After seeing Iron Man 3 with Chrissy and another friend from our esteemed collegiate days, Dennis, we headed to a Chevy’s to debrief on what we just saw (and eat “Mexican” food and drink margaritas.) I said, I was thinking of doing a spoiler free review, and Chrissy said, “Why?”
Why, indeed. Look, aside from the fact that I am very, very bad at spoiler free reviewing, most of what I really enjoyed about Iron Man 3 was the more spoilery stuff.
So, let’s begin shall we? The evening started off with some great trailers, including Star Trek: Into Darkness, (looks amazing), some movie where Channing Tatum saves the president played by Jaime Foxx (will probably watch it on cable and love it), The Wolverine, (which looks bulky and boring, love Hugh Jackman though I do) and of course Thor: The Dark World (there is not enough squeeing in the world to describe my inward reaction to this). Then we got in to the actual movie.
We started off with a blank screen and Tony doing a voice over, talking about how we create our own demons. Of course, Tony Stark talking about this does ring more true than other people. Throughout the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Tony has spent a good amount of time and resources cleaning up his own messes. The thing about Iron Man 3 is that this is a new Tony. Gone is much of his arrogance and his cock sure attitude. I was hoping they would go in this direction with the character post The Avengers. How could he be the same sarcastic lovable asshole we’ve all come to know and love after what he went through?
He admits that he hasn’t been sleeping, and we early on see the difficulties he is experiencing with the latest version of the Iron Man suit, the Mark 42. This is significant, because at the end of The Avengers he was using the Mark 8. That means that since defeating Loki, he has created 34 Iron Man suits.
That’s staggering, even for a character as focused and obsessive as Tony. I’m not sure of the exact timeline, but it’s probably only been a matter of months.
We get a few quick updates about where everyone is. Pepper runs Stark Industries, and seems to be doing well. Rhodey has been “rebranded” by the government, he’s no longer War Machine, but is now The Iron Patriot. Tony hates this, and as Chrissy put it, “He looks like Iron Man cosplaying as Captain America.” Happy is running security for Stark Industries and is feeling listless.
Meanwhile, a terrorist called The Mandarin, played superbly by Ben Kingsley, is blowing up lots of things. When Tony asks Rhodey how he can help, the response he gets is basically, “New York was a game changer, we need you focused on bigger threats, this isn’t superhero stuff.” Tony also is having anxiety attacks, and refusing to confront what happened to him. At one point he confesses to Pepper that she’s the only thing keeping him from losing it, which she finds touching but it’s not quite enough of a balm to heal their relationship.
Then enter bad guy number 2. The movie started with a flashback to 1999, where on New Years Eve, Tony had a drunken one night stand with the beautiful and brilliant Maya Hansen, while humiliating young think tank founder Aldrich Killian. Killian shows up at Stark Industries, all hot now. (Yay Guy Pearce!) and pitches a few ideas to Pepper and also kind of hits on her. And by kind of, I mean, he hits on her, like a lot. Pepper turns him down, both for the business and the other part, though it does seem to give her pause. Basically his idea was about creating regeneration for humans. While this intrigues Pepper, she thinks it has too much weaponizing potential, and since Stark Industries doesn’t do that anymore, she pushes him out.
Happy meanwhile, whines on his I-Pad to Tony that he’s bored and misses his bro. Tony mocks him, and then Happy chastises him for ignoring Pepper who is now probably getting touchy feely with this other guy. Tony brushes it off and Happy decides to tail Aldrich’s body guard who was behaving oddly. He winds up getting blown up in a Mandarin attack, and Tony decides that its time for the gloves to come off. He offers the Manadarin a direct challenge, even announcing his address to the core of press stationed outside the hospital where Happy is being cared for.
Then things get good. Maya shows up a the house, just as Pepper is packing her bags. She’s not leaving Tony, though it’s clear that’s in her mind, she’s just insisting that they get out before, you know, a terrorist comes and finds them. Tony meanwhile, ignoring Maya, insists that if they leave he can’t protect them, because the suits are in the house. This is a valid point, but aren’t there also suits at their apartment in Stark Towers in New York? Or is that in full on Avengers renovation at the moment? Anyway, the Mandarin blows up the house and Pepper gets to wear the suit for a minute and everything is awesome. Then, while encased in the suit Tony flies off, lands in Tennessee and befriends a little boy.
While I know it’s a cliche and people are going to hate it, I loved this kid. He was funny, and showed what a child Tony really is at heart. This kid had the jump on him. Anyway, the armor needs to recharge, but Tony still needs to do some superheroing, which was cool to watch. The idea that Iron Man can be a hero without the suit is both disconcerting and satisfying at the same time. At one point he breaks in to a broadcast van to steal their computers and hack Rhodey’s account. (Oh Tony, you and your high profile cyber crime! Just so incorrigible!) The van belongs to Max from Happy Endings. His entrance is punctuated by “Oh my God! Tony Stark is in my van!” Which is pretty much the only thing you can say in that situation.
Eventually, Tony tracks down the Mandarin, he and Rhodey save the president. And it turns out, and this is a biggie, Ben Kingsley isn’t the Mandarin at all. He’s an actor hired by AIM, the collective owned by Killian, and employing Maya! They have been developing the Extemis virus and the explosion are what happens when the body rejects it. They’ve kidnapped Pepper and are using her as both a test subject and incentive to get Tony to fix the virus. Or something.
I was so excited by this plot development I can’t even tell you. It was incredibly brave an unexpected. When explaining it to Chrissy, I said, “The Mandarin is Iron Man’s Joker. He’s that important. To turn him on his head like that is so unfathomably brilliant, but fanboys are going to hate it.” I then outlined the idea of fanboy rabies, which means being so fanatically devoted to source material you can’t see why making a change in adaptation is brilliant. Those who suffer from this are not going to like this twist. Those that see why it was necessary is this particular narrative, will love it.
Whatever, it lead to an epic fight scene, Pepper eventually getting super powers and Tony making the decision to finally have the shrapnel removed from his chest, and thus removing his arc reactor. The movie ends well. As Tony tosses his chest piece into the ocean he states it plainly. “You can take away my house, my toys, my distractions. But you can’t take away one thing, I am Iron Man.”
The credits roll. I was blown away, but left feeling a bit floatey. I didn’t know how I felt about it. Iron Man without his chest piece? Possibly without the suits? I’m not sure what it’s going to mean and I also can’t wait to find out.
Of course this is the MCU, you don’t leave until the last frame. And boy, was it ever worth it this time. I’ve never walked out of a Marvel movie anything less than extremely satisfied with the good time I had. I had that already, and then it was just piled on. After the credits the voice over kicks in again. Tony talks about “how good it feel to get this all off of his chest.” and how “you’re a really good listener.” The camera focuses in and there is Tony lying on a couch, as if in a therapists office and moves back, and Bruce Banner is sitting, barely focused, definitely asleep as Tony drones on and on. When Tony notices Bruce is sleeping he calls him out on it, and asks, “Where did I lose you?”
“Um, you were on an elevator in Switzerland?” Bruce grimaces (the first five minutes of the movie.) They then bicker about how Bruce is not a therapist. It’s brilliant. For one thing, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo have amazing chemistry. We saw that in The Avengers. Also, their hey buddy, super genius scientist dynamic is so endearingly fun, I was glad to see it back.
With the fade to black after this scene we got one more word in: “Tony Stark will return.”
This is found interesting Tony Stark will return. Not Iron Man. This opens up a work of possibilities for The Avengers 2 that I don’t think anyone had thought of.
We’ll have to wait until November and Thor: The Dark World for more hints, but I’m pretty excited about it.