Mustache-twirling evil with a good dose of suicidal to want to say like that. That’s what I don’t get at all. It’s pretty clearly set up as a problem. It’d require a lot of actual text to demonstrate that she’d feel anything but a desire to fix it (whatever that means, because they only ever talked about stabilizing it, not removing it, so it’s quite possible she’s still all…super powered.). “This is being done against her will!” is something that requires even more actual text (or even subtext!) to support, and there’s not even a little bitty sign of it. That’s why it’s so out of left field to me.

  • Anonymous

    It was pretty vague. I guess either theory fits! Maybe Killian took over Ten Rings as mercenaries after their main leadership was destroyed in Iron Man 1? …it was never made clear how big Ten Rings were or if Raza(?) was the leader of that unit or the whole thing.

  • Anonymous

    “That’s what I don’t get at all.”

    Okay.

    “It’d require a lot of actual text to demonstrate that she’d feel anything but a desire to fix it (whatever that means, because they only ever talked about stabilizing it, not removing it, so it’s quite possible she’s still all…super powered.).”

    Okay. And I honestly don’t remember if that’s what was said or not; I’d have to see it again (hey, ‘nother movie weekend!)

    “This is being done against her will!” is something that requires even more actual text (or even subtext!) to support, and there’s not even a little bitty sign of it. That’s why it’s so out of left field to me.

    Indeed. I understand it can be hard to see. I’m marginalized, I’m used to these tropes (though they never fail to irk me). And the text you refer to, I point to “social context”, which is the Patriartical society we live in. We’re swimming in it all, which is why it can be hard to see. So no, I didn’t just decide to see it this way, if that’s what is being implied.

  • Anonymous

    I got the feeling that he was more of a Department Manager, than CEO- I don’t think the leader of the Ten Rings would have fallen for a “Kidnap this guy” without knowing it was Tony Stark job.
    Plus he was waaay too trusting of Jebediah to be Ten Rings Leader material, in my book!

  • Anonymous

    I can’t say anything about your interpretation personally, because honestly, of the people I’ve seen taking that argument, you are by far the most reasonable (and I mean that in the most literal way possible: you’ve got reasons, and you’re arguing for them, and I totally get you on the patriarchal context thing, I just really don’t seeing to that particular bit of the movie. Other bits of the movie? Yes, for sure. In fact, I would argue that there wasn’t enough Pepper Potts. She gets shunted off to the side and is tied to a table to be a person in peril for a good portion of the movie. There’s no way around that.)

    But I’ve seen a lot of people taking this line (in the same breath of accusing her of being an abuser, etc, etc, etc) in other places, especially tumblr but in a lot of other review comments too, where…yeah, most of the time, I’m pretty sure the problem is that she had the temerity to be a woman (who is also a love interest) in a primary role in a movie franchise with a huge fandom. It’s a really ugly thing, but it’s very, very present, and I find it hugely horrifying. So I may have been responding a lot more strongly to what you asid than I might have otherwise, and that’s not really fair.

    But I still didn’t get any vibes what so ever that Tony’s “got Pepper sorted” comment was anything even remotely sinister or non-consensual. So we’d probably be disagreeing anyway :) However, the movie was really really rushed and vague at the end, so who knows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shelleybear Shelley Adrienne Mimi Belsky

    Too much liberty with MCU history.
    Raise your hand if you were happy with the Mandarin being just a stoned out actor.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely agree with everything, and that is what I wished to point out, was how Pepper was treated in the movie (because she is a woman, and how frustrating it is to see that).

    “But I still didn’t get any vibes what so ever that Tony’s “got Pepper sorted” comment was anything even remotely sinister or non-consensual.”
    Oh no, not that Tony specifically took that decision away from her, just once again, how the movie portrayed Pepper. There was no mention of what she wanted, or giving her a voice to her experience. She was just Acted Upon, as so many female characters are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

    Except that (SPOILER ALERT!) he destroyed all of the armors at the end in order to get back to having a normal life. Whether that means Pepper get a suit and become Rescue just in case of emergencies, or he’s keeping the same thing for himself for the same result, we’ll never know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amanda-Cox/638642707 Amanda Cox

    After all the buzz over Pepper’s seemingly powerful role in the film, I’m disappointed to see you didn’t express more concern over her more damsel-in-distress-like role. Sure, she beats up the bad guy, but she does it based on a chemical compound injected into her body against her will, and at the end of the fight Tony tries to comfort her by saying he’ll “fix” her, because that’s “what he does.” Tony’s characterization is okay for the most part, but as usual, the female characters fall flat.

  • Lady Viridis

    Huh. I thought this was the best Iron Man movie so far, and a fitting end to stand-alone movies with the character, if that’s what they choose to do.

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    Never having read the comics I can’t speak to Maya’s character there, but I can say that she wasn’t a pawn at all. She was rather a willing participant in something that she knew was terrible but was too excited by to do the right thing until it came to protecting another person. The analogy she used when she spoke to Pepper was perfect for her character in the film. I really didn’t see her as having been manipulated. My only quibble was that she didn’t anticipate the reaction to her threat of suicide.

    As for Pepper’s complaint, I think that her fear at what she had become (which included what she was suddenly capable of), was a more than legitimate reason for her reaction. It was ‘really violent’ and nothing at all that she had ever imagined herself doing at all, let alone with potentially deadly superpowers. I thought she handled it perfectly in character and very much as a ‘normal person’ would. I’d certainly freak the hell out if I killed someone, even to protect someone I loved.

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    Completely agree. And learning that Tony was controlling his suit remotely didn’t ruin the rescue scene at all for me. Even if he’d been in his suit, he wouldn’t have been in danger–the tension was all about whether he could save everyone in time, and I thought the movie did a brilliant job at that.

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    I agree with you on most of this, but not on how it was a movie for Fangirls. I’m a Fangirl, and while sure, I love as much H/C as the next fan and I find RDJ quite nice to look at, I love Rhody too and really enjoyed watching him be so incredibly kickass in this. I definitely wasn’t all ‘squee’ about the kid either. In fact I groaned inwardly when Harley came in, and only warmed to him when he turned out to be such a brilliant character. I will say that I enjoyed how Tony dealt with Harley very much, but I really wasn’t looking for a kid or hero/kid bonding. Maybe I’m a unique Fangirl, but I doubt it. :)

    I really like your handwaves, btw. They make a lot of sense. :)

    I didn’t particularly notice how much Tony was out of the suit until my sister mentioned it, actually, but in retrospect it was an excellent narrative choice. Watching Tony deal with disaster after disaster without his suit was the best part of the film.

  • HeyThere101

    Yeah he destroyed the physical armor. Not Jarvis or any of his remaining tech or *plans*. Just the physical suits. If he can build a suit in a cave then he can build a suit again easily enough.

  • HeyThere101

    Ah I loved the reveal even though I loved the comics! I think it was smart NOT to follow the comics. That’s boring and.. People do realize that MCU has already been established as outside of the comic universe.. Like a long, long time ago? And it would’ve been extremely inappropriate to have the Mandarin as a villain because back in the day when the comics were written, he was a racist character that wouldn’t really be allowed in 2013.

  • HeyThere101

    Same! I screamed when see saw Dummy at the end! And when Tony was like “don’t leave me buddy” when Jarvis was powering down and choked on my tears. Thumbs up for Marvel on making me care about Tony’s tech.