“Nothing’s been the same since New York.”

Before we get into the Iron Man 3 review, I should probably address the elephant in the room.
Dammit Francine, if I mean you I’ll use your name. Sit down.

Dammit Francine, if I mean you I’ll use your name. Sit down.

You may have noticed that the ads that were here for a few weeks have now vanished. The reason for that is that I was kindly informed by one of my American readers that the Trump Campaign had been advertising on my blog.
*CLICK*

*CLICK*

And good thing I acted quickly right? I mean, what more fertile pro-Trump ground than Unshaved Mouse? That’s the kind of savvy ad buy that gets you a 10% chance of winning the presidency. Unfortunately this loss of revenue has meant that I’ve had to turn to alternative sources of funding.
“Whoah. Wait a minute, you make MONEY of this?!”

“Whoah. Wait a minute, you make MONEY off this?!”

“No hablo Ingles.”

“No hablo Ingles.”

Thankfully, I’ve been able to secure investment from a less morally compromised source. Which is why I am proud to announce Unshaved Mouse’s new partner, the People’s Republic of China! Please give it up for new recurring character Fan Bing Bing!
“Hello decadent Westerners!”

“Hello decadent Westerners!”

It’s a rapidly emerging market, guys. We gotta move with the times. Anyway, review of movie.

 ***
Here’s a fun game to play with the MCU. Take each movie and imagine what would have happened if the villain had won.
  • Thor: Loki becomes King of Asgard and commits genocide against the Frost Giants.
  • Captain America:  Red Skull wipes out every major city on Earth and most likely ushers in an era of global HYDRA rule.
  • The Avengers: Aliens take over the world.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Whole alien planet gets wiped out and that’s just for starters.
  • Thor 2: Ummmmmm…something bad? With…elves? It’s bad, though.

Play the game with the Iron Man movies though and you always get the same result: “Evil rich guy becomes slightly richer.” These movies are actually kinda low-stakes when compared to other entries in the canon. That’s not a criticism. The Iron Man trilogy has always been less interested in “Can Iron Man save the day?” than “Can Tony Stark save his life from being immolated by the army of obsessions, personal demons and character flaws he has jumping around in the moshpit that is his brain?” That’s fine. Refreshing even. I just think it might help explain why this movie is had possibly the least impact on the larger Marvel universe than any other instalment. I’ve been wracking my brain to think of any elements that were introduced in this movie that got carried over into the larger MCU. Extremis? Aldridge Killian? AIM? Never so much as mentioned again in any of the movies (I am waaaay behind on Agents of SHIELD so apologies if I missed anything that showed up there). The Mandarin? Mentioned in a one-shot to keep the fanboys happy. Iron Patriot? Back as War Machine by Age of Ultron. Tony Stark destroying all his suits and giving up being Iron Man? Did not exactly take. This movie is practically in quarantine, and it’s kind of weird that it’s such a dead end at the front because it is deeply wedded to what’s gone on before, to the point that it’s kinda historic in a way I don’t think people necesarrily realise.

See, this is the fourth movie to feature Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark, and that’s pretty exceptional. Christopher Reeves played Superman across four movies of course, but by the third installment that series was running on negative continuity. There is no character arc for Superman from Superman I to Quest for Peace, they are just four movies with Christopher Reeves playing Superman. Again, with the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies you get a little bit of character continuity (tiny references to events in previous movies mostly), but by the time you have George Clooney resplendent in Bat-nipples it’s clear that Batman has drifted considerably from Tim Burton’s original vision. This is different. We have now had four movies featuring Tony Stark where the creators are clearly intent on holding to a consistent vision for the character. Iron Man 3 is one of the most polarising movies in the canon for reasons I will get into, but personally it’s my favourite of the trilogy because it asks a question that had never really been asked in a superhero movie before now. What happens to the superhero after he saves the world?

The movie begins with a slow motion shot of Iron Mans suits getting blown to smithereens and a voiceover where Tony Stark wearily tries to do the “famous quote to establish the main theme” thing, fumbles it and mumbles “I’m gonna start again”. So, if you were wondering how Tony Stark’s been doing since he came face to face with aliens, had to battle said aliens in the middle of New York, saved the world and almost got lost forever in the icy depths of space, these opening seconds of Iron Man physically and mentally coming apart should answer that.
Maybe not so good?

Maybe not so good?

We now flash back to 1999, introduced via the timeless classic Blue by Eiffel 65. This song, representing the pinnacle of mankind’s musical achievement, was a number one hit in almost every country in the West. Eiffel 65 then vanished into obscurity, their job done.
And Eiffel 65 wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.

And Eiffel 65 wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.

It’s New Years Eve and Tony is partying it up in Bern at a tech conference (that’s right, a New Year’s Eve tech conference, because the Swiss know how to party). Everybody wants to to talk to Tony including an Afghan dude named Yinsen who he’ll probably never seen again. But Tony’s only got eyes for Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) a beautiful and brilliant researcher who wants to show him something she’s been working on. On their way up to Tony’s hotel room (what? he does all his best research there) they get buttonholed by a Gollum-looking dude called Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearse) who suffers from the debilitating condition of having been named “Aldrich”. Okay, so you know the scene in Batman Forever where Jim Carrey’s Riddler tries to get Bruce Wayne to invest in his virtual reality technology and Wayne politely but firmly tells him “It just raises too many questions.”?
It did. Lotta questions. So many questions. Questions. Yup.

