“You experience things and then they’re over and you still can’t explain ‘em. Gods, aliens, other dimensions. I…I’m just a man in a can.” – Tony Stark
Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 (2013) is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film that polarizes me the most. Objectively, it is a very good and fun Iron Man sequel. In addition, it is a logical first movie in the MCU’s Phase 2 after the completion of Phase 1 that culminated with the bonanza of all the heroes teaming up for the first time in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012). I appreciate Iron Man 3 exploring Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) difficulties with handling, processing, accepting, and constructively moving past his traumatic experiences during the Chatiuri invasion, led by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Battle of New York at the end of The Avengers. Although the Avengers emerged victorious, it is natural for Stark to dread another attack from future threats. Of course, his anxiety creates strains on his relationships with the people closest to him, especially Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). On the other hand; like some comic book fans, I am annoyed by the big twist in the film related to the supposed main villain: the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Although I admit it is a clever idea, it is executed with the wrong villain. Director Shane Black has admitted he did not realize the significance of the Mandarin as the biggest villain in Iron Man lore. From my perspective, it is frustrating that the film provides a chilling and provocative take on the Mandarin in the first half of the movie but completely changes gears with a stunning twist that reverses course back to a lighter tone consistent with the first two Iron Man movies. If the film follows through with the Mandarin from the first half, it would elevate the Iron Man trilogy and finally provide a compelling and worthy villain for Iron Man to battle in his standalone films. Instead, it returns to a fun tone that has worked but less epic. Consequently, the third film is just good when it could have been great.
At the end of The Avengers, Stark is key to fending off Loki and the Chatiuri invasion during the Battle of New York. In addition to being a leader and one of the most powerful Avengers during the fight, he intercepts a nuclear missile that is fired at New York and carries it through the portal, which is being used as the entry point for the alien invaders, to redirect it to destroy the Chatiuri mother and command ship. In that moment, he has no idea if he will survive the maneuver. As such, he makes a conscious decision to sacrifice himself to save others. Nevertheless, he manages to narrowly survive by falling back unconsciously through the portal before it closes. Not surprisingly, the near death experience is a traumatizing event that changes Stark’s generally immature and carefree attitude with life. Although the Avengers are victorious in the Battle of New York, it is logical that Stark is petrified with the unknown threats that potentially threaten the planet in the future. Before The Avengers, rogue Gods and alien invaders do not exist in Stark’s world. Afterwards, any terrible nightmare seems possible. Accordingly, he suffers insomnia dreading the unknown. As his trusty artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. notes: “Sir, may I remind you that you’ve been awake for nearly seventy-two hours.” Naturally, the flashback at the center of his posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are his memories of going through the wormhole to deliver the nuke at the Chatiuri. Although I like the film exploring how the events of The Avengers affects Stark, Robert Downey Jr. could be better at acting out the anxiety that Stark confronts. Downey’s depiction is exaggerated and more like a parody of PTSD instead of a convincing performance. Besides that criticism, Downey is fabulous as Tony Stark/ Iron Man as always. Moreover, Iron Man 3 does well to link back to The Avengers. In response to his fear, Stark distracts himself by obsessing with building more and more Iron Man suits night and day. At the beginning of the film, he is already up to Mark 42. As a reminder, the last armor he utilizes at the end of The Avengers is Mark 7. Consequently, he has built 35 additional suits since then. In addition, he is working on advanced technology that enables the parts of his suit to fly to him and form the full armor piece by piece instead of him having to physically enter a full suit. As one could clearly see, Stark is completely preoccupied with the thought of another extraterrestrial attack and cannot think of much else.
