True Believers! Welcome back to The Marvel Report’s MCU Retrospective series. We are counting down to the release of the fourteenth MCU film, Doctor Strange which is slated for release in November. Today’s feature focuses on the seventh installment, Iron Man 3. After Phase 1 ultimately culminated with 2012’s The Avengers, Phase 2 kicked off a year later with this film. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
By this point, I couldn’t get enough of the MCU. Having The Avengers assemble on screen just a year prior, made me excited to see how Marvel would keep building the universe and its stories. However, with Jon Favreau stepping away from the franchise as a director and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) stepping in made me to be cautiously optimistic. After that, came the news that the film would adapt Warren Ellis & Adi Granov’s Extremis arc, then I was even more excited for the film.
Marvel delivered a gloriously epic first trailer of the “techno thriller” themed film in the fall of 2012, hinting at a darker storyline for the character. The experiences of the wormhole and fighting the Chitauri in Avengers left Stark battling a bit of PTSD and panic attacks, going deeper into his psyche (eventually setting up Stark’s desire to have 24/7 protection on the earth with Ultron). All this hinted a great film to be anticipated but in the end, it wasn’t quite what we expected. On the positive front, Shane Black and Drew Pearce’s screenplay was definitely true to Black’s style (Christmas setting, witty dialogue, etc.) and Downey’s knack for improvisation and line delivery.
One of the highlights of the film is the relationship between Harley (Ty Simpkins) and Stark. Simpkins manages to hold his own against Downey, one of the best actors in the game today — not an easy feat. The interplay between these two characters works perfectly as the heart of the film as they are both tinkerers by nature, making the relationship feel natural.
Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian managed to be an impressive villain for the first two acts of the film (more on this later) as he poses both a professional and personal threat not only to Stark but his relationship with Pepper as well. In true Marvel form, the film is visually spectacular. The plane scene? My god, they actually did that with practical effects and used CGI to enhance the scene in post. Seeing the wide of array of armors in the third act made many “fanboys” giddy with excitement.
Lastly the post credits scene continues to play into the “it’s all connected” motto. The “science bros” are brought back with Mark Ruffalo appearing as Bruce Banner. Hilariously showing the reason why Stark is narrating the film in the first place, Banner is listening to Stark in a therapy session before expressing he’s not that kind of doctor.
As for the negative aspects, there was a real chance for Marvel to fix their villain problems. First, instead of a straightforward presentation of The Mandarin, they chose another way to bring the character into live action. The twist with Killian actually being the Mandarin initially annoyed me but after repeated viewings, I understand what Pearce, Black and Feige were trying to do. The concept in itself was fresh and exciting, but the execution was a little off.
With the one shot All Hail The King, Marvel course corrected by using the short to say the “real” Mandarin was not pleased with Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) posing as him, even bringing along Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer for the ride. Marvel still has a plot thread dangling with the real Mandarin not being used since this short. Lastly, we could had an our first female MCU villain in Rebecca Hall, but she and Black have since confirmed that the studio changed her role as Marvel corporate (i.e. Ike Perlmutter) was concerned that toys based off a female wouldn’t sell. Who knows what we would have gotten?! Black alleges that Marvel doesn’t have that problem any more and he’s right. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok will have female baddies and we also have our first female centric film with Captain Marvel due out in a couple years.
Overall, Iron Man 3 isn’t as bad as some say. Marvel manages to end Iron Man’s standalone films in a mostly satisfying way by blowing up his all of his suits and concluding the first MCU trilogy. It is a definite improvement from Iron Man 2 and helps to continue the evolution of Tony Stark. From a self-absorbed playboy to a futurist obsessed with finding a way to help and protect humanity – he is still finding his way as seen in Civil War. The Russo Brothers & Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wisely use the plot thread of Stark’s dedication to being a hero and guilt over Ultron to break up his relationship with Pepper and provide him one reason for signing the Sokovia Accords.
We’ll see where Stark goes next in Spider-Man: Homecoming and then Infinity War if he doesn’t show up before then.
Next: The God of Thunder returns!