It did. Lotta questions. So many questions. Questions-a-go-go.

Well, Tony Stark is not Bruce Wayne in one of his more underrated incarnations and does quite possibly the most dickish thing I’ve seen him do in any movie that didn’t involve destroying an Eastern European nation (Honestly, after Age of Ultron, whenever I see Tony Stark onscreen I find myself thinking the same thing I do whenever I see Chris Brown, namely “How are you not in jail?”) . He tells Aldrich that he’s fascinated by his ideas and wants to discuss working with him and tells him to meet him on the roof. And then he leaves him up there. Like, holy shit that’s cold. And, as we’ll later learn, when he realised that Tony had just been trolling him, Aldrich very nearly gave in to despair and almost walked off the roof. We’ve seen Tony being an asshole before, but we’ve never actually seen him be wilfully cruel like this before and it’s not a good look for the character.
Anyway, in Maya’s room she shows Tony what she’s been working on, a technology called Extremis that supercharges the body’s healing abilities. The technology is still slightly hinky in that it tends to make the plants she tests it on go KABOOM but shit, penicillin had the same problem starting out, probably. Tony and Maya spend the night together and he leaves the next morning without saying goodbye but not without leaving her a formula to stabalise Extremis because he’s a gentleman. Actually no, he’s a colossal dick, and as Tony’s narration points out, by one night standing Maya and humiliating Aldrich he had created “demons”.
So, flashforward to the present and Tony has locked himself in his basement and been building Iron Man suits for seventy-odd hours straight because he’s still having nightmares about what happened in New York.
"God, that schwarma was TERRIBLE!"

“God, that schwarma was TERRIBLE!”

 His latest creation is the Mark 42, which can actually fly in seperate pieces and clamp onto Tony’s body as soon as its summoned through the power of interpretive dance and the micro chips that Tony has implanted in his body. The first test is a bit of a disaster though, so Tony decides to unwind by watching TV.
"Welcome to Ten Rings TV! Coming up next, We Are Going to Destroy you, Infidel Dogs. But first, Michelle with the weather. Michelle?"

“Welcome to Ten Rings TV! Coming up next, We Are Going to Destroy you, Infidel Dogs. But first, Michelle with the weather. Michelle?”

So the Ten Rings, the terrorist group that kidnapped Tony in Iron Man 1 and imprisoned him in a cave (with a box of scraps) has apparently decided to up their media profile and are now hijacking America’s broadcast network to screen creepy-ass threats from their leader, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). The Mandarin’s address is honestly one of my favourite sequences in any Marvel movie. The editing, the grungey camerwork, the music, it’s all wonderfully unsettling. And Kingsley? Sir Ben Kingsley is, unless I’m very much mistaken, the only actor to have been directed by both Steven Spielberg and Uwe Boll and you really never have any idea which Ben Kingsley is going to show up in any given film but my God he is fantastic in this. There’s a moment in the video where he tells US President Matthew Ellis (William Sadler) that a US military church has been bombed in Kuwait and adds “I, I, I did that.” It’s terrifying, because of how child-like and guileless Kingsley’s delivery is. He’s a complete psychopath.
Ellis responds by announcing the creation of the Iron Patriot, which is basically just the War Machine armour painted Red, White and Blue because it’s about time that America had a hero who wasn’t afraid to be proudly patriotic.
Oh. Well. This is awkward.

Oh. Right. Well. This is awkward.