As one could probably guess, Stark’s PTSD puts a strain on his personal relationships especially since he rarely leaves his workshop. As we know, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the most important person in his life. She runs his company as the CEO of Stark Industries and is the love of his life. She is a strong woman and the rock in his life. Gwyneth Paltrow has done a fine job portraying the character throughout her appearances in the MCU. Without Pepper’s support, Tony likely falls completely apart. Nevertheless, her patience begins to wear thin since he is only obsessed with building suits. When she returns home and he greets her with a suit, she sarcastically asks if he is on Mark 15. As we know, he is significantly past 15 and embarrassed to correct her with the actual number. To make matters worse, he is not even inside the suit. Instead, it is a drone that he is remote controlling from his garage. Rightfully, Pepper calls it out as a “new level of lame”. He justifies his state of mind to her by stating “The threat is imminent, and I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without. That’s you. My suits, they’re uh…part of me”. On the other hand, she points out they are a distraction. They are both correct. There will be more terrifying threats in the future but Tony cannot only live every moment in life dreading them. Pepper is trying to be understanding and supportive but it is definitely a difficult, sensitive situation. A tipping point occurs when Tony is having a nightmare and Pepper urgently tries to wake him up by grabbing him. In response, his Mark 42 drone identifies it as a hostile action against Tony and it grabs and throws her off him. As such, he frantically commands it to power down before it seriously harms her. Nevertheless, the damage is done. Pepper is justifiably upset with the incident. Tony’s inability to address his PTSD and move on with his life is creating a significant strain on their relationship.
Stark’s relationship with his chauffeur and bodyguard, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), is also affected by the events of The Avengers. Iron Man 3 begins with a flashback to Switzerland on New Year’s Eve 1999. It showcases a young Happy rocking a mullet. It also reminds the audience of the close relationship he has had with Tony over the years. During that night, Tony is having a one night stand with Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) in her hotel room. She is a geneticist working on a formula that is intended to hack into the “genetic operating system [part of the brain]” of an organism that “governs repair” to allow the human body to regenerate. She is testing it in plants. Since the formula is a work in progress and unstable, the plants currently explode when a reaction is activated. Accordingly, Happy inadvertently triggers a reaction by ripping off a leaf on a plant and it regenerates then explodes. As soon as it blows, Happy runs into the room to jump on top of Tony to shield his boss from harm. It is a testament to how dedicated and loyal Happy is to Stark. Moreover, his commitment to Tony has a long track record. In the present day of Iron Man 3, their friendship has drastically changed since 1999. They used to spend a lot of time together and now they barely see each other. They speak on the phone about missing each other and Happy points out “Yeah, I miss you too. But the way it used to be. Now you’re off with the ‘superfriends’, I don’t know what’s going on with you anymore. The world’s getting weird…” Obviously, Happy’s role as Stark’s bodyguard has become obsolete because the idea of him protecting Iron Man is laughable. Consequently, he is struggling with finding a new meaningful position in Tony’s life. In Iron Man 3, he works more for Pepper than Tony as the head of security at Stark Industries. He is an overly serious security guard who walks around hounding individuals for their badges. He is so paranoid about security breaches that he proposes to Pepper that they “replace the entire janitorial staff with robots”. When they discuss it, he is totally unaware of his ridiculousness and her sarcasm as she asks to clarify if his proposal is for real. In fact, he doubles down by stating “What I’m saying is that the human element of Human Resources is our biggest point of vulnerability. We should start phasing it out immediately.” When she asks him to loosen up by noting that “We’ve had a rise in staff complaints of three hundred percent” since he has taken over as head of security, he misinterprets it as a compliment. Of course, Happy is having difficulty with his reduced importance in Tony’s life now that he has the Avengers. He is trying to compensate by going completely overboard with his responsibilities as head of security. Nevertheless, his loyalty to Tony is absolute and unwavering. Jon Favreau does another wonderful job reprising the character. He provides plenty of moments of comic relief for the movie. In the movie, he will also play an important role in a key turning point of the story regarding the Mandarin.
