If you’ve seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you’ll know that director Shane Black took some of the sensibilities from that film and put them in Iron Man 3. And that’s a good thing. You get tons of comedy along with really great dramatic moments, and some dark themes, and even some dark comedy. If you haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you need to go watch it now. It too stars Robert Downey Jr. Also watch Iron Man 3 because, well, it’s a great film.
Okay, I’ll start off by saying that Iron Man 3 isn’t technically what most people (i.e. critics) would say is a good film. It’s a good superhero film, sure, but its plot is messy. There’s a lot of spectacle, and some details get lost in the mix. If you think about it too hard you’ll have a lot of “How did that happen?” and “Why did they just gloss over that?” ect, ect. But in the end that isn’t what really matters. What matters are the characters.
People love Marvel films because of their familiarity with the characters. If you don’t know who Iron Man is, well, I don’t know what you’ve been doing in the past few years but it certainly hasn’t been paying attention. The Marvel franchise is good about building characters that are more than just their superhero identities, and incorporating that into the films. Iron Man 3 is an exceptional example of this. The film is about Tony Stark’s journey to come to terms with who he is, and whether who he is is good enough without being Iron Man. After all, for the past three films featuring Stark, he’s gotten more and more intertwined with his identity as Iron Man.
Considering that the main focus of the film is Tony Stark’s character development, I’d say that Iron Man 3 did a fantastic job. We even get tons of action and comedy to add to our enjoyment, but it isn’t pointless. The film starts out with Stark building more and more Iron Man suits, as well as coming up with technology to be able to call the suits to him with just a few gestures through sciency things (don’t ask me the name) implanted in his skin. He can’t be without the suit. And he can’t sleep. And he has panic attacks about the time when he almost died in space during the Avengers.
This is interesting, this concept of having panic attacks. Superheroes don’t usually show that kind of weakness. Yet here we have Tony Stark having panic attacks in restaurants because he broke a crayon, or outside because someone mentioned New York. We see his nightmares. We see how his obsession with protection nearly harms Pepper. And for a superhero film that’s pretty deep. It isn’t new for Marvel, but it’s good to see them continuing down this route. Many films don’t acknowledge the pasts of superheroes and how it might affect them (except the newer Batman films, which are great) but here we see that Tony Stark was definitely affected, and both from the writing and Robert Downey Jr’s acting it comes across as realistic.
Tony’s journey throughout the movie is to move past this idea that he needs the suit to protect him and the ones he cares about, and to come to terms with what happened in New York. His challenge comes in the form of the Mandarin, a terrorist who causes chaos from behind a camera, going so far as to threaten the President. And as far as terrorists go, he’s pretty successful. But Tony has to stop him.
The Mandarin doesn’t make it easy. He destroys Tony’s house. Tony gets stranded in a small town with a damaged suit, which is his worst nightmare. The only person who can help him fix it? A little boy named Harley whose father has left the family and who also likes fixing things. He and Tony bond, sort of, through fixing the suit, dealing with the bad guys, and pulling no punches. Tony doesn’t shy away from Harley’s troubled family, and Harley doesn’t shy away from Tony’s issues with New York. In fact, Harley reminds Tony that he’s awesome without the suit because he’s the one who built it-he’s a mechanic, and that’s where his main talent lies. He fixes things.
So Tony gets to fix this situation. He fixes the suit. He goes to Miami to rescue some people with Rhodey (Don Cheadle.) He ends up infiltrating the mansion where the Mandarin is supposedly hiding. And this scene is awesome because, for the first time in forever, we get to see a real answer to the question posed by Steve Rogers in the Avengers-what is Tony Stark without the suit? The answer is that he’s a badass who can invent weapons out of household objects and infiltrate a mansion like a boss. He’s really competent, and that’s all on his own. He uses a combination of his genius and his fighting ability to succeed in getting into a mansion. And I love that there was a scene like that in the film, because sometimes we forget about Tony being awesome aside from being Iron Man. And he really shines here with his ingenuity and kick-assness.
But he’s not the only one. Pepper also gets to shine in this film. Pepper, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, has always been a character I liked for her strength. We need more female characters like her. And I like that her strength lies not in shooting guns (although that’s cool, too) but in the fact that she’s patient, that she can deal with Stark, that she doesn’t run from danger but she also doesn’t take crap from anybody. She stands up to others, and to Stark. She deals with the other antagonist of the film, Killian (Guy Pierce) quite nicely. She supports Stark but she also lets him know when he’s gone too far and needs help, and when he’s putting her in danger. And, well, Stark tries to save her, but she ends up saving him. Needless to say, there’s some awesome amounts of Pepper in this film.
And then there’s JARVIS. The AI system hasn’t really been too prominent in previous films, but here he (?) gets a lot of interaction with Stark. He also has more of a personality built on wit. He matches Stark, and is involved enough with the action that, for the first time, you get to feel like he’s actually a character and get a glimpse at how Stark must feel-like JARVIS is a sassy but very helpful friend that one would be sad to lose. Stark has an interesting relationship with his machines, like a father with his sons but also like a friend, and Iron Man 3 luckily expands a bit more on this.
The bottom line: you should see Iron Man 3. There’s great character development, and realistic portrayals of being human. You also get drama and comedy and lots of action. You’ll notice I didn’t talk much about the Mandarin or Killian. That’s because I want you to see for yourself, not because I just had a major oversight about the other two main characters in the film. And besides, I have to leave a little bit of mystery, otherwise why see the film? Besides for the awesome dialogue, comedy, dramatic tension, and killer development, and the action sequence with tons of Iron Man suits and explosions. You see where I’m going with this? See it.
But really, it’s good. This film lets us know that Tony Stark is a man, and human, but still awesome, and we need that reminder. Like Stark, the audience tends to become a bit too wrapped up in the Iron Man persona, and this really helps show that while Iron Man is Tony Stark, Iron Man is not all Tony Stark is.