Actually a company called AIM have upgraded the War Machine armour, which, as you will recall, was originally Stark Tech but was also upgraded by Hammer Industries.
Because the War Machine armour is a slut. 
We cut to Tony and Rhodey chatting in a restaurant. Tony wants to help against the Mandarin and offers to show Rhodey the new tech he’s been working on and Rhodey is all “dude, when was the last time you slept?”. This, this right here, is pretty much the exact opposite of the Tony/Rhodey relationship we saw in Iron Man 1 (remember “You need to get your mind right”?) and we finally, finally, have the relationship between these two men where it should have been right from the get go. Rhodey is genuinely worried about Tony after what happened in New York but they’re interrupted by two adorable children who ask Tony for an autograph and then creepily whisper in his ear “How did you get out of the portal?” like the frickin’ Children of the Corn. Tony freaks out and runs outside of the restaurant to where the suit is parked and climbs inside. He asks JARVIS to analyse him, thinking that it’s either his heart or that he’s been poisoned but JARVIS tells him he’s just suffered a panic attack and Tony’s all “Moi?” and JARVIS is all “Vous, bitch.”
Meanwhile, at Stark Industries, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) has been appointed Head of Security and has reacted to the increase of power and responsibility with the grace and restraint of Idi Amin. Pepper tries to get him to de-Nazify by at least twenty percent but is interrupted by a visit from her old boss, Aldrich Killian who’s gone from Gollum-esque to downright Aragornian. A gobsmacked Pepper asks him why he so handsome but he fobs her off with some BS about physical therapists. He then pitches her his company’s new technology, Extremis, and explains that it can be used to upgrade the human body. Pepper is impressed, but tells Aldrich she’s getting a real “man was not meant to meddle with such forces” vibe off his pitch and turns him down. Now, this script was written by Shane Black (who I’m a huge fan of) and Drew Pearce (who’s done sterling work elsewhere) and it’s a good ‘un, absolutely my favourite of the three Iron Man movies. But a pretty major flaw in it is that the inciting incident that really kicks everything off relies on one of our characters, Happy, having become a complete paranoid nutjob at some point between Iron Man 2 and 3. To wit, Happy decides to run the licence plates of and then pretty much stalk , Killian’s bodyguard, Savin, (James Badge Dale) just because “he looks shifty”. First of all, that’s crazy. Second of all, that’s profiling of Shifty Americans. Third of all, he tells Tony what he’s about to do and even mentions that there’s a good chance he might end up throwing down with Savin and Tony’s all “okay, have fun at the big dance”. It’s just sloppy screenwriting.
Now, I haven’t mentioned that this movie takes place at Christmas but it’s a Shane Black script so you really should just have taken that as read. Pepper comes home to find Tony’s Christmas present to her looming ominously outside the house.
portal

“Have you ever seen a portal?”

She goes inside and has a long conversation with Tony before realising that she’s just been talking to one of the suits that he’s remote controlling just so he can keep working in the basement. This is, as she rightly points out, a colossal dick move and Tony admits that he’s a “hot mess”. Tony gives Pepper the line at the top of the review and Pepper responds with one that I think is equally important: “Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
One of the things about this movie that I love is that it captures just how simultaneously weird and mundane it would be to live in a world after contact had been made with aliens. On the one hand, everyone on Earth is clearly reeling from this, again and again characters talk about what happened in New York. Anyone old enough to remember 9/11 probably has as idea of what that would be like, and you probably also remember how weird it was that life just kept on going, materially more or less unchanged. I mean, you knew that the world would never be the same again, but you were still going to work every day just like before. Anyway, Tony tells Pepper that what’s driving him to keep building and tinkering with the suits is the fact that he finally has something in the world that gives his life meaning, just as he’s seen first hand how incredibly fragile and threatened that world is. Everyone here seen Captain America 3? Okay, if you haven’t and you’re not a fan of spoilers skip to the next paragraph, wouldja? I mentioned obliquely in the Avengers review the the Tony/Pepper scenes were a tough watch knowing what would eventually happen to them. But I actually find Iron Man 3 a more satisfying movie knowing that these two would eventually break up because it makes sense. Yes, clearly Tony is going to eventually self-sabotage his greatest shot of happiness. Obviously, Pepper is smart enough or realise that this just can’t work, no matter how much she loves him, how much he makes her laugh. Tony will eventually destroy her, either emotionally or physically when she gets shoved into a refrigerator to teach him some kind of lesson. There’s just no way around it. Tony is broken, and he’s the only thing in the world that he can’t fix. It wasn’t planned that way obviously, Gwyeneth Paltrow simply followed Natalie Portman out of the MCU and they’re off having adventures in the desert in a silver Ford Thunderbird, probably. But it works, for me at least. It doesn’t feel good, but it feels right.
They go to bed and Tony dreams that he’s back in the portal and summons the Mark 42 armour in his sleep, which almost attacks Pepper. Pepper is furious (huge improvement on IM 2, whenever Pepper gets mad at Tony she actually has a real, sympathetic reason to be) and goes to sleep on the couch, leaving Tony alone.
Meanwhile Happy “The One Man Gestapo” Hogan has tailed Savin to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and sees him give some drug cannisters to an injured army veteran. Happy surreptitiously steals one of the cannisters (might be his insulin or something, but it’s obviously worth the risk) and Savin catches him and tells him that it doesn’t belong to him. But before Savin can affect a citizen’s arrest and end Happy Hogan’s reign of fear and intimidation, the veteran ingests one of the cannisters, starts glowing red and explodes, taking out the whole theatre. Lying in the rubble, a half dead Happy watches as Savin heals from his injuries in seconds and just strolls out of there like it ain’t no thang.
The Mandarin releases another video where he claims credit for the bombing. He gives a little spiel about Fortune Cookies, noting that while they are usually considered Chinese, they are actually an American creation (HINT. HINT. HINT) and tells the President that “the big one” is coming. Tony visits a comatose Happy in the hospital and then swears revenge on the Mandarin in front of a gaggle of news cameras and challenges the Mandarin by announcing his the address of his mansion. Which…apparently was a secret? Is that what we’re saying? That nobody knows where Tony Stark lives?
How did all those drunk chicks get to his party in Iron Man 2? Did they follow a map with an intricate set of riddles and clues only to be greeted at the end by a smiling Tony Stark saying “Welcome floozies, I see you have beaten my little game”?
 Tony gets to work on investigating the bombing with JARVIS and we actually get to see Tony do some detective work, which I think is a somewhat unexplored side to the character. Tony discovers that, like the other Mandarin bombing, the only thing missing is any evidence of an actual bomb. But he does find a partially melted military dog tag which is weird because there were no military victims in the blast. Tony compares the blast’s heat signature to other explosions and finds a similar one that occurred months ago in Tennessee, also involving a military veteran, and JARVIS programmes the Iron Man suit with a flight plan to Tennesee. But then, Maya Hansen shows up at the mansion, followed by Savin with three helicopters, followed by a missile. Tony puts Pepper in the Iron Man suit and once she and Maya are safely out of the mansion he summons it back on to him and takes out one of the helicopters by throwing a grand piano at it.
Fortissimo!

