I’ve been talking about Iron Man on this site for a week now. I’ve reviewed the film, compared the films to the comic books, and stepped back in awe at the record-breaking box office figures. Fellow WeMinoredInFilm writer Julianne issued a pretty stern warning to Marvel Studios that she will go all Black Widow on their backsides if they underestimate the importance of Robert Downey Jr. to the role of Tony Stark. However, all discussion has been framed so as to guard against spoiling anything.
Well, that time is over. The movie is out and everyone saw it. Heck, I’ve seen it twice now. Let’s talk details here, people. Now….nitpicking assembled!
*PROCEED ONLY IF YOU HAVE SEEN IRON MAN 3. SPOILERS AHEAD, FUN AHOY.*
1) Why The Villains Do What They Do – We’re Not Sure
In the “Extremis” comic book story arc, Maya Hansen’s (Rebecca Hall) motivation with her research is to use it to help solve cancer. Iron Man 3 only barely hints at Hansen’s more altruistic motivations, focusing more on the corruption of something initially pure than the potential benefits presented prior to corruption. We only kind of-in a very generous reading of the text-get the sense that Hansen is working toward something bigger and save-the-world than just extremis. On the other end, at a certain point Killian’s (Guy Pearce) motivation seems to simply switch to “well, he’s crazy, what do you expect?” (to be fair, the original Iron Man has a similar weakness with its villain, whose motivations stem from economic self-preservation and bitterness but whose ultimate actions eventually boil down to “dude’s insane, clearly”). Yes, we do know what he is working toward – power and money – but it is not really clear what is driving him there.
2) May We All Age as Well As Rebecca Hall
For a movie like Iron Man 3, aging actors to reflect the passage of time from 1999 to 2013 is going to be low on the priority list. You add a little color to Robert Downey Jr.’s hair and give wigs to Guy Pearce and Jon Favreau for the stuff in 1999. What about Rebecca Hall? They appear to have altered her hair a little. Otherwise, she looks roughly the same in 1999 as she does in 2013. In the real world, such remarkable aging would garner to face comments like “You have such gorgeous skin!” followed by behind the back comments like “That bitch!” In film? Eh. Just go with it. She has a fantastic moisturizing regimen, obviously.
3) Bravo…and For Shame on The Mandarin Twist
BRAVO!: The Mandarin twist is ridiculously stunning, and the perfect marriage of intentionally misleading marketing – which heavily hyped The Mandarin as the villain – and actual film. Don’t go to crazy with the praise, though. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises each utilized a similar similar bait-and-switch approach to villains, except those were played for drama and suspense whereas here it is played 100% for comedy.
FOR SHAME!: Rendering the Mandarin, one of the most iconic comic book villains for Iron Man, who is notoriously short on quality villains, as a toothless glorified performance art piece is as clever as it is offensive to those who have formed a relationship with the character through the comic books.
4) Tony Stark Was Supposed to be Dead. Did the Film Remember That?
It’s actually a bit jarring to think back to the middle section of the film and remember that as far as anyone knows Tony Stark has died. Pepper gets that call from Tony, and she presumably lets Maya know the truth. Killian seems to instantly operate on the “no body? Then he’s clearly alive!” principle. Those I can rationalize. But what about Rhodes (Don Cheadle). I guess the idea is that he is too busy being Iron Patriot, but he, too, based upon zero evidence seems to have completely assumed that Tony survived. The funny thing is the film knows this, having Tony joke to Rhodes, “I seem to remember that the last time I went missing you came and found me.” Also, for such an international celebrity, especially one presumed dead, is it possible for Tony Stark to walk into a random bar in Tennessee and not get at least a, “Hey, aren’t you that guy…”
5) Worst. Death. Scene. Ever.
Hansen fatally overestimates her importance to the project, and receives a rather poorly edited death scene as a result. Seriously, since we never really see a wound and barely any blood, and the last shot features her body falling with her face out of the frame I thought it was a trick. Like, maybe one last attempt to coerce Tony, or maybe her faking death and planning to slowly crawl to safety while Killian focused on Stark.
6) Pepper Potts the Superhero…Wait, Scratch That. She’s Back to Normal.
