Editorial: Marvel's 'Iron Man 3' is Shane Black's 'Skyfall' for Tony Stark
by Tyler Wantuch
May 10, 2013
Shane Black's Iron Man 3 pays homage to the grittier Iron Man found in comic books by forcing him to use all of his talents in order to save the day. Instead of solely relying on pure power and awesomeness, Black's Iron Man focuses on a multi-dimensional Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) inside the suit — one who can draw on his mechanical genius, super-powered technology, and detective skills to defeat the enemy. But the film plagues him with several human problems such as regret, anxiety, and relationship issues. These help the film present the fullest Iron Man yet - which couldn't make this Marvel nut any happier. More below!
In order to present this full-bodied Tony Stark, Black decided to take a cue from other recent superhero films and strip away all of his riches, technology, and coolness, leaving him left to crack the case in a very un-super method. This technique has become a little more commonplace recently. Although it's fun to watch our superheroes storm an estate MacGyver style, do we like to see our technological masters be stripped down to nothing but their grit? Do homemade, clever devices excite an audience enough to satisfy our action desires, or do we feel like Iron Man without the suit is not entirely Iron Man?
Well, many didn't have a problem with a similar story with an iconic hero late last year. In Sam Mendes' Skyfall, we find another example of a hero being stripped of his high-tech gadgets that have now become synonymous with 007. In the final showdown, Bond must ward off his enemies with only a few household objects and some clever tactics. This broad absence of gadgets and toys may be a reflection of the shadow The Dark Knight trilogy has cast on today's superhero genre. It feels as if Bond, Iron Man, and the regular gang of do-gooders have to live up to the versatility of Nolan's Batman. Meaning they, too, must be presented as well-rounded, deeper human characters that also happen to be superheroes.
And the quickest way to invent a more human superhero is by taking away all of the things that make them super and forcing them to fill this void with their own personal cunning, intelligence, and determination. This way, the hero's power reaches beyond his technology and lies somewhere deeper inside of him. Nolan used this exact method in all three of his Batman films, and it worked all three times. It worked so well that Bruce Wayne has become the gold standard of all superheroes. So why shouldn't characters like James Bond and Tony Stark be allowed to follow in his footsteps?
Because, it seems the audience likes to watch Iron Man as a cocky billionaire flying around in a kick-ass suit and blowing up bad guys. This popcorn guzzling mindset is a hard one to break in audiences. A mindset that is shared, I'm sure, by the same people that cheered for A Good Day to Die Hard or cannot wait to see Fast and Furious 6. They want to recapture the essential magic of a blockbuster by only upping the ante with better effects, badder villains, and crazier stunts. But through all the panic attacks, sleuthing, and being out of the suit, Iron Man 3 seems disinterested in one-upping Iron Man 2. It is instead preoccupied with presenting a smarter story and deeper characters. And for anyone who thinks there needed to be more of Stark in the suit, recall how much time Bruce spends outside of the Batsuit in The Dark Knight Rises.
This is not your typical Hollywood blockbuster; instead it is striving to be something greater than just another sequel. The film reminds me of how comic book titles take on new writers in order to shed new light on the same old heroes. Black has brought new dimensions to the same Tony Stark we have enjoyed for three films before, and what's better is it's a result from the more blockbuster antics of The Avengers. This is a must in order to keep the comic book movies fresh and alive. Unfortunately, this means that action fans will need to suffer through some tamer, slower scenes.
For someone like me who doesn't always care for action films, I find this new direction - spurred on by The Dark Knight trilogy and strengthened by the visionaries at the Marvel Studios camp — a breath of fresh air. Exploring the multiple facets of a hero and not being forced to one-up any of the previous films was a stroke of genius — one that I believe we can expect to see in this strengthening genre. Each additional film will not be viewed as a sequel but rather another challenging tale that tested the heroes we've already come to love. Was there enough Iron Man in Iron Man 3? Or was there something was missing?