Fortissimo!

 But even with the power of music, Tony is unable to stop the choppers from doing what twenty years of nonstop partying could never do, and the Stark Mansion finally falls in to the ocean that was always its destiny. Know the really sad part? Those choppers went to a wrong address before getting to Tony.
Tony passes out at the bottom of the ocean but JARVIS is able to activate autopilot and the suit flies him to safety. Well, Tennesee. Where he is around 0.5% less likely to get shot than where he was. Unfortunately, the suit runs out of power and Tony finds himself stranded in the freezing cold wastes of the Volunteer State (hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t make fun of Tennesee. I mean, it’s not like it’s doing this professionally). With the suit dude and JARVIS powered down, Tony has to drag Iron Man’s butt to the nearest down and breaks into the shed which just so happens to belong to a precocious little boy who agrees to help Tony…
giphy
I know, I know, it sounds like the worst fucking thing ever. But I actually really like Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), and the idea of giving Tony Stark a kid sidekick actually does not lead to the death of all that is good and decent in the world like you would naturally expect. The script is smart enough to play with our expectations and gets a lot of comedic mileage out of just how few fucks Tony gives about fulfilling a surrogate father role for Harley. It’s like, this whole situation is just looming over him saying “Tony, it’s Christmas, this kid’s father abandoned him, you must step in and show a that deep inside you there is…” and Tony’s all “Noooooooooooope.” He does, in the end, show that he cares, but in a very Tony Stark way, by giving the kid cutting edge weapons tech to deal with his bullies at school. It’s a Christmas miracle. With Harley in tow, Tony visits the site in town where a veteran named Chad Davis supposedly set off a bomb just like the one in the Chinese Theatre. He goes to the local bar to talk to the bomber’s mother who hands him a load of files from some programme that her son was part of and Tony’s all “That’s really helpful, but I think you’ve confused me with another character”. Mrs Davis says “You’re not the person who called me, are you?” and they’re interrupted by one of Killian’s agents, a woman named Brandt who says that she was. Hang on. How could Mrs Davis possibly have thought that Brandt was Tony considering that she’s spoken to her and she clearly has a woman’s voice. How could she make that mistake?
drinky
Brandt (Stephanie Szostak) pretends that she’s from Homeland Security and tries to arrest Tony but she’s stopped by the local sherrif who’s played by HOLY SHIT!
"Jeb!? Jeb! Bush?!"

“Jeb!? Jeb! Bush?!”

"Yeah. Yeah its me."

“Yeah. Yeah it’s me.”

"What are you doing in Iron Man 3?"

“What are you doing in Iron Man 3?”

"Well after the primary, I just needed to...I just needed to try something new, yknow?"

“Well after the primary, I just needed to…I just needed to try something new, y’know?”

