Feb 14, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Iron Man 3

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, is the first movie of Phase 2.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was released on May 3, 2013 and made $174 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $409 million in the United States and a whopping $1.2 billion total worldwide.  Staggering totals for a movie that is arguably the most polarizing Marvel Studios movie yet.

MATTHEW: I'm still wounded over The Mandarin reveal.  Still.  You've got Ben fucking Kingsley playing a genuinely scary villain, sold it hard to where the guy is an absolute nightmare, just to ruin it all... that still hurts.

BEN: Here's the thing about Iron Man 3. Yes, it felt like a regression to have a movie with only one hero directly after Avengers. I was just as disappointed in the theater by the Mandarin twist as everyone else. Tony didn't wear the suit enough. All those are true. But if you watch it now, without any of those expectations in place, it's actually pretty entertaining.

MATTHEW: It was entertaining enough, yeah. It's not like I wanted my money back or anything, but I would've skipped it if I'd known what I was walking into.

JEFF: I enjoyed this Iron Man more than the second one, and find it has a nice loose feel to it with Tony out of the suit for so much of it, but still has a lot of nice action. I like the Mandarin reveal, far more plausible then ten rings from alien metal each with a different ability.

TRAVIS: I wondered about "true fans" who were really bothered by the reveal, since it had happened in the comics before. We'd seen an Iron Man comic where Mandarin was a political bogeyman for a rich and powerful white (or white read) character, with Heroes Reborn.

DUY: No “true fan” would count Heroes Reborn though.

If you watch it now, without any of those expectations in place, it's actually pretty entertaining. -Ben

BEN: I remember asking Duy if I could spoil the big twist for him, because I thought it would help lessen his disappointment in the theater and enjoy (or not enjoy) the movie for what it is.

DUY: So yeah, Ben spoiled it for me going in, because, as we’ve established, Iron Man isn’t a character I particularly care for.  I went into Iron Man 3 in the theater based on how much I enjoyed the Avengers, not how much I wanted to actually see Iron Man.  The Mandarin thing was hilarious.  I know people went nuts over it, but I can’t rightfully believe that there are that many Mandarin fans in the world.  And you can always view these things as an alterniverse.  And yeah, Tony’s out of his suit a lot, but Tony is more entertaining to me than Iron Man, so that didn’t really matter too much.

ANTONIO: I guess the Mandarin kinda ends up feeling too much like Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, so maybe that’s why they didn’t use him.

DUY: I’m 99.75% willing to bet that it’s because there is zero way to make that character work and, very specifically saleable in China.

BEN: The disappointment is totally because of the marketing and how badass he starts out as in the movie.  But look at Kingsley.  Was he really going to be duking it out with Gandhi in the climax of this movie?

DUY: It was coming after Avengers, so I consciously lowered my expectations.

MAX: I just straight up liked it.  I found out a while after that everyone hated it, which left me confused.  I thought Kingsley was hilarious (but I was never a fan of the Mandarin, so I had no connection there).  Actually thought it was the most fun Iron Man film and a nice wrap on the trilogy.  Also a big fan of the director’s other films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so I was bound to like this one despite however it interpreted the source material.

BEN: I love Shane Black.  I don’t care if he’s obsessed with Christmas.

MAX: I’d… never picked up on that.  Huh, dude has a festivities fetish.

BEN: More and more, I appreciate when a director can infuse their specific style onto a Marvel Studios movie.  A real director’s vision.  This is definitively a Shane Black movie.

MAX: Fully seconded.

BEN: I don’t know who would top it, in terms of a personal style.  James Gunn?  Taika Waititi?

MAX: And the theme of Tony’s past as a total dick coming back to haunt him and take revenge was cool.

BEN: The theme is definitely “consequences.”

MAX: 100%.  And how it was something he didn’t even recall, rather than some painful guilty memory.  That sort of callous casual damage people inflict on each other.  That’s a layer on the consequence theme I haven’t seen played out often in movies.

BEN: I loved the idea that this one specific night ended up being such a major event in his life.  Like a nexus point.  Even Yinsen was there.  And he didn’t even notice because he was drunk and trying to get laid.

I just straight up liked it.  I found out a while after that everyone hated it, which left me confused.  -Max

ANTONIO: The only thing I remember liking about the movie was Trevor.  And I think the Mandarin twist becomes a lot more palatable if you watch All Hail the King.

BEN: Trevor is hilarious if, again, you can let go of the disappointment.

LAMAR: One thing I'll say for this movie is that it made great use of character humor, instead of relying on zingers to get the funny across. There were good one-liners there too, but the interaction between Tony and the characters in the town he crashed in was based in character work instead of sound bytes. I thought that was dope because it reminded me of The Andy Griffith Show's approach to comedy moreso than something like Friends, and by the bulk of the film taking place in a small town it was appropriate.

