“We create our own demons”
Iron Man 3 had the unenviable task of following ‘The Avengers’ (read my review here), but succeeds by reducing the ‘superhero’ element to a few scenes here and there. Iron Man 3 features very little of Tony Stark as Iron Man; instead, Stark is usually remotely controlling the Iron Man suit. The Avengers gave us some of the best superhero action scenes in comic book film history. Why attempt to better them? Iron Man 3, while not brilliant on all levels, gives us the deepest character introspection in the Marvel Universe. And the “could have been the best” Marvel Universe villain…
After the events of ‘The Avengers,’ Tony Stark is a broken man. He hasn’t lost his biting tongue, but he’s struggling to cope with facing death in the face. He’s having panic attacks when out of the Iron Man suit. A terrorist called The Mandarin is tormenting America. Stark vows to stop him after his faithful bodyguard Happy is injured in a Mandarin-orchestrated terrorist attack. Aldrich Killian, founder of AIM, wants Stark Industries to fund his Extremis Project, a medical revolution that regrows limbs. Stark faces his biggest challenge yet…
Near the beginning of the film, Stark tells JARVIS that he has been awake for 72 hours. He has post-traumatic stress syndrome. It’s apparent that it is having an effect on his relationship with Pepper Potts. He admits he can’t live without her, but he’s pushing her away at the same time. His behaviour leads to self-destructive actions like giving The Mandarin his address. On the face of it, it is stupid. When The Mandarin attacks his home, there are no defences (Stark shouts at JARVIS for not getting the defences online), and still has Potts staying at his place. But maybe it isn’t a silly plot device. Could it prove Freud’s theory about the death drive? In the dark place that Stark is at, perhaps his subconscious is provoking him to put his life in danger. The film is his journey to overcome his trauma and become a man (not a super-hero) again.
The few scenes of Tony Stark as Iron Man prove the point. Stark meets Colonel Rhodes in a diner at one point. A kid comes over to them and asks how Stark survived the portal in ‘The Avengers.’ This brings on a panic attack, and Stark rushes to his Iron Man suit. It’s is comfort zone that is absent for much of the film. In the prelude to the climax, Stark storms Killian’s base of operations with nothing more than a few homemade gadgets. Robert Downey Jr. once again plays Tony Stark to perfection. He’s played enough of the confident, arrogant billionaire. This time, he looks lost and damaged. He has to save himself. The much-displayed shot of Stark dragging the Iron Man suit through the snow says it all.
“Some people call me a terrorist…I consider myself a teacher”
Not only is Stark brilliant, but the main villain The Mandarin is brilliant as well…until the (SPOILER!!!!) twist towards the end of the film. He hates America for its hypocrisy above all else. His videos are transmitted on live TV, with snippets of starving children and riots as a prelude. In one video, he compares the American-made fortune cookie to America. They’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste to your mouth. This is a man who, even after getting what he wants, shoots a man dead on live TV. For once, I felt like we were getting a great Marvel villain. However, little did I know that he was just a puppet for Killian.
For the third film in a row, a foreigner is used by an American as part of his bigger plan. In Iron Man, the Ten Rings were used by Obidiah Stane. In Iron Man 2, Whiplash was used by Justin Hammer. In Iron Man 3, The Mandarin is an actor employed by Adrian Killian to further his plans. Ben Kingsley is great as The Mandarin, and as the actor who plays The Mandarin, Trevor Slattersley. Trevor is the funniest element of the film. However, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed when the reveal was made. Adrian Killian is boring. He held a deep resentment for Stark after Stark left him on a rooftop at a millennium New Year’s Eve party. That’s his main motivation. It’s pitiful compared to what The Mandarin could have been.
His most riveting screen time is spent explaining why he used The Mandarin to further his aims. He needed to give people an “Osama Bin Laden,” a face to hate. “I’ll own the war on terror,” he shouts at Rhodes. People need a ‘demon’ to rally against if they are to support war. It is presented as a swipe at the real ‘War on Terror.’ Bin Laden was used to justify not one, but two wars in countries. And think of the millions that private contractors made out of it. Killian’s words hit all the right points, but aren’t given enough time to develop. Before you know it, you are in the climactic fight scene. And it doesn’t justify screwing over The Mandarin. He could have rivalled Loki. Instead, we are left with a rich, white, genius American for a villain. Like Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Boring!
“The prodigal son returns”
With the true villain of the piece being a disappointment, once more an Iron Man film looks to Tony Stark to save it. And Stark does save it. Just about. At the climax of the film, he blows up all of his Iron Man suits. Ostensibly, it’s for Pepper Potts. In reality, it’s for himself. “I am Iron Man,” he says, repeating the last line of the first film and affirming that he doesn’t need the suit anymore. It rounds up the Iron Man trilogy perfectly. He ends where Iron Man begins; a man without a suit to give him superpowers. His intelligence and skills are all he needs. Of course, after viewing Avengers: Age of Ultron, all of this character development is lost…but that’s a different issue! The greatest theme and part of Iron Man 3 (like all Iron Man films) is the growth of Stark as a man. Everything else is subservient to that, for better or for worse.
VERDICT: 7/10. The film ruins a great villain and replaces him with a pathetic one. However, as always, it’s all about Tony Stark. And it’s a perfect ‘end’ to the Iron Man trilogy in that respect.