Huh. Well, now we know why the Sherriff is uncredited. It’s not a bad performance actually. Little low energy, maybe. Anyway, Brandt kills the Sherrif with Extremis powers and hunts Tony through town. He manages to kill her with an improvised explosive and also defeats Savin after he takes Harley hostage. He steals Savin’s car and heads out of town. Meanwhile, the Mandarin makes another broadcast where he holds a hostage at gunpoint and says that if Presidne tEllis doesn’t call him in thirty seconds he’ll shoot. Ellis finds a number that has been hacked into his phone and makes the call…and the Mandarin shoots the hostage anyway. But Ellis’ people tell him that they tracked the Mandarin’s transmission to Pakistan and they send Iron Patriot to go blow some shit up until freedom happens. But he ends up getting captured by another one of the Extremis enhanced goons.
Meanwhile, Tony start’s piecing together what Killian’s been doing. Aldrich was enhancing people with Extremis but not all the subjects were compatible and instead exploded. Killian, a man who knows how to make exploding lemonade out of genetically unstable lemons, sold the technology to the Mandarin to create unwitting suicide bombers. Back in the shed, Harley’s managed to get JARVIS online and he traces the location of the Mandarin’s last transmission to Miami.  Tony calls Harley and tells him to get the suit ready and Harley says that the suit isn’t charging and that he’s on his own. Tony does not take that well and has a massive panic attack on the side of the road but Harley tells him “You’re a mechanic. Why don’t you just build something?” That, of course, is exactly what Tony needs to hear, give him a project to work on and he can’t focus on anything else, not even his own fear or trauma. Tony calms down and visits a local hardware store and improvises a lot of low tech weaponery and sneaks into the Mandarin’s Miami compound. I love this incidentally, Tony stripped of all his high-tech gadgets and forced to rely on his own ingenuity and a few Home Alone-esque improvised weaponery, it’s really cool. Tony finally finds himself face face with the Mandarin who turns out to be…
trevor
A drug addicted cockney actor slash male prostitute named Trevor Slattery.
So.
Back in the Iron Man 2 review I blithely asserted that Iron Man’s villains are terrible and that nobody cares about them and obviously that’s not exactly true. This double subversion, firstly making the Mandarin simply ambigously foreign rather than explicitly Chinese, and then revealing him to be fake all along, got a lot of people het up. Many Iron Man fans were pissed that such a great villain had been reduced to a comic relief, and many of the more Tumblery crowd were pissed that a potential role for an East Asian actor had been race-switched (although, interestingly enough, both Ben Kingsley and the comics’ Mandarin have a white English mother so they’re closer in ethnicity than you might think). So let’s talk about the Mandarin.
Stan Lee co-created The Mandarin as an enemy for Iron Man in 1964 and he was a fairly standard “yellow peril” figure, Fu Manchu with magic rings, basically. That said, there’s actually nothing too problematic with the character as written (Stan Lee could be surprisingly on point when it came to race, at least for a white comic book writer working in the sixties). He’s a smart, eloquent villain who doesn’t indulge in “Engrish” or the like. As written, the character is mostly fine. Ahem. As written.
dsc_0128
Yeah, so the initial design was racist as all hell and while the character has had fifty years of development and re-contextualisation in the comics, that original sin haunts any attempt to modernise the character. When he was directing Iron Man 1, Jon Favreau wanted nothing to do with the Mandarin, feeling that he was just a lost cause. Personally, I love this twist. I think it’s really clever that the movie makes the Mandarin a mishmash of “scary foreigner” tropes and then reveals that he was specifially designed to be so by the real villain. Slattery’s Mandarin is Willie Horton, or Trump’s Mexican rapist, an ethnic boogeyman designed to distract and confuse not just the people of the MCU, but us the audience. Now, could Marvel have given us a relatively straight interpretation of the character played by an Asian actor that most reasonable people would not have considered racist? Sure. But there is no way in HELL they could have prevented a million and one Slate and Salon articles asking “Does Iron Man 3 have a race problem?” and risking that becoming the predominant narrative of the film’s release. Personally, I think they boxed smart on this and did something really fun and clever to boot. Plus, with the ammount of Chinese investment and potential box office tied up in this movie, a character whose sworn goal is the overthrow of the Chinese government would have been very risky. And you don’t want to offend the Chinese, right Fan Bing Bing?
"Tee hee! No. We would fuck your shit up."

“Tee hee! No. We would fuck your shit up.”

Anyway, you don’t like it, there’s always All Hail the King.
 Tony gets jumped by Savin and wakes up tied to a bed with Maya Hansen watching him and it’s not nearly as fun as that description would suggest. Maya asks Tony to help her perfect Extremis but he guilt trips her for compromising her morals and and agreeing to work for Killian. Which, you will excuse me for saying so, is a bit fucking rich coming from a man whose yearly income once had a direct correlation to the number of Afghan schoolchildren in the world who were missing a limb. Killian then arrives and gives the whole Bond villain speech about how he created the Mandarin as a bogeyman to distract attention from his nefarious activities. He then admits that Trevor can be a little over the top and says by way of apology “He’s a stage actor.”
"Hey!"

“Hey!”

"HEY!"

“HEY!”