Next, the Mandarin provides the most significant discussion points for Iron Man 3. In the comics, he is the biggest villain for Iron Man. The Mandarin also has ten rings of power that grant him special abilities. I did not expect a faithful adaption of the source material with the rings. Nonetheless, I am teased with a portrayal that appears to be epic in the first half of the film. Iron Man 3 presents a Mandarin who is a chilling and frightening terrorist. The Mandarin’s organization utilizes cyberattacks to commandeer television networks and interrupt scheduled programming to take credit for terrorist attacks. For example, there is a savage explosion at a church on a military base in Kuwait that kills women and children. The Mandarin goes on the airwaves to taunt the American people:
“Some people call me a terrorist, I consider myself a teacher. America, ready for another lesson. In 1864 in Sand Creek Colorado the U.S. military waited till the friendly Cheyenne braves all gone hunting, waited to attack and slaughter their families left behind, and claim their land. Thirty-nine hours ago the Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait was attacked. I…I…I did that. A quaint military church filled with wives and children, of course. The soldiers were out on maneuver, the braves were away. President Ellis you continue to resist my attempts to educate you, sir. And now, you’ve missed me again. You know who I am, you don’t know where I am, and you’ll never see me coming.”
The idea of intentionally targeting unarmed and unprotected women and children at a church is savage. The Mandarin is introduced as a mastermind terrorist who is planning and executing such attacks without leaving any evidence to find and bring him to justice. It is absolutely terrifying that an uncatchable terrorist is hacking into television networks to speak directly to the American public and taunt them with lessons he has been and will be teaching them. It is a realistic, modern adaption of the Mandarin that would have been a compelling villain for Iron Man to face if the film follows through on the idea.
The progression on how Stark gets involved with the Mandarin threat is very interesting. At the beginning of the movie, his assistance is not requested. The film does well to suggest that the public’s confidence in its government’s ability to protect them is shaken after the alien attack on New York at the end of The Avengers. Naturally, the President of the United States wants to reassure the American people that he and his administration can at least keep them safe from an Earthly matter such as a rogue terrorist. Accordingly, the government wants to stay away from engaging Iron Man or any of the other Avengers. Instead, it rebrands and remarkets James “Rhodey” Rhodes’s War Machine (Don Cheadle) as the “Iron Patriot”. Rhodey was recast to Cheadle in Iron Man 2. He does a good job being serious enough to be the grown up in his friendship with Tony but also fun enough to mesh with Tony to be his best friend. The rebranding of War Machine is a smart plot line for the film. It is similar to how the Cabinet position of Secretary of War was renamed to Secretary of Defense by the United States to seem less belligerent. The public is generally opposed to idea of warmongering. The rebranding to the pitch of a country defending itself against acts of aggression is much more widely accepted. Similarly, War Machine sounds like a tool to wage war. Iron Patriot is more politically correct in selling the armor as a shield to protect the nation.
Tony gets dragged into the battle with the Mandarin after Happy gets seriously injured in an incident the Mandarin claims as part of one of his schemes. At the beginning of the film in Switzerland; an awkward, nerdy, yet brilliant Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) desperately tries to get his idol, Tony Stark’s, attention to agree to meet with him to go over a project he is working on. Naturally, Tony is completely drunk so he jokingly tells Killian to meet him on the roof and stands him up. In the present day, Killian reappears as a confident head of a company, Advanced Ideas Mechanics (A.I.M.). He also looks to have gone through a major makeover as he is now suave and handsome. He shows up at Stark Industries to sell Pepper on a partnership with A.I.M. Happy becomes very suspicious of Killian and his associate, Savin (James Badge Dale). He follows Savin to investigate and confirm his intuitions. Happy tracks him down to the Chinese theater in Hollywood where Savin speaks to a veteran who appears to be a drug addict getting his fix from Savin. Shockingly, the veteran eventually explodes and the blast kills some victims in the surrounding area and severely hurts Happy. Savin stunningly regenerates and walks away unharmed. Immediately, the Mandarin takes credit for the attack which draws the attention and ire of Tony. Again, Happy is one of his closest friends. Consequently, his near death sends Tony into an uncontrollable rage. The media, who wants to induce a headline response from Stark, needles him until he threatens the Mandarin on live television: “Here’s a little Holiday greeting I’ve been wanting to send to the Mandarin. I just didn’t know how to phrase it until now. My name is Tony Stark and I’m not afraid of you. I know you’re a coward, so I’ve decided that you just died, pal. I’m gonna come get the body. There’s no politics here; it’s just good old-fashioned revenge. There’s no Pentagon; it’s just you and me. And on the off-chance you’re a man, here’s my home address: 10880, Malibu Port, 90265. I’ll leave the door unlocked.” In my opinion, the film does an excellent job explaining why Iron Man would not be involved with the Mandarin from the start. In addition, the near death of Happy is a perfect catalyst that merits him injecting himself in the fight.
