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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Iron Man 3

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin.  Again, I love how the timing of this thing works out.  It seems that I always wind up revisiting the big blockbusters of a year ago.  Hence today's entry, Iron Man 3.  This is dated in my notes at September 29, 2013.

Iron Man 3 movie poster

And so Marvel's Phase II is upon us!  For those who don't know, Phase I was the series of films starting with Iron Man and ending with The Avengers.  Phase II kicks off with Iron Man 3 and will end with The Avengers 2 in 2015.  After my Star Trek series, maybe the next franchise I should pick apart is Phase I. 

Needless to say, after the awesomeness that was The Avengers, people were wondering where to go next.  Now that a shared continuity is happening in these films, how much of The Avengers would be acknowledged in Iron Man 3?  Can these heroes conquer these threats alone without saying, "Call in the Avengers!"  Well, Iron Man 3 manages to tackle some of this.

We catch up with Tony Stark after the events of The Avengers (now forever referred to in this continuity as "The Battle of New York") and its left him with a touch of PTSD.  He can't sleep, he has anxiety attacks, and we're even treated to a flashback.  And so, to cope, he's buried himself in his work, building new Iron Man suit after suit after suit.  But, America is still waging its war on terror, and is in the grip of a terrorist known as the Mandarin.  One Mandarin attack puts Tony's good friend and former bodyguard Happy Hogan in the hospital.  Adopting the old action hero cliche of "And this time, it's personal," Tony sets his sights on taking down the Mandarin. 

That leads us to that attack on Tony's home, which I'm sure you saw even if you didn't see the movie, because it made up 90% of the trailers and TV commercials.  The fallout from the attack has the world thinking Tony Stark is dead, and he winds up in a small town in Tennessee, as that was his last best lead on the Mandarin's dealings.  In this small town, Stark picks up a kid sidekick by the name of named Harley.  I'll admit, the banter between the two is hilarious.  Harley tries to play up all the "precocious kid sidekick" tropes, and Stark immediately calls BS on all of them.  Like Stark's reaction to the kid's revelation that his dad walked out him and his family when he was 6 years old.

"Dads walk out on their kids all the time.  Don't be such a pussy about it."

And speaking of tropes, a good deal of this film, especially this mid-section, seems to follow the classic trope of "Hero loses his powers, but can't stop being a hero."  With his mansion destroyed and his only remaining Iron Man suit damaged beyond belief, he has to start relying more and more on his personal ingenuity.  Needless to say, with the aforementioned PTSD, his suits have become more and more of a crutch, and Stark grows obsessed with the idea of protecting himself and his loved ones.  But now, completely cut off, he's reminded that he's always had his super-genius to rely on.  As the kid puts it, "You said you're a mechanic.  So, fix it." 

Stark's investigation finds ties between the Mandarin and a scientific think tank called AIM, and that leads him to the Mandarin's compound in...Miami, of all places.  Stark breaks in using an array of homemade gadgets that would make McGyver proud, and then we get the one change that lots of Iron Man fans were divided upon.

The epic meeting between Iron Man and the Mandarin, his long-time nemesis in the comics, and it turns out, there is no Mandarin.  The Mandarin turns out to be a washed up British actor named Trevor.  The terrorist acts being handed out by the Mandarin's organization are actually being carried out by AIM.  After the Battle of New York, AIM figured they should put a face on their terrorist acts and create a supervillain.  Hence, the Mandarin.  Ben Kingsley plays Trevor/the Mandarin, and when the subterfuge is dropped, his is hilarious, playing up every hard partyin' celebrity stereotype imaginable.

Trevor>>  Well, I have this substance abuse problem....
Stark>>  So they said they'd get you off the drugs [if you played the Mandarin]?
Trevor>>  NO!  They gave me more!

The true Mandarin is the head of AIM, Aldrich Killiam.  All this was set up to capture Stark because he needs Stark's brilliance to work out the kinks on Extremis, his new method of giving people healing powers.  But, the side effect is, it causes the body to overheat, which some have figured out how to turn into all kinds of heat-based powers, like melting metal and breathing fire.  Now, this is the twist that I didn't notice before, but as others pointed out, seemed to borrow from The Incredibles.  In Killiam's origin story, we see that he turned to this life of terrorism, and then developing and selling the solutions to terror, when Stark blew him off at a conference some 13 years earlier.  So this whole thing has kind of been a revenge plot against Stark.

Anyway, Stark escapes, we have our big superhero showdown.  Another spoiler warning, it's nice to see that Pepper gets to deliver the deathblow to the villain.  See, she was captured by Killiam and then injected with the Extremis in order to motivate Stark to perfect it.  (That's why they captured him in the first place.)  So in the end, when it looks like she's dead, she emerges from the flames with her new Extremis-based powers and kicks ass.  Which is neat to see.

But yeah.  This film is a whole lot of fun, just like the first two.  Robert Downey Jr just exudes all kinds of coolness as Tony Stark.  He is Tony Stark at this point.  And we needed more Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/Iron Patriot.  (As explained in dialogue, he changed his superhero name to Iron Patriot because War Machine "sounded too aggressive...didn't test well in focus groups.")  However, they do do a good buddy cop turn at the climax as they undo Killiam's end game.

And the arrival of all of Stark's Iron Man suits to save the day is awesome.  One problem:  all those suits, and they couldn't throw in a Hulkbuster? 

And the post-credits stinger.  I know, there was some grumbling from some walking out of the theatre that it didn't set up the next film, like most other post-credit stingers, instead opting to go for a joke.  The joke?  Stark has been narrating this film, talking through his problems, and at the end of the credits, we see he's been spilling his guts to...Dr. Bruce Banner, again played by Mark Ruffalo. 

Banner>>  I'm not a psychologist!  I'm not that kind of doctor!
Stark>>  Because you don't have the patience?
Banner>>  The temperament!

It's a cute gag.

But, yeah.  It's a great way to end the saga of Iron Man, as it's been said now that Iron Man will only be back for more Avengers movies and no solo films.  It's fun.  It's a little silly, but hey, that's how I like my superhero films.  They need to be a little silly from time to time.

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