Killian then cuts to the chase. He’s captured Pepper and injected her with Extremis, and there’s a fifty-fifty chance that she’s going to go KABLOOEY unless Tony works with Maya to fix the technology. Maya’s conscience can’t stands no more and she threatens to inject herself with a fatal dose of Extremis to get Killian to back down but instead he shoots her down in cold blood.
Killian then goes and forces Rhodey out of the Iron Patriot armour so that Savin can commandeer it and pose as Rhodey to get onto Air Force 1 where President Ellis is enroute to Washington.
Tony’s armour is finally charged however, and he’s able to summon it all the way from Tennessee and bust loose from Killian’s dungeon just in time to see the Iron Patriot armour take off. He meets up with Rhodey and the two of them interrogate Trevor to find out what Killian’s plan is, which apparently involves the Vice President. Tony calls the Vice President (Miguel Ferrer) and tells him that the Mandarin is planning is going to use the Iron Patriot as a Trojan horse to assassinate President Ellis and the veep is all “thanks guys, you just let me handle this” and then he hangs up and doesn’t tell anyone. Because vice presidents are basically the Grand Viziers of political thrillers, they are never not evil.
Savin arrives at Air Force 1 and Ellis greets him, saying “Colonel Rhodes, glad you could make it, son.” and holy shit did he just call the guy he thinks is a decorated African-American Air Force Colonel “son”?! This guy’s press secretary must have ulcers on his ulcers. They take off and Savin massacres the president’s retinue and and puts Ellis in the Iron Patriot armour which then flies off. Savin is about to skydive to safety when Iron Man shows up and the two battle. Iron Man kills Savin but not before he sets off a bomb on the plane which causes 13 crewmembers to get sucked out 20,0000 feet above ground level. This launches us into one of the best stunts in the entire MCU, where Iron Man flies through the air gathering up all thirteen people and getting them to form a daisy chain to slow down their decent before landing them safely in the water below. It’s brilliantly done, with a combination of real skydivers and a pixie dust-esque sprinkling of CGI, totally convincing and thrilling to boot.
Unfortunately,  Iron Man then gets hit by a truck and goes flying in a dozen pieces and we see that Tony was actually controlling it remotely the whole time. Unfortunately, they’re now down a suit and have no president so Tony tells JARVIS to activate the “house party protocol”. Rhodey and Tony sneak onto the oil tanker where President Ellis is about to be executed by being dropped in a massive vat of oil while wearing the red, white and blue Iron Patriot armour (subtle). They get attacked by the Extremis enhanced goons…goddamit, I just realised I could have just called them “the Extremists” from the beginning. That’s so much better.  THIS REVIEW IS A FARCE!
Anyway, the “House Party Protocol” involves JARVIS piloting forty of Tony’s most toyetic Iron Man armours in a massive battle royale against the Extremists. Tony slaps one of the armours on and Rhodey’s all “where’s mine?” and Tony tells him that the armours are coded to him alone and Rhodey’s all “Why?” and OH GEE RHODEY I WONDER WHY HE WOULD HAVE DONE THAT?
You stole that suit Rhodey. You're a stealer. And that's a rock fact.

You stole that suit Rhodey. You’re a stealer.
And that’s a rock fact.

While Tony goes to rescue Pepper, Rhodey frees the president and gets the Iron Patriot armour back while blowing up half the ship in the process. Tony and Killian fight and Pepper gets trapped under some rubble and then falls to her apparent death in the burning inferno below.
"LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!"

“LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!”

Aldrich taunts Tony saying “You never deserved her. Pity. I almost had her perfect.”
Tony replies. “You’re right. I didn’t deserve her. Here’s where you’re wrong. She was already perfect.” He then wraps Killian in the Mark 42 armour and orders JARVIS to blow it to hell. However, this doesn’t quite do the job, and Killian is just left looking like a ruined steak. It looks like Tony’s all out of luck but suddenly Pepper shows up, all buff, Extremised and glowing red hot and she proceeds to KICK KILLIAN’S ASS SO HARD HE EXPLODES.
For the first time in my life I am sexually attracted to Gwyneth Paltrow and I am TERRIFIED.

For the first time in my life I am sexually attracted to Gwyneth Paltrow and I am TERRIFIED.

 Anyway, Tony promises that he can fix her (he’s nuts, that’s nuts, the whole world’s nuts). He promises her that he’s going to devote his full time to her now, and to show he means it he has Jarvis blow up all the remaining Iron Man suits to give Pepper a fireworks show. Some billionaires light cigars with banknotes, but that’s not nearly tackily extravagant enough for Anthony Stark.  And the movie ends with Tony clearing out the ruins of his mansion, saying that he’s learned from his past mistakes, that he’s a new man, and he will no longer create his own demons.
Youre a goddamn liar, Stark.

You’re a goddamn liar, Stark.

***

Phase 2 of the Marvel universe is far more epic in scope and stakes that Phase 1 but you definitely wouldn’t get that impression watching Iron Man 3. As weird as it is to say about a multi-million dollar action film featuring a flying robot man trying to foil a presidential assassination, the third Iron Man movie is a relatively subdued and intimate story about one man dealing with Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Telling a stand alone tale was a probably a way of making sure that Marvel could keep the audience down on the farm after they had seen the Paree that was The Avengers. For me, it’s that rarest of movie fauna, a threequel that proves itself the best of the trilogy.
Scoring
Adaptation 23/25
Simultaneously moving closer to the comic book characterisation of Iron Man while drastically reworking other characters in the mythos (hello Trevor!), this is a confident, assured adaptation, even if the Extremis seen here is a pale shadow of its comic equivalent.
Our Heroic Hero 24/25
Downey excels here, playing a vulnerable, PTSD afflicted Tony whose still doing his best to be simulataneously wiseass and badass.
Our Nefarious Villain 18/25
Kingsley is so effectively menacing as “the Mandarin” that you almost wish he was the real deal. That said, Guy Pearse makes for an excellent, charming villain..
Our Plucky Sidekicks 16/25
The Rhodey/Tony relationship finally becomes the believable bromance it always needed to be, Pepper is less than her Part 1 zenith but greater than her Part 2 nadir and Trevor Slattery was the toast of Croydon for a reason.
The Stinger
In which it is revealed that the whole movie was being related by Tony to his new bestest buddy in the whole world, Bruce Banner.
And the audience went
bored-gif
For me, this is the most underwhelming stinger so far. Also, Bruce says he’s not a psychiatrist, but why does he have a psychiatrist’s couch in his office? Hell, why does he have an office? Is he like…working? Is he running a business? Is everyone just cool with sharing office space with the guy who might turn into a green rage monster the next time someone forgets to refill the coffee pot? What do the insurers have to say about this? Stinger, you are singlehandedly shredding the verisimilitude of the entire MCU.
Infinity Gem Count: 2
“All quiet sir.”