The film also utilizes a few more plot developments to set the Mandarin up as a compelling and worthy villain for Iron Man. First, there are a number of mysteries about the Mandarin that Stark needs to solve. The most puzzling is that the exploding man, that almost kills Happy, vaporizes and only leaves a shadow. Moreover, there are no remnants of bomb parts and the heat signature is 3,000 degrees Celsius. Accordingly, Stark launches his own investigation with the aid of J.A.R.V.I.S. To start, they identify other similar incidents. One example occurred in Rose Hill, Tennessee. The heat signature matches the one that resulted from the explosion at the Chinese theater. It is peculiar that the center of the Rose Hill tragedy is another military man, who is suspected of using a bomb in an assisted suicide. Of course, it is not a coincidence. Moreover, the climax of the Mandarin as a villain happens when he responds to Stark’s public taunt. Since he provides his Malibu address, three helicopters are sent to ambush him at home. Because press helicopters are constantly flying over Stark’s house, they make it difficult for his early warning system to identify incoming enemy aircraft. It is a horrifying scene as missiles rain down on and annihilate his cliffside home. Although he saves Pepper with a suit, he is eventually pinned to the ocean floor and presumed to be killed. Of course, his suit flies him to safety after the cameras veer away from his location. Nevertheless, the attack proves to the world that the Mandarin is a serious menace since he is able to best one of Earth’s mightiest heroes. He follows up on apparently killing Iron Man by threating to execute an accountant from Roxxon Oil on live television unless President Ellis (William Sadler) calls. Despite the President calling, the Mandarin kills the man anyway. For all those reasons, the film truly sets up the Mandarin as a terrifying villain to challenge Iron Man.
Instead of following through on the Mandarin presented in the first half of the film, it ultimately chooses to focus on Aldrich Killian as the primary villain. Again, he is stood up by Tony during the flashback at the beginning of the film. Consequently, he is playing a long game revenge plot. It is foreshadowed when Stark begins the movie by stating “We create our own demons.” When Killian meets Pepper at Stark Industries at the beginning of the film, he takes out a hologram of his brain and asks her to “Imagine if you could hack into the hard drive of any living organism and recode its DNA.” He is pitching his Extremis formula which is intended to enhance human beings. Although Pepper understands it could be revolutionary, she immediately realizes the ethical implications of delving into such an endeavor since it can be used for super soldiers and private armies that could destabilize society. As such, she cannot commit Stark Industries to partnering with A.I.M. on Extremis. Before Pepper meets with Killian, she is a bit annoyed because he had failed to ask her out many times in the past. As we know, Killian was very nerdy and unappealing in the past. When they get face to face in present day, she is shocked that he has transformed into a handsome, confident head of a company. The audience will find out that his drastic makeover is due to injecting himself with the formula. Moreover, there was a proposed idea and subplot for the film that his allure would be so strong that Pepper cannot resist and they make a sex tape together. Personally, I am glad the movie does not go down that route. It is unnecessary and demeans Pepper. Although there is still some jealousy expressed by Tony in the storyline, Killian lusting over Pepper and her not reciprocating is all I need from that plot point. Next, the botanist from the flashback, Maya, reappears right before the helicopter attack on Stark’s Malibu mansion. It becomes clear that her idea for regeneration shown during the start of the movie is the basis for the Extremis formula. In addition, it is revealed that Killian is involved with the Mandarin. Before one of the Mandarin’s public [dis]service announcements, Killian is seen at the site of the broadcast and calling him “Master”. As such, both he and Maya appear to be pawns but why and how they are participating in the Mandarin’s schemes are a mystery. In my opinion, the movie certainly does not set up Killian as some charismatic, compelling villain. He is better as a supporting character. Killian is definitely not more interesting than the Mandarin the audience thinks it is getting. From my perspective, it is disappointing to watch the pivot from the Mandarin to Killian as the main bad guy in Iron Man 3.