MATT: I wasn’t disappointed by the Mandarin reveal. I liked the non-traditional approach. I’ve also never read Extremis, so maybe I was less onto reveals than I should’ve been. Tony haunted by his space trip also worked well for me. The second/third wave humor also really starts to show itself.

DUY: It should be pointed out that Ben Kingsley is of Indian descent, so the racebend is more one kind of Asian to another kind of Asian. It's still a racebend, and I really don't think you can do someone like the Mandarin if you want to do big business in China and related countries.

TRAVIS: I wonder how this would have played if they’d stuck to a female villain and her lackey who dies in an early scene.

DUY: It may have changed the complexion of the last fight when Pepper gets powers.

I wasn’t disappointed by the Mandarin reveal. I liked the non-traditional approach. I’ve also never read Extremis, so maybe I was less onto reveals than I should’ve been. -Matt

JEFF: I would have liked for AIM to have continued on.

DUY: If you want to look at it from a sociopolitical commentary point of view, the big powerful figurehead who doesn't actually do anything might say... something important.

TRAVIS: On the whole, I think it's still the smartest IM movie. It's maybe too smart/witty for audience expectation. There are a lot of levels for a movie series that isn't famous for its levels.

DUY: It doesn't have the gut punch of the first one, but I do remember thinking it was witty and well put together. And if anyone's gonna do a PTSD storyline, I'm glad it was RDJ. Not, you know, the Punisher.

BEN: Shane Black talked about how he wanted to strip Tony Stark of everything, leaving him with only his intelligence to rely on.  He also talks about how if you were going to create this ultimate villain, what would he look like, and the idea of having this ultimate bad guy be a myth in a way.  Inside of that, what kind of person would pretend to be an international terrorist?

MATTHEW: I do like the subplot of Tony having PTSD. It's a believable progression of his character, and makes him more heroic, considering that he just kept on keeping on and found a way to the other side. Makes him vulnerable and invincible at the same time.

LAMAR: I think the way they put across Tony's bout with Chitauricoccus was well done. I'd imagine a guy traveling beyond Earth's atmosphere under his own power in the same instant he confirms alien life forms really exist-and not to mention want to kill him-would have at least some sort of effect on him.

BEN: I loved that too.  It was the most “comic book” thing in the movie to me, the idea that these stories continue from one to the next and have repercussions.  At the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a superhero deal have and deal with PTSD in this way, so that was something new to see.  The fact that it’s Tony, who is all confidence and machismo, make it that much more effective.

MATTHEW: It makes the confident machismo an armor on its own.  Behind this steel façade, he’s just as fucked up as everybody else.

BEN: No matter how much he tries to pretend he doesn’t care and it’s all a joke on the outside, that promise he made to Yinsen still resonates underneath.

MATTHEW: Dude had his heart ripped out.  Nothing ever could be the same again because of it.

LAMAR: I think that’s the one thing he would never sell “woof tickets” about.  If he ever said anything in these films that was 100% straight and true, and able to be taken at face value, that promise was it.

Dude had his heart ripped out.  Nothing ever could be the same again because of it. -Matthew

TRAVIS: It's worth noting that, about 7 years before, Downey was playing a tittering cartoon who eventually develops verbal tics of grrrs and barking. Iron Man tests out his acting chops a little more than that, but it's pretty careful. The sitting with a burger on the floor scene is the most acting risk. IM3 allowed him to show a range of angles, unified by one strong character. (Sadly, almost everyone else is a little pro forma, but maybe because Tony only really sees the surface he wants to, of people, anyway?)

DUY: I find it fun that Thor has, in both Avengers and this movie, been seen as this big political and military game changer, but you’d think they’d have treated the Hulk the same way.

BEN: It’s because he’s “alien.”

MATT: ‘Technology sufficiently advanced that its magic’ kind of guy.  Destroyer armor and Loki probably kicked it over the top.

DUY: I get it, it’s just that you’d think Hulk would have similar, if lower-scale, consequences.

BEN: The Hulk isn’t really a threat unless they poke at him.  Comparatively, Thor suggests an entire alien race of Hulks that have come here to cause trouble.

MATT: To conquer!

ANTONIO: To seduce the humans with their frail hearts and loins.

MAX: Maybe it’s also Hulk’s unpredictability that gets him the different treatment from Thor?

KATHERINE: In Civil War, General Ross refers to both Thor and Hulk as the equivalent of unchecked nuclear weapons (he would know).  But in the context of Iron Man 3, I think people are generally assuming that Hulk has his rage under control from the Avengers, and since he’s become Tony’s science BFF he would at this time presumably also be under Tony’s watch and protection.  As for him being a game changer in the larger universe, isn’t he basically considered a Captain America type of military experiment gone wrong?  So it seems like the game changer already happened 80 years ago with Cap.