“All quiet, sir.”

"Good good. Carry on, Private."

“Good good. Carry on, Private.”

Wait a minute, was that Stan Lee?!
That was Stan Lee, judging a beauty pageant and giving one of the contestants an enthusiastic Perfect 10. That, or her name is “Io” no doubt named after the priestess of Hera who was seduced by Zeus. ‘Cos this movie is classy.
Hey, what’s Thanos doing?
Thanos is sitting on his chair.

Thanos is sitting on his chair.

FINAL SCORE: 81%
NEXT UPDATE: 22 September 2016
NEXT TIME: You know what? I’m on kind of on a “big, iron dudes” kick right now. Let’s stick with it.
iron-giant

25 comments

  1. This movie is a little bit like a roller coaster for me…It starts out fine, nice song, a little bit fanservice thrown in. Then it peaks the first time when it addresses the impact the Avengers has on Tony, only to go downhill again with a lot of plot contrivances (I also don’t like how Pepper is portrayed in the movie, they should have focussed more on her being a shrewd CEO instead of stuffing her into the suit for five seconds. Wouldn’t it have been way more interesting if she had been onto Killian from the get go and ordered Happy to look into it instead of constructing this idiotic jealously plot). But once the Tony is out of the mansion, the movie starts to climb again, I love his detective work, I actually like Harley too and I adore the Mandarin Twist. It is such a great commentary on Feindbilder. Thing is, though, the movie really peaks at this point. It then proceeds rushing downwards in what first seems to be a fun ride (I love the scene with the people falling out of the plane) until you suddenly realize that there is no proper stop planned for the roller coaster and you crash and burn with the movie. I HATE the last 20 minutes or so of it. I had the useless five second death of Pepper, I hate Killian as a villain but above all I hate the removal of the arc reactor. At least it allowed a great scene in Civil War, but wow, did this move undermine the MCU. I always argue with people who say that there are no consequences in it by pointing out that there are way more possible consequences than death, but Ironman 3 not only throws in the most pointless fake death ever in the MCU, it also removes Tony’s big consequence forever. And I HATE this. It is my least favourite sequence of the whole MCU, easily.

    All those different aspects makes it really difficult for me to judge the movie at a whole, but it certainly belongs on the “has problems” pile. I think there are three aspects which contributed to its unevenness.

    1. Shawn Black was obviously very concerned which what happened beforehand in the Avengers, but not necessarily with what happened in the other Ironman movies (honestly, if removing the arc reactor really were that easy, wouldn’t Tony have done it in movie 2) and apparently not with the consequences for later movies. Perhaps the movie was created under the mind-set of “well, we won’t have RDJ for long after this anyway”, but all in all this is easily the MCU movie which is the least concerned about the continuity and it shows.

    2. He was also way too concerned with making the movie his own. I get the desire, but there is a middle ground for this. For example I get that this is more or less a Christmas movie, so there should be Christmas songs in it to set the mood, but why the hell is Tony not listening to heavy metal versions of them?

    3. And finally, Studio interference of the negative variant. Apparently Shawn Black wanted a female villain and I am not sure if that would have been Maya, but I think that it would have been a better and more surprising twist in the end if Killian hadn’t been the big bad either. But Perlmutter though that a female villain wouldn’t do well in toy sales (yeah, I am sure fire spewing Killian was a hit – not!).

    All in all I can see both positions on the movie, the ones who really love it (though saying that it is the best the MCU has to offer might overstating it) and the ones who absolutely hated it.

    1. I wasn’t too big on the arc reactor removal either. Also, the fact that Marvel executives are still throwing the nix on proposed villainesses for painfully ridiculous reasons/excuses makes me want to break out the old Alice screenshot.

      1. Well, now that they have pushed Perlmutter more or less to the side, I am hopeful for the future….the next Thor movie will have a female villain.

  2. I liked this one (seriously? no mention of the kickass end credits?) I just feel like they tried to do too much in this movie. Any of the ideas could have been good but because they spread the resources out across all of them, none of them got the chance to be used as well as they could have been. Also I may need to start using that “the grace and restraint of Idi Amin” line.

  3. I hate how people tend to use this as an example of a “bad” MCU film. I love Iron Man 3. Great development for Tony, excellent action, and very funny.

    And I love Trevor Slattery. I can’t imagine why people wanted the “real” Mandarin instead, he’s nothing but a mustache twirling Evil Overlord model 42a. He’d be a perfect exhibit of the “Marvel’s villains are boring” complaint if he was played straight. Trevor is both a wonderful subversion of the character and the funniest thing in the movie (no mean feat against Downey’s Stark).

    That being said, Killian kinda IS just another boring villain. He’s got money and power, he wants more money and power, yawn. I like him more than Justin Hammer (who just sucked at everything), but less than both Vanko (whose beef with Tony was more personal) and Stane (Jeff Bridges, ’nuff said).