In my opinion, the massive twist in the film, that transitions from the Mandarin to Killian as the mastermind, is bitterly frustrating even though I concede it is actually a clever idea. Again, Stark launches his own investigation into locating the Mandarin. Accordingly, J.A.R.V.I.S. eventually pinpoints the source of the broadcast. Tony asks if he is in the “Far East, Europe, North Africa, Iran, Pakistan, Syria?” Stark is stunned to learn that the Mandarin appears to be in Miami. He follows the lead and infiltrates the facility where the villain is based. Stark is shocked to learn that the Mandarin is a guy named Trevor Slattery. At first, he thinks Slattery is a body double. Instead, he is an actor who is playing the Mandarin as a role to pay for his drug addiction. The idea is thought up by Killian’s A.I.M. think tank. The ploy serves two purposes. First, the explosions that have occurred are caused by a flawed Extremis formula that needs to be perfected. The program recruits maimed combat veterans because they are willing to take a risk for a chance to regenerate their lost limbs. Consequently, the blasts that occur are Extremis misfires instead of bombs used in planned terrorist attacks. The Mandarin taking credit for the explosions covers up for Extremis. Moreover, A.I.M. realizes that fear mongering is a useful mechanism to manipulate public opinion. Killian and his organization has also gained control of the Vice President, who has a daughter with a missing limb that a perfected Extremis formula would heal. Killian plans on killing the President so that the Vice President will assume the office. As one can imagine, controlling the world’s number 1 terrorist and the next President will grant Killian an overwhelming amount of power to advance A.I.M.’s agendas and his ill intent ambitions. He also explains to Stark that he plans to rule from the shadows. When Tony stood up Killian on the roof in Switzerland in 1999, Killian realized the power of “anonymity”. Again, it reaffirms the idea of creating your “own demons”. Despite my dislike for the plot twist; I admit it is a clever, original evil plan. It is a story I would have never guessed. It also makes a strong statement about the need to be skeptical and wary of fear mongers who attempt to manipulate public sentiment. In addition, the twist is a funny joke that fits in with the generally light, amusing tone of the Iron Man trilogy.
