We are halfway there, ladies and gents. We have all of phase one behind us and phase two now lies dauntingly ahead. I must remain faithful in delivering you the most up to date opinions on movies made two years ago, and today’s treat is Iron Man 3, one of the more polarizing movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a movie that left people asking questions like, “Is there a real Mandarin?” “Where did Pepper get martial arts training?” and “Why are everyone’s clothes fireproof in this movie?” These are all questions that probably won’t be answered by my post, because they are dumb nitpicking questions that people use to trash this movie.
But, if I’m honest, they are questions that I asked the first time I watched this movie.
Iron Man 3 is a huge change from what we have come to expect from Marvel up to this point, and I hated it the first few times I watched it. I hated the fact that they turned Mandarin into a punch line, I did not like the “Clean Slate” crap at the end, and Guy Pearce’s Killian reminded me way too much of Sam Rockwell’s Hammer from Iron Man 2. However, after watching this movie within this marathon, I appreciate this movie far more as the finale of its trilogy, rather than as an extension of the universe. And here lies a lot of the issues that I believe people had with this movie. It doesn’t tonally make much sense with Avengers, and it does very little in way of expanding the universe that made people take this franchise so seriously. It is understandable that people would want another movie that operates on the same level of Avengers after its massive success, and when Iron Man 3 did not provide this type of entertainment, people were understandably upset.
The sad part about this movie is that people never adjusted those expectations. As I have been posting these pieces, I have heard a lot of feedback from people that have said that this is their least favorite movie, but after my re-watch, I am of the opinion that this may not be a great superhero movie, but it is a great movie. It is hard to qualify it as the former, because Stark spends very little time in Iron Man armor. While this may be upsetting for the average fan-boy who wants the see the next evolution in Stark technology, most of this movie defines his struggle to survive independently of his armor.
The movie begins with a Tony Stark that is still struggling to cope with the events in New York that occurred in Avengers. The Iron Man armor, and making more of them, is the only thing that helps Tony deal with this stress, and that’s not doing wonders for any of his relationships. This is the final step in the growing battle that began with Tony declaring his control over the Iron Man persona by saying, “I am Iron Man.” In the second movie, we see the control begin to blur, highlighted by the battle between him and Rhodes. This movie is the tipping point, and the suit has won the battle for Stark’s soul, and once that has been ripped from him, he must begin to establish who he is outside of this dependence. This necessitates a whole lot of non-Iron Man screen time. So, that sucks for the people who really wanted another classic superhero story, but it was a big win for an authenticity within superhero movies that has shaped Marvel’s Phase 2.
Another huge complaint with this movie is the issue with the Mandarin, and it simply must be addressed. I have gone back and forth on this point very often, however I have decided that neutering a major villain really isn’t that bad of a move. We all thought we knew what to expect going into this movie. The Mandarin will use his rings, because since Thor, magic has been an accepted entity within the Marvel universe. They will fight, Iron Man will win, the day will be saved. Fan boys will be happy because they stuck with source material, fans will be happy, because Marvel, and all will be good. They did not take the safe route, and it provided viewers with a sense of surprise that was very lacking. Sure, people got mad, and complained because that was a major villain and it would have been cool to see Mandarin, Loki and Thanos together, but I love that Marvel is not afraid to deviate from source material in order to produce content that surprises and entertains. I don’t want to see a universe that is directly transposed from the comics, when we have an opportunity to have one that is distinct and important in its own right.
These two perceived flaws, which have damned this movie for so many Marvel fans–and for me when I first saw it–have actually become my two favorite parts of this movie, and makes this a high point of Phase 2 for me. I understand that I am in the minority, but this movie represents a new ideal adopted for Marvel movies. This seems to be the first big risk that Marvel takes, and it is these risks that will allow the superhero genre to continue to succeed as more than a fad. It shows a willingness to adapt, to change the formula, and no matter how much people complain about the serialized nature of the movies within this universe, I believe this and many of the movies we will be looking at this week prove the exact opposite.