  4. Oh thank god! You like it too! Mouse, I absolutely cannot understand the hate this movie gets. Even my dad loves it! Granted, he grew up in SE London and thought the toast of Croydon bit was hysterical.

    And its also given the best snarky answer to ‘who are you?’:
    “Uh, I’m Trevor, Trevor Slattery.”

    Great review, can’t wait for Suuuuupeeeeeeermaaaaaaan 5. It’s the best man of steel ever made after all! And I hope Mrs. Mouse is feeling better =)

  5. Back when this came out everyone told me I would hate the twist, but I came out loving it. For me this was the movie where the MCU stopped just being a regular series of superhero movies and became its own new take on characters (a less douchey Ultimate universe if that makes sense). I think it shows that if you do something well, reimagining the source material can be okay.

  6. This is one of those movies where the negative hype surrounding it actually ended up making it a much more enjoyable film for me though I already knew about the twist before seeing it and it was still hilarious. Like Age of Ultron, I feel this is one of those MCU films that will get better with age.

  7. I had the Mandarin Twist spoiled years ago (before I had any interest in the MCU, in fact), so I suppose that’s why I wasn’t particularly impressed by it, though Kingsley himself is a delight. That aside, *thank you* for raising the fact that Tony’s mansion shouldn’t be any kind of secret if it’s the one from the previous two movies. And I gotta agree with the above posters – Aldrich is pretty much a snooze, and while the Extremis plot has some interesting implications (plenty of critics bag on the movie for essentially painting amputeed veterans as evil), it’s not particularly well-developed.

    (Personally, I think the post-credits scene would’ve been infinitely funnier if the one Tony was boring had been Gary the Fanboy – a character you didn’t mention in this review, and probably for good reason.)

    All in all, I think I’d rank it #2 in the IM trilogy, but bottom-half of the MCU as a whole. Still, if I remember right, the movie after this one is going to be the REAL nadir of the MCU…

  8. I hope I’m not the ONLY one who noticed your subtle reference to Over the Garden Wall. Is that a review I see in your future?

  9. Don’t have that strong of a reaction to this film. I liked it, thought The Mandarin interpretation was fine. The skydiving scene was indeed incredible. Overall good and I liked it.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY THE IRON GIANT IS AMAZING AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH I’M SUPERMAN (CRIES TEARS OF HAPPINESS AND SADNESS)

  10. I also liked the Mandarin twist, and don’t understand this being considered one of the worst MCU movies. I still prefer the first Iron Man, but Iron Man 3 is also great.

  11. The stinger makes me vaguely uncomfortable because as far as I can tell the basic premise is that Tony Stark is actually trying to get actual help for his PTSD/assorted abandonment issues and the first person he turns to falls asleep on him. And it’s played for laughs? Which as a gag, sure, ‘dude tells very long story to man who isn’t listening’ can be pretty funny. But the next time we see Tony Stark is, well, ULTRON. And then there’s everything he opens Cap 3 with. From there it’s a fair assumption that he’s decided yet again that Building Things is a solution to his problems, even if his problems are (Avengers 2 spoilers). So I guess the stinger IS introducing the next villain, just in a less explicit fashion.
    Or something.

  12. Did you hear Maya was supposed to be the main villain but some producers at Marvel thought female villain would not sell toys? Hall spoke about it recently and it was revealed before that even. Dissapointing in my opinion, expecially since I never liked Killian, yet another suit villain for Iron Man and a Syndrome clone with not that good acting I am sorry to say Pearce.

    I thought the giving the address but was just taunting the Mandaring to attack not that Tony’s house is actually a complete secret.

  13. Iron Man 3, eh? This is one of those movies that reminds me of 2013 (along with Star Trek: Into Darkness and Epic). It brings back… interesting memories, let’s say. Also, you’re getting money from China, eh? The country that is on the Gangsta continent? Are you sure you want to be handling that doity cheddah, mousie? Dunno if that’s wise.

    And ouch, poor War Machine armour. And here I thought you were done with the whore-calling. Jarvis sassing Tony up in French was funny though. And why be surprised that Stark is useless without his high tech, he *did* make the Iron Man himself in a cave with a couple of scraps. In any case, that jab at vice presidents in political thrillers cracked me up.

    You’ve done a pretty good job laying down what you liked about Iron Man 3. I’d say maybe I hold a bit of a grudge against it for riding in the Incredibles’ coattails a bit (what with the whole hero’s-number-one-fan-becomes-villainous-innovator-with-a-grudge they both have going on), but I kind of thought giving a macho superhero a PTSD arc (and be as in denial about it as much as one would expect) was a cool touch, especially with the ending where it turns out Tony’s narrations are actually him talking to Bruce (who made myself and my mother laugh in the theatre when he pointed out he “wasn’t that kind of doctor”). Also, it made me hear the word “verisimilitude” the first time out of literature class, bravo.

  14. It was nice to have a protagonist with panic attacks who managed them with compulsive behaviors. I can relate. It’s not healthy, but if you can’t fix it, sometimes you just have to middle through as best you can.

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