Pepper actually saves the day in this film. She is the one who defeats Killian, not Tony. Of course, it doesn’t really make any sense why her method is more effective than Tony having an Iron Man armor explode with Killian trapped inside, but whatever. In the comics, Pepper has become a bit of a super hero in her own right, with cybernetic enhancements and a personalized Iron Man armor with JARVIS interface of her own to use to rescue people. Pepper becoming super-powered due to extremis isn’t exactly the same, but it still presented very interesting possibilities for a future film. Then she gets put right back to normal in the voice over narrated closing montage. I guess it is possible all Tony did was perfect the extremis formula meaning she is not at risk of exploding while still maintain her new hot hands, but it sure doesn’t look that way based upon the montage. Boo!
7) That Really Easy Heart Surgery He’s Simply Been Putting Off…Apparently
I am perhaps more forgiving of the Pepper Potts fix because what follows it is so much worse. We get a completely out-of-nowhere “and while we were at it we figured what the heck why not get around to taking that shrapnel out of my heart the prior films had established was impossible to do.” This is the bit that felt like Marvel covering themselves just in case this is to be the end of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in any non-Avengers films. However, something as big as that needed more than just a quick throw in during the film’s final two or three minutes. There is apparently a bit more to this sequence in the extended Chinese version of the film, as the Doctor performing the heart surgery is played by well-known Chinese actor Wang Xueq. This might explain why it feels so completely rushed in the international versions, i.e., the one everyone outside of China saw.
8) Would It All Have Been Avoided If Pepper Gave AIM That R&D Contract Killian Wanted?
So, let’s see if I have the plot straight. Created by Maya Hansen and funded through Dr. Aldrich Killian’s think tank, Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), extremis is basically the Captain America super soldier serum except it renders the user largely invulnerable as their re-written brain can repair the body from almost any wound, even regrow limbs. Killian has weaponized extremis to create an army of super soldiers, comprised of wounded warriors cast off from organized military service. In fact, he is a test subject as well, thus explaining why he no longer needs a cane for support when he walks.
To cover up extremis’ fatal flaw, i.e., that some subjects blow up, Killian manufactures the concept of a lone terrorist who will claim suicide bombings where, in fact, an extremis subject went all exploding man. For the role of the terrorist, to be dubbed The Mandarin, they select a dim-witted English actor who will be easy to pacify with drugs, opulence, and women.
Somewhere along the way Hansen and Killian’s intentions for the project diverge. She seeks out Tony Stark for his help in solving the defect in the extremis formula, something he came close to finishing in 1999. After Killian has “The Mandarin” bomb Stark’s Malibu mansion, independent of Hansen, she improvises and suggests the leveraging of Pepper Potts against Stark to force his cooperation.
Although Killian seems unopposed to the notion of allowing Stark to perfect the formula, he seems to have no intention of removing The Mandarin from the equation. In fact, he is going to take out the President of the United States and get in bed with his replacement, the Vice President, who will presumably supply military defense contracts in exchange for giving extremis to his granddaughter who has lost half of one of her legs. All shall be blamed on The Mandarin.
Imagine how differently all of that might have gone if Pepper had simply given AIM an R&D contract from Stark Industries after Killian’s presentation. He is ultimately revealed to be a madman, but his plan mostly consists of securing additional funding to continue the extremis project before turning a profit by selling the resulting super soldiers to the highest bidders. Stark Industries getting into bed with AIM was never a viable option here, as there is no scenario in which Potts would give Killian a ‘yes’ considering Tony’s regrettable past as an arms dealer. However, it is kind of fun to think about.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film both times I saw it. Some of the above issues really are little more than me nitpicking and having a bit of a laugh. However, I would argue the last minute re-set on both Pepper and Tony is a legitimate problem with the movie, but since it doesn’t happen until the very end it does not affect the enjoyment of the film. What about you? Anything that bothered you? Anything you loved and want to celebrate? The comments section awaits! For Odin! For Asgard! For blogging!
If you like this, check out our other “Nitpicking” Articles as Well as Some of Our Other Iron Man Content:
- Nitpicking Iron Man 3 – 5 More Things That Bothered Us
- Nitpicking Man of Steel – 4 Things We Liked, 4 Things We Didn’t
- Review: Iron Man 3 is Flawed But Remarkably Entertaining
- Jarvis is an Actual Person & 5 Other Differences Between the Iron Man Films and Comic Books
- Why Marvel Studios May Be Underestimating the Appeal of Robert Downey, Jr.