Iron Man has been one of my favorite Marvel movie franchises. It has taken Tony Stark and made him interesting, it has advanced Libertarian values (the defense of Private innovation and the right to Private property) and in spite of some changes from the comics (Jarvis becoming a computer and Pepper Potts being promoted from secretary several years his senior to love interest) has stayed true to the spirit and tone of the books that inspired it… until now.
I cannot discuss this film’s problems without spoilers because the biggest problems of this movie are the revelations in it. Let’s start with the biggest “surprise.” For some time now fans have been demanding that Iron Man be made to go head to head with his arch-nemesis the Mandarin. The Mandarin is a powerful sorcerer who happens to possess five powerful rings made from the gems that will soon adorn the Infinity Gauntlet. You know, the gauntlet in Odin’s treasury in the first Thor movie? The infinity gems are key to Phase 2 of the Avengers films, or so I thought. It was logical that Tony Stark would therefore have to square off with this villain and audiences would be introduced to the concept of the Infinity Gems… Not so.
Its bad enough they started by making it seem like the Mandarin was an Islamic terrorist, but if you’re going to make that change stick with it. Not all Muslims are bad people, we’re not stupid, we know this. Everybody understands this, but just as there are bad Christians, there are some bad Muslims, if Red State can portray Christians in a negative light then certainly Iron Man 3 could have dealt with Islamic themed terrorism with some shred of seriousness, especially after recent events in Boston, it is a real problem no matter how much Hollywood wishes it wasn’t. Actually it shouldn’t have gone there at all, by itself it would have still been an unacceptable change that would have infuriated me, but they even copout on their copout. The Mandarin should have been true to what he was in the comic and only underwent a name change, period. After all, Whiplash was “Crimson Dynamo” in the comics, not wanting to offend our Russian friends they just changed his name and gave him electronic whips. Yet Whiplash was an exciting villain and no one seemed to mind because he was still true to the spirit and tone of his comic counterpart.
But the changes to the Mandarin could have still not destroyed this movie for me had other copouts not ensued. They give Pepper Potts super powers for no reason, they have her fight, totally out of character and then they take those powers away. She is killed, an emotional moment in the movie… but then no, she survived the 200 foot fall. Copout.
Then, Tony Stark destroys all of his own suits and has his arc reactor surgically removed as well as all the shrapnel we were previously told were inoperable. In doing so he undoes the first two movies. Copout. If the shrapnel could be so easily removed surgically then why didn’t the first movie end with him getting back to America and demanded an American cheese burger and a surgeon to fix his chest? Why did he go through all the trouble to create an entirely new element to save his own life in the second film if he could have just had it surgically corrected? Why would he do that when the arc reactor saved him from being controlled by Loki in the Avengers? Clearly having that darn thing was an advantage! Copout!
This film ending the way it did feels like they are setting up for the lowest form of super-hero film in existence, the reboot. In reality this is a film about overcoming fear that succumbs to fear, fear of Robert Downey Jr’s continually growing pay check, hence Tony Stark ending his carrier as Iron Man, fear of political correctness, hence the unacceptable changes to the Mandarin when a simple name change would have fared better, fear of big budget special effects, as what effects were here looked cheap and were a pale shadow of what could have been had we gotten our magic versus technology battle that we had so hoped for… All in all, if you haven’t seen this movie save your cash. The Wolverine is coming soon and looks to be the film that will but our pal Logan back on track as X-Men First Class did for the related X-Men series.
I hope there is an Iron Man 4 and that it rights the wrongs of this third film. They could still take the Mandarin concept and do it right, just change the name and we can have our magic versus technology battle. After all, Tony admits he is overwhelmed being a man in a can in a universe of super soldiers, aliens and Gods… how much more fun would it be to overwhelm him with magic? Sadly I think it’s more likely we’ve seen the last of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, and that a reboot that will start the story all over again will hit theaters next as they did with that awful Amazing Spider-Man. True that Spider-Man 3 sucked, but the reboot wasn’t any better for me. What I’d like to see is this. If we have to change actors and crew fine, but keep the story moving forward. Think of the Incredible Hulk. The entire cast and crew changed but the story kept moving forward and it was infinitely better than Ang Lee’s Hulk. A reboot without rebooting. Let’s hope that’s what we get from Iron Man 4. Certainly despite being awful Iron Man 3 has made enough money that a fourth film in some form or another is inevitable.