Tony Stark is confident, full of swagger, always ready with a line and a “to hell with it” attitude that has made him an endearing hero for filmgoers in the 21st century. And that’s why IRON MAN 3 is such an interesting and courageous film that will undoubtedly continue to create debate among audiences for some time to come.
IRON MAN 3 opens several months after the Battle of New York portrayed in the third act of THE AVENGERS. Few heroes saw as much as Tony did. He’s the one who entered the wormhole. He’s the one who stared at his own mortality. And he is the one who caught a glimpse of the enormity of the threat that lies out there, before being unceremoniously dropped back to earth. It’s an experience that would shake anyone’s psychological state, even Tony Stark.
He finds himself spending more and more time as Iron Man, and he is now on his 42nd iteration of the suit. As Iron Man, he is invincible, a symbol of heroism to the world. As Tony Stark, he’s scared. In THE AVENGERS, Captain America asks Stark what he is when you take away the suit. To this, Stark quickly responded “billionaire playboy philanthropist.” But what if that isn’t enough? What if there are some situations in which Stark wouldn’t have a solution? We’ve seen Tony shaken before, when he was taken prisoner in the original film. But this is worse, not just because the threat is bigger but because his life has more meaning now and has more value. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has grown and while the two have problems, he can freely admit that she is the one thing in the world he can’t live without.
A telling moment comes when Tony Stark has a break in a crowded diner. He rushes outside, entering the armor he cherishes so much. When his trusty computer Jarvis runs a diagnostic test, Jarvis informs Stark that he has just suffered an anxiety attack. For once, Stark is frozen. “Me?,” he asks unbelieving.
This will undoubtedly be a sore spot for some Iron Man fans, After all, it’s not very comfortable to see our heroes turning to jelly over the same thing that plays havoc with us on a daily basis – life. Of course, in the comic, Stark has faced similar demons, battling alcoholism and poverty in the classic “Demon In a Bottle” storyline. Also, while it unnerves us to find that our heroes are just as human as we are, there is something comforting in seeing them rally and declare victory against their enemies, both internal and external.
This is just one of the changes to the comfortable IRON MAN formula in this third installment. This time, the threat comes in the form of a terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who stages attacks against American targets foreign and domestic, leaving dozens dead in his wake. And somewhere in the middle of it is the mysterious group AIM, led by Dr. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, in a downright Kilmeresque performance). His soldiers are literal walking time bombs thanks to Killian’s experimental Extremis research.
Do you remember how Mickey Rourke didn’t actually play Whiplash in IRON MAN 2, but an amalgamation of a few villains with some original material thrown in? To that end, IRON MAN 3 takes major liberties with the Mandarin, AIM and the Extremis program. If you require this film to be faithful to the comics, you will be disappointed and possibly enraged. But let’s think about how comics work for a moment. They get retconned and rebooted every few years once a new writer takes charge. Then, that writer leaves and the process starts again. Therefore, no reason why the films can’t do the same thing, offering new spins on material we have become perhaps too comfortable with.
There is a big difference between the changes made in IRON MAN 3 and the ones made in earlier films not produced by Marvel Studios. Take FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER for example. I actually thought that film was superior to its lackluster predecessor. However, there were still some cowardly choices made in the script, none more so than in the portrayal of Galactus. In the comics, Galactus is a giant robot, strange and definitely hard to translate to the big screen. But the movie showed a complete lack of care or imagination by portraying Galactus as a cloud. The changes present in IRON MAN 3 may be severe, but they retain the spirit of the comics, the films and the characters, even when it seems like they’ve taken a complete 180.
In short, calm down, fanboys. Be open to what is being offered and move on.
When Austin reviewed the film, he jokingly referred to it as LETHAL WEAPON 5. This is a reference to the director Shane Black, who penned some of the best action films of the 1980s and 1990s, including LETHAL WEAPON. It’s also a reference to how IRON MAN 3, while it contains much more action than the second film, features very little time in which Tony Stark is actually fighting in the armor. Throughout much of the first act and roughly half of the third, we get Iron Man. For the most part however, we get Tony Stark, lying low, trying to mend his wounds and solve a mystery before infiltrating the enemy lair with his buddy Rhodes (Don Cheadle, making the cut for a second film)
Again, Marvel hits it out of the park. If the film isn’t as fresh or classic as the original, that’s fine. It’s an improvement over the last installment. And the reason for its success is that Marvel knows the value of shaking things up now and then. ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
– Running time: 2hrs 10min.
– Want a second opinion? Read Austin’s review HERE!
– Read my take on what Marvel Studios is doing right… and why no one else is doing it, HERE!