On the other hand, I am absolutely not a fan of the Trevor Slattery revelation. I probably would have enjoyed it if they used any other Iron Man villain such as Whiplash from Iron Man 2. Although the director did not know the significance of the Mandarin in the source material, it is a waste of the top Iron Man villain for the joke. Again, the first half of the film does a great job setting the Mandarin up as a chilling and compelling villain. I was completely freaked out by the savagery and mastermind intellect displayed in the first half of the movie. Moreover, Ben Kingsley is a legendary actor who delivers a fine performance in the film. I have no doubt that he would have been exceptional following through with the Mandarin I thought I was getting from Iron Man 3. From a perspective, I guess an Extremis superpowered Killian can be seen as the actual Mandarin of the film. In fact, he taunts Stark at the end of the film with the statement that he is the Mandarin. Nevertheless, Killian is certainly not a charismatic villain that the Mandarin could and should have been. Killian is typical of a lot of the uninspiring villains used in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the MCU. Besides the creative plot twist, Killian’s actions are predictable. For example, he shoots Maya for betraying him by trying to warn Stark and protect him from Killian. Next, he kidnaps Pepper to coerce Stark into helping him figure out how to fix the Extremis formula. Obviously, the Mandarin is not close to as iconic as the Joker is in Batman mythology. Nevertheless, he is the closest villain to the Joker in the Iron Man universe. Imagine if Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight decides to use a similar lot twist in the middle of the film and Heath Ledger’s Joker is actually a joke and a plot from Harvey Dent to procure power for his position as District Attorney. It would have been maddening. As a fan who is teased with the sight of an exceptional, frightening Mandarin; it is disappointing that Iron Man 3 opts out of following through on a terrifying villain. In my opinion, it is a wasted opportunity to deliver on an iconic villain and elevating the seriousness and quality of the Iron Man trilogy. From my perspective, it is a missed opportunity to provide a memorable villain to Phases 1 and 2 of the MCU besides Loki. Of course, I know most moviegoers enjoy the twist and nitpicking comic books fans are in the minority on opposing it.
After the attack on Stark’s Malibu mansion, the film switches back to a light tone even before the Trevor Slattery revelation. When he is pinned under the debris of his home during the helicopter attack, he loses consciousness. However, his Iron Man suit eventually flies him to safety and to Tennessee since it was the default destination that was previously set to investigate the Mandarin related explosions. Although it reaches its target, it is badly damaged. As such, Tony drags it to a nearby barn and meets a young boy: Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). He is raised by a working single mom, which is a simple explanation for why he and Stark are not interrupted by his parents. Keener is a young inquisitive mind. Like Tony, he is an inventor. The young boy has already built an impressive potato gun. He obviously recognizes Stark. Consequently, he pesters him about the Battle of New York and triggers Stark’s PTSD. Nevertheless, Keener serves as catalyst to help Stark get past his PTSD in the story. However, it is a weird relationship that is introduced into the movie. In my opinion, their conversations are odd but funny at times. For example, Keener speaks about his father leaving his family and Stark replies “Mm. Which happens, dads leave. No need to be a pussy about it. Here’s what I need: a laptop, a digital watch, a cell phone, the pneumatic actuator from your bazooka over there, a map of town, a big spring, and a tuna fish sandwich.” Since Tony has been a man-child up to and through Iron Man 3, it is no surprise that he has no tact in talking to a child. Despite the comic relief from the relationship, it is awkward and could have been left out of the film. Regardless, the introduction of Keener starts to rein back in the dark mood set up by the first half of the Mandarin and sets up the second half of the film as the light, fun, and action packed tone we are accustomed to from the first two Iron Man movies.
Again, the somber and very serious tone is completely busted once the Trevor Slattery twist is revealed. The A.I.M scheme progresses as it lures the Iron Patriot into a wild goose chase to hunt the Mandarin through misleading IP addresses and source locations. Interestingly, A.I.M. is responsible for thinking up the rebranding of War Machine as the Iron Patriot in the first place. Consequently, it has insight on how to hijack the suit. Eventually, Rhodey is ambushed in Pakistan and his armor is disabled before he is forced out of the suit and it is commandeered by Savin. The compromised Iron Patriot armor is utilized as a Trojan Horse masquerading as a bodyguard for the President on Air Force One. Instead, Savin utilizes the suit to murder Secret Service agents and kidnap the President. The second half of the film has plenty of entertaining action scenes. After Stark uncovers the truth about the Mandarin, he is knocked out and taken prisoner by Killian’s goons. Eventually, he utilizes the new feature of his armor which flies the parts to him so he can form his suit to escape. Once he suits up, he obviously and easily escapes from his captors. Next, Stark uses one of his suits as a drone to aid Air Force One. Even though he is too late to save the President, he confronts and kills Savin. However, the battle leads to a breach in the integrity of the plane that leads to all survivors being sucked out of it. Accordingly, it results in an incredible midair rescue where Stark uses his Iron Man armor. Since he cannot save the falling passengers one by one, he magnetizes them so they form one circle and uses his thrusters to gently drop them into water.