This being the first movie after Avengers, it really is hard not to ask, hey, why doesn’t he just call the rest of the Avengers? -Duy

DUY: This being the first movie after Avengers, it really is hard not to ask, hey, why doesn’t he just call the rest of the Avengers?

KATHERINE: Maybe it’s just me being all conscious about filmmaking logistics and the necessity to not make every movie an Avengers sequel, but I never really think about why the others aren’t showing up to help each other. I think it’s a fun creative exercise to come up with in-universe reasons why they couldn’t be there, but we basically already know the real reasons.  I actually like going into the solo movies with the assumption that they’re truly solo, then I’m just delighted with any cameos rather than being disappointed about who doesn’t show up. This is the first time we’ve ever seen this kind of interconnected universe and I feel like they already spoil us sometimes with the fan service, I don’t want to take it for granted.

DUY: I could write this one off as Tony has an ego, and Dark World off as, London is far. But Winter Soldier taking place in DC and SHIELD being involved does test my disbelief suspension.

KATHERINE: The real reason that Iron Man is not in Winter Soldier is that you don’t get RDJ involved unless he has a super important part to play (or it’s a 5 second post credits cameo). How do you include him in that particular story without derailing Cap as the hero? That movie’s perfect, no one else needed to be there.

BEN: I’ve only really felt that way for this and Dark World, and I’m sure it would have been the same for whichever movies had followed directly after Avengers.  Winter Soldier was too entertaining for me to spend time contemplating such things.

DUY: They even have the weapon aimed at Tony Stark, it's just weird to think that's all happening and on the news and he's in his tower. The fact that Winter Soldier is the best movie in this entire universe makes that a teeny tiny afterthought, though.  I mean, we all know the real reasons, but some in-story acknowledgment would go some way into increasing the world building, I think.

BEN: Winter Soldier feels like such a personal story because of Bucky, but it does have giant flying ships exploding over a harbor.  They should have added that to Civil War, “I was a fugitive and you didn’t even check on me!”

KATHERINE: None of it’s on the news though, that’s a secret military mission and no one knows who the targets are. I don’t think they even told anyone that they were going after Cap. Only the Hydra compromised soldiers knew. When the helicopters showed up Rumlow told them to put the guns down so no one would know.  Also, I don’t think Cap calls Tony when he needs ethics advice.

BEN: True.

KATHERINE: It becomes about trust at the end, it became a whole thing that when it came down to it, Cap would trust Black Widow. I don’t think Tony’s on that list. I would buy that someone suggested asking for Tony’s help and Cap just said “...nah.” But it would make it into a weird tension thing if they said it out loud in that movie.

BEN: None of these guys are the type to think they need help, it’s more about “London or DC are under attack and you don’t think to help, Iron Man?”

KATHERINE: For Winter Soldier though it’s a secret military operation that publicly was probably being called a routine tech test. By the time they actually start blowing up and something is obviously wrong to the public, that’s probably started and done within 5-10 minutes. Iron Man could’ve shown up at the end of it like “Oh. So, I guess you got this?”

BEN: There’s a logical explanation for them not appearing, it’s completely all in my head with “I only get one superhero per movie now?”

MATT: I would like to also commend the framing mechanism for this movie.  I loved the reveal at the end that Tony’s boring Bruce to sleep.  Even if he’s also confessing his PTSD at the same time.

TRAVIS: Is it odd that I’d actually recommend a lot of other PTSD comics over and Iron Man comic for this one?  Red, Happy, even Tamaki’s Hulk (She-Hulk).

JD: I will recommend my favorite Iron Man story What-If #64, "What If Iron Man Sold Out."  Everyone has a suit, from Dr. Doom to the local police.  Some heroes retire, Tony becomes a recluse and never leaves his suit.  But everyone comes together to battle Magneto.

DUY: I actually do like that story quite a bit.

MAX: If I remember right, the creative team weren’t credited?  I know the art was Geoff Senior, but do you know who the writer was?  (A Google later.)  Suspicions confirmed, Simon Furman.

BEN: Transformers UK represent!

JD: I bought it at a gas station on a family trip to Toronto and read it about 50 times.

LAMAR: Iron Man vs. Fin Fang Foom, and this is from the “big boot” Iron Man era where he had the energy cells on the hips of his armor.  The whole plot seems like something out of an Iron Man movie because his suit keeps screwing up and overheating and what-not.  It also has an acid-breathing Kaiju in it, so it’s something I’d nominate no matter what.

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