Welcome to VOCIFERY, my attempt to re-watch every piece of media in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – every movie, every television series, every one-shot, every web series, and every tie-in comic book, using the Wikipedia entry on the MCU as a guide, before the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019. Join me as I write my thoughts about what I’m seeing, as I see it!
Also, spoilers follow – if you’re worried about that kind of thing, view before reading.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
I’ve never really known what to make of Iron Man 3.
Written and directed by Shane Black (known primarily for writing a series of hit action films including Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Last Action hero), the film is an incredibly entertaining film that is designed, produced and constructed at a very high level. You’d expect no less from Black; his other attempts at writing and directing – notably 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 2016’s The Nice Guys – are great films too.
And it captures Robert Downey Jr at his most charming, even as the character of Tony Stark undergoes some of the strongest scrutiny of his time in the MCU. Iron Man 3 does its best to humanise Stark, exploring the post-traumatic stress disorder that has affected his ability to differentiate between himself and Iron Man since the attack on New York in The Avengers.
In fact, I would argue this is the best thing about Iron Man 3. MCU films – and superhero films in general – have a hard time humanising their protagonists; I would go as far as to argue this is the main problem with the DCEU films to date, even though I probably like them more than most people. Tony’s struggle with PTSD gives us a way in to his psyche, and gives Downey Jr an opportunity to inject some pathos into the role. It makes him relatable.
At the same time, the film also makes Stark himself seem super, which the previous films didn’t quite achieve to the same degree. In Iron Man 1 and 2, Stark only seemed super when he is in the suit; in Iron Man 3, he gets a number of opportunities – especially during his infiltration of the Mandarin’s compound – to show that the man maketh the suit, and not the other way round.
I’m also a fan of its relative lack of connection to the rest of the MCU. Aside from the larger story links – Tony’s PTSD, the return of several characters – it is shockingly sparse on all the little details. There is no S.H.I.E.L.D. here, there are no minor characters from the other films popping up (with the exception of a clever cameo in the post-credits scene), and there are no mentions of the big green guy or the flag-waver. This is very much a standalone sequel.
But it does have its problems.
I’m not sold on Guy Pearce. His performance as Aldrich Killian is patchy and cartoonish – probably not helped by the fact that he plays a ridiculous version of himself in the opening scene, and breaths fire later in the film.
The number of fake-outs is a problem on repeat viewings, too. Iron Man 3 is remembered for the Mandarin reveal – namely, that The Mandarin is being played by an actor named Trevor Slattery, and that Killian has been pulling the strings all along. But we’re also led to believe that Pepper is dead after she falls from the crane in the final act (she isn’t; unbeknownst to us, she has been extremis-ised and is just fine), that Maya Hansen is an ally (she isn’t; turns out she is working with Killian), and are misled on the involvement of Aldrich Killian (he presents himself as a businessman, before turning out to be the big bad).
Fake-outs and twists can be entertaining. But at some point, you learn to stop trusting the story as it is being presented to you – which in turn can make entire scenes seem irrelevant as you wait for the climax of the film, since the ending becomes the only part of the story which matters.
Iron Man 3 starts to head in that direction – I don’t think it quite gets there, but it is certainly a minor problem for the film.
It never outweighs the good, though. As mentioned, Iron Man 3 is entertaining, Downey Jr is at his most charming, and its lack of connection to the wider MCU (at least so far) works in its favour. Jolly good film, that.
Next: Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World Prelude tie-in comics!