The final fight with Aldrich and his Extremis goons is fun too. They plan to execute the President on live television. Moreover, they intend to have the Mandarin use the Roxxon oil spill and the President’s lack of action against Roxxon as an excuse to murder him. In reality, the reason does not matter. A.I.M just needs any reason that the public will accept to eliminate the President and allow his Vice President to assume power. During the climactic battle, Tony unleashes his “House Party protocol” which sends all the suits he has built since the end of The Avengers to his aid. He controls most of them as drones but also jumps into various suits at will during the fight. It is a spectacular action scene. On the other hand, the ending also teases fake stakes with Pepper. During the second half of the movie, Killian kidnaps her then injects her with the Extremis formula. Since it is an unstable process and the success of using it is questionable, it incentivizes Stark to perfect it for Killian so it can be used it to save her. During the battle between Stark and Killian, she appears to fall into a fire from an explosion and perish. However, the Extremis formula grants her powers, including regeneration. She reappears shortly to use her enhanced abilities to help defeat and kill Killian. Afterwards, Stark introduces the “Clean Slate Protocol”. It blows up all his suits to Pepper’s delight. Of course, she is still concerned about the unstable Extremis formula in her. In response, Tony addresses her fear by joking “No. You’re in a relationship with me. Everything will never be okay. But I think I can figure this out, yeah. I almost had this 20 years ago when I was drunk.” Not surprisingly, he perfects then reverses its effects to heal Pepper. Moreover, he uses it on himself so he heals and no longer needs an electromagnet to keep shrapnel from reaching his heart. Of course, the film also ends with the arrest of Trevor Slattery and the Vice President for their roles in Killian’s evil plans. The lighter tone and action in the second half as well as the conclusion is consistent with the feeling of the first two movies. Nevertheless, I believe following through with the chilling and compelling Mandarin in the first half of the movie would have resulted in a superior movie.
On the other hand, I do like a couple of points at the end of the film. The first is Stark’s ending monologue when he realizes that his suits are not a distraction but act as a cocoon that he needs to grow out of to evolve as a person. It speaks to his character development throughout his trilogy and during The Avengers. He does not need to make an endless number of suits as a crutch but he still is a hero. Accordingly, he makes the declaration that “I am Iron Man”, which is a reference back to how he ends his first movie. Next, I also like the post credit scene where he is shown telling the entire story of Iron Man 3 to Bruce Banner, who he befriended during The Avengers. Although Tony utilizes the doctor like a psychologists, Banner does not care about the story at all and has ignored almost all of it. It is a hilarious joke that closes out Iron Man 3.
Iron Man 3 is a very good Iron Man movie. It is a solid first film in Phase 2 because it does a great job linking back to The Avengers and Tony Stark’s experiences during it. The film addresses the impact that the traumatic event has on Tony Stark. It also explores how the world has changed with the fear that there are hostile alien forces that may attack them again and the question on whether the government can protect them. Although it sets up a terrifying and interesting take on the Mandarin in the first half, it opts to go for an unexpected and hilarious twist. Objectively, it is a clever idea for a twist. Nevertheless, the Mandarin is the wrong Iron Man villain to squander for this purpose. Aldrich Killian is just not a charismatic main villain who captures the audience’s imagination. As a result, I believe that continuing and concluding with a chilling and memorable version of the Mandarin would have elevated the film and the trilogy as a whole by providing a worthy adversary for Iron Man to battle in one of his standalone films. Instead, I am left teased and frustrated by Iron Man 3.