Iron Man 3 Confronts Emotions That Many Superhero Films Would Rather Ignore

Iron Man 3 International Poster

Iron Man 3 International Poster

TitleIron Man 3
Genre(s)Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Director(s)Shane Black
Release Year: 2013

Nothing is the same since New York. Aliens. Gods. Anxiety. Everything has changed in Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) life since teaming up with the Avengers. And really that applies everywhere. Marvel’s gamble on The Avengers was incredible, but it created a post-Avengers world where Disney became an even bigger, and more prolific company than before. Not only did that film destroy box office records, but it also finally brought Joss Whedon into the limelight. A trust in directors had been created that paved the way for others like Edgar Wright, James Gunn, Alan Taylor, Anthony & Joe Russo, and in Iron Man 3‘s case, Shane Black, to step in and try their hand at the Marvel franchises. A post-Avengers world was created in reality, and also in Tony Stark’s own timeline.

While Stark is still grasping at the notion of aliens and gods, trying to keep a loving relationship going with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and dealing with a severe case of insomnia, he is now forced to face the music when a terrorist by the name of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) threatens to topple the United States. Meanwhile, people from Stark’s past begin resurfacing, antagonizing the hero and his way of life. What is interesting about Iron Man 3 is that it has a plot which calls for plenty of action, but that action acts as a means of exposing Tony Stark’s vulnerabilities to himself. The movie isn’t about beating the bad guy. It’s about confronting demons, realizing who you are, and what made you get there. The plot twists and turns fairly frequently, and it’s not until the final action sequence where those twists start feeling more and more ridiculous, but overall everything feels human, which made the initial entry in the franchise so great.

It's tough being a billionaire war machine. Sometimes you need a break.

It’s tough being a billionaire war machine. Sometimes you need a break.

What feels somewhat jarring in the beginning, but ends up being executed flawlessly after a little of the way in, is the writing. Stark initially is unrelenting in his quips, and some of the jokes fall flat, clearly designed for a more juvenile audience. But then the situation Tony is in becomes more and more realized and his quips, while still somewhat incessant, work much better and do not feel quite as contrived. The writing by Black and Drew Pearce is strong, and demonstrates why Black and Downey are an excellent combination, with feelings of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (their previous team-up) being evoked by the narration, Christmas setting, and Downey’s always-charming charisma. I’ve always found it difficult to relate to Tony Stark, in the comics and in the movies, but by the end of this film, his demeanor and ego feel a lot less smothering. Credit to that can go to Downey for just being an all-around excellent actor, and proving once again that he is absolutely perfect for the Iron Man series.

But Downey isn’t the only actor reveling in his role for Iron Man 3. No, even Paltrow and Jon Favreau feel a lot less hollow, though Favreau is still there for comedic relief in already light situations. Don Cheadle makes his return as Colonel Rhodes, now distancing himself from War Machine, and becoming The Iron Patriot, which is essentially America’s best secret service agent (Captain America is too busy saving the entire country, I assume). Then there’s Ben Kingsley who hams it up as The Mandarin, so much so that he overshadows almost every other performance in the film. Guy Pearce shows up too and the audience gets to briefly see him as a geek with really long hair and the face that only a nerd could have (according to movies, though one could easily argue that Stark is just as big of a nerd). It’s a great cast that may not be as grand as The Avengers but it is never really trying to be.

For when the US Army just won't do.

For when the US Army just won’t do.

In fact, anything that happened during Stark’s time with the Avengers adds to his own anxiety, and seems like Marvel’s way of saying that everything is still isolated. The world in Iron Man 3 does not pretend like what happened in New York never occurred, but it doesn’t really see a point in bringing it up as much as one would expect. There are elements of the film that I could see creeping up in The Avengers 2, but the movie is not about setting up phase two of the Marvel universe. I think Marvel learned from Iron Man 2 not to stress about hyping the future movies in the series, partially because they really don’t need to anymore, and also because it requires a lot more work to tie in things without harming the film itself.

And Iron Man 3 already has plenty of plot points to worry about. All of these are dealt with by the time of the film’s credits, but plot holes surface the moment the final act of the movie begins. At first it was a minor nuisance, but then they become more and more important to trying to explain what is happening. Because of this, the final action sequence diminishes a lot of what made the film feel like there was something at stake. The stakes are still there, but they feel less and less high as more time passes. That being said, the action in Iron Man 3 is better than the last two films by a mile, and finally the climax doesn’t feel as poor as the previous final confrontations. The film will stand up as one of the best action movies of the year, but it’s hard to expect any less from a Marvel film now.

Because there is nothing more terrifying than having Gandhi threaten you.

Because there is nothing more terrifying than having Gandhi threaten you.

The summer is in full swing now, and there is no better film to open the movie season than Iron Man 3. Not only does it balance intense action and an emotional core which many superhero films would have fumbled with, but it also strikes an equilibrium between Stark’s ingenuity and his own physical prowess. It feels like everything is being exhausted in a more personal approach to the character of Tony Stark. The writing is almost always great, and the acting is top-notch. If there are going to be any future iterations of the Iron Man franchise, it will be interesting to see what has changed for Tony following the events of this film, because it is clear the film is trying to enlighten Stark, rather than encourage him. What also raises curiosity, as it will for all of the other movies in the Marvel cinematic universe, is how will this film tie in to everything come the next time the Avengers save the day.

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2 responses to “Iron Man 3 Confronts Emotions That Many Superhero Films Would Rather Ignore

  1. Pingback: “Hi, I’m Iron Man. Give Me All Your Money.” | The Domino Theory by Jeff Winbush

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