*WARNING WARNING SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT MAJOR SPOILERS*
Of all the nerds and blerds I know IRL and on Twitter, very few were excited about Iron Man 3 as I was. After reading and hearing rumors of the possible appearance of Rescue (Pepper Potts’ own Iron armor), I was even more excited. For all of the goodness that were Iron Man and Iron Man 2, I was sick of Pepper Potts being a strong female character who wound up being a damsel in distress at the end of both films. My hope was that if Iron Man was this serious, the Iron Man Trilogy (again, me hoping) would out do Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. As it turns out, this was not the case, by any stretch.
From the trailers and posters, everyone believed wrongfully that the primary villain for this film would be Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA! Marvel pulled a GOTCHA! Welllll yes, and no. In the first two Iron Man films, there are two kinds of villains: that of the sideshow/parody variety, and the real serious threat to America and the Iron Man. In Iron Man, Ten Rings leader Raza gets clowned by Tony and Obadiah Stane. Stane takes over Stark Industries, and becomes Iron Monger. In Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer (who’s apparently supposed to be British btw in the comics, cough cough) is a Tony Stark wannabe and has this crazy desire to have a phallocentric contest with Tony for who has the best technology. Mickey Rourke plays Whiplash, and has a vendetta against the Stark family because of Howard Stark’s unjust dealings with his father. Part of what made the first two movies of the Iron Man Trilogy great was the textbook perfect comic movie blend of humor and serious tone. Not so much with Iron Man 3. Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 experiences Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of his encountering “gods, aliens, other dimensions” while he’s just a “man in a can.” In The Avengers, Captain America asks Tony, what can he do? Tony responds: Playboy,Billionaire, Philanthropist.
In other words, Tony Stark gets questioned by persons (superheroes) who are in everyway his equal (and in many ways, his superior). Poor Tony, his ego is crushed, his worldview now must change. Awwwww Poor Iron Man. My impression of Iron Man 3 is similar to Chauncey DeVega: “As such, the original Iron Man was a joyous, fun, and self-aware film that exemplified the best of what a comic book movie should be. In contrast, Iron Man 3 feels tedious, bloated, and forced.”
The acting performances were well executed, the writing and editting, on the other hand left much to be desired. One moment, a child Tony meets in Tennessee reminds him that Tony is “Tony the Mechanic,” a man who fixes and builds things, the next moment, Tony is pulling a MacGuyver, purchasing random objects at a hardware store, then the next, he’s invading a random mansion. Aldrich Killian, head of Advanced Idea Mechanics is motivated out of desperation, revenge for Tony Stark rejecting him. So, obviously, he recruits disabled veterans to use as human time bombs and one actor to play “The Mandarin.” Maya Hansen, a botanist, collaborates on this evil scheme all because Tony had just a one night stand with her, wait what? No, she also wants to perfect the Extremis formula that could potentially do things like help people grow their limbs back.
We were promised a buddy cop movie (which we did get) along with Tony Stark being taken down a notch (which, um, we didn’t really). He still was in an environment surrounded by electricity, and he had the means monetarily to hunt the terrorists. There was no “Castaway” Tony Stark I was at least hoping for. The other plot hole that just confused the heck out of me was arc reactor in Tony’s chest. For the first two movies, Tony’s decisions centered around this one piece of equipment because it was this that kept the shrapnels from cutting his heart. First, in Iron Man 3, we do not see anything to do with the arc until the end, when Tony is getting it removed. Second, it’s as if the first two films never happened, in addition to The Avengers.
In The Avengers, Tony experiments with the Arc Reactor at the very beginning of the film, expanding it on a grand scale to run the power at Stark Tower. As a power source, the arc can act as an alternative energy supply to oil. This feat isn’t mentioned in Iron Man (although this is the last place where we see Tony & Pepper in Avengers), but apparently Killich is angry at ‘Merica because it wasn’t developing alternative energy supplies, thus, the final battle (and best part) of the movie took place on an oil rig. I guess Killich couldn’t decide the reason why he was a terrorist in the first place!
On two serious notes, the Iron Man Trilogy was very consistent when it came to two things: Marvel’s grandiose brand of patriotism and ableism. In the latter, persons with disabilities (especially in Iron Man 3), are the passive recipients of the generosity of the rich. There is no agency on their part. My point about the arc reactor, that it is a symbol of ableist privilege on the part of Tony Stark. Tony’s reliance on this contraption is seen as a barrier to him being seeing as an ideal Western subject. The Arc Reactor is a denial of Tony’s self-reliance, and we all know, all Western, able-bodied men need to be able to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps from any situation.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first Spiderman film in well over a decade ago, seeks at every opportunity to invoke American exceptionalism and display the flag in as many scenes as possible. Any critical look at US History is dismissed as frivolous, a joke sort of like the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Left unchallenged, this ideology is dangerous. There’s a different between loving your country and promoting the status quo’s definition of “patriotism” that silences dissenting voices.
Since Marvel seems determined to have their sequels with subtitles (X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Thor 2: Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier), I thought I would suggest some subtitles for Iron Man 3:
Iron Man 3: The First Two Movies Really Didn’t Happen
Iron Man 3: Unapologetic Abelism
Iron Man 3: AntiImperialism Is One Big Hoax
Iron Man 3: People Of Color Still Can’t Star In Comic Movies As Serious Antagonists Even Though We Whitewashed The Mandarin
Iron Man 3: Marvel Still Didn’t Learn Its Lesson After Spiderman 3 And Had Too Many Villains Again
Iron Man 3: Let’s Prepare For Tony Stark’s Funeral In Avengers 2
Iron Man 3: You Thought Marvel Phase 2 Was Gonna Be Better Than Phase 1, Didn’t You? Ha!
No, seriously, I understand that Marvel Phase 2 is going to have a few darker, edgier films (Captain America 2, Thor 2), so light-hearted could have been a way to balance that out, but the story just felt really disconnected from any of the other Avengers, Ant-Man, or the Guardians of the Galaxy coming up. I could be wrong, but I saw maybe only one Easter egg in the warehouse scene. I can only hope that the rest of Phase 2 gets better and doesn’t disappoint me as much.
For another, um, interesting take on Iron Man 3, see Joel’s review: Quick Thoughts On Iron Man 3