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?
Reader Feedback - 25 Comments
Pretty sure Bond wasn't cracking one liners when M died.
John on May 10, 2013
He should have been though. Best part of the film by a long shot.
Matt on May 10, 2013
yeah it got deep into him- he forgot his lines!
don on May 11, 2013
Sometimes you must recognize things you love are not great or marvelous. They can even be bad or lousy, but it doesn't matter you still love them. The problem is when you think there's something elevated there. Iron Man 3 is, indeed, a typical blockbuster: family friendly, predictable and highly enjoyable, nothing more.
terrible reactor on May 10, 2013
So essentially Iron Man 3 is about as lackluster in plot as Skyfall. Lot of interesting concepts that are never fully realized, but in the end? Just another movie. Except Skyfall was really pretty to look at. I want to like Iron Man 3, but it just feels like any other generic Marvel movie. And after the Avengers? Is it wrong to expect more?
quazimotto on May 10, 2013
Movie was still MEH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
redskulllives on May 10, 2013
agreed. *****spoiler***** hated what they did with Mandarin.....actually a toilet joke?
conradthegreat on May 10, 2013
No rings = not the true mandarin.
JBrotsis on May 10, 2013
It was cool seeing Tony Stark fighting through Mandarin's hideout with household items, but very few go to see an Iron Man movie to not see the suit, otherwise it's just a standard run-of-the-mill action movie. More suit would've been a welcome addition to a very mediocre film. It might've worked for TDKR, but honestly, that shouldn't become the norm. It felt like Nolan was ashamed to be making a Batman movie.
KJ on May 10, 2013
For me this was just an OK film. I felt like the big question of Iron Man 3 was "Who is Iron Man without his iron suit?" - it just Tony Stark who is a dick most of the time and who hasn't learned from the previous 3 movies he has been in to be a better hero and person. He is still selfish and self-serving, and while the end may show that he has changed, its not big enough for me to buy it. I loved Nolan's Batman because I loved what he did with the character, and he had a specific tone. I felt like Shane Black's Iron Man was neither gritty nor funny. It tried to be both and the end result was a film that felt awkward at times. The best part of that movie, hands down, is the last action scene and the reason is the suits. I watch Iron Man because I like Iron Man, not Tony.
Troy k on May 10, 2013
Nolan pretty much reduced Batman to a mess who moped around for 7 years. That wasn't the Batman I knew.
Ben S. on May 10, 2013
We call that character development and realism
Guest on May 11, 2013
Oh c'mon! the movie sucked. It is funny and that's all.
el copi on May 10, 2013
Great article Tyler, really had me looking back on the film in a different light. I really enjoyed IM3, thought it was much better than IM2 easily. The only thing I didn't like about the movie was the lack of using Mandarin's famous 10 rings. They showed them in the trailers, but they weren't present in the film AT ALL. Which was what made Mandarin so powerful, and me hoping he wouldn't be killed off thus being used in Avengers 2. That was my only disregard (and partially Poppers having the final blow on Mandarin, ending him....that's Tony's job).
JBrotsis on May 10, 2013
Tyler I am with you 100% Perfectly stated I too am a happy Marvel nut 🙂
rocky728 on May 10, 2013
Comparison to Skyfall? HAHAHAHAHA! Not even close! Beat it!
Jackson on May 10, 2013
This would have been a good approach if only iron man 2 was liked by fans which it wasn't. People wanted to see iron man like in the first film and since the second didnt provide that and is disowned by most , people weren't ready for the approach in the third film because the second didn't build up to it.
Matthew on May 10, 2013
Before Iron man 3 I didn't care much for Tony Stark or Iron man really although I am aware of the comicbooks. But after watching it I think I've just become a fan. The reason why some people are complaining about Iron man 3 is that they expect to see a movie that follows the standard comic book movie formula. Bigger explosions, badass villains... pretty much a grand testosterone-filled spectacle or the ultimate nerdfest. I for one enjoyed it because rather than going big they went for an introspective tone without resorting to the typical cliches or relying on the melodramatic. With Iron man 3 we get to see the real super hero - in and out of the suit. And plus it was hilarious. I enjoyed this movie more than I did the 1st two IM. It also presents us with a controversial twist that will have fans and haters arguing for months. Personally I never really cared for the Mandarin (having also come across the character in a few X-men arcs). The character is frankly outdated, created in a time when the "capitalism vs communism" mentality still prevailed (so it strikes me as funny that all of a sudden people are now fans of his). I think for the most part the hate is due to the fact that Sir Ben Kingsley pulled off the character so well. He is indeed menacing and had the makings of an "epic" villain. But if you really look at the whole situation having Killian as the true mastermind is brilliant. What he's presenting with IM3 is the villain in the shadows -- who's faceless but can manipulate and control more easily. Black and co. is giving us the Ultimates Mandarin not 616 Mandarin. In context with the film the twist worked.
Ben S. on May 10, 2013
Having Killian as the man behind the man didn't work for me, or feel even remotely brilliant. The trailers presented Kingsley's Mandarin as a memorable and legitimate threat that would resolve the hanging plot threads concerning the Ten Rings in the first movie. Instead, we got yet another vanilla corrupt corporate executive, just like the first two movies (only this time with ill-explained superpowers). That's not a "game-changer." That's just crappy writing. The Mandarin may not be as popular as Doctor Doom or Magneto, but he's definitely a worthy adversary. The more racist parts of the character have faded with time, and he could have made for an excellent villain. The reason fans are mad isn't out of deep love for the Mandarin (although there are probably some, who knows), it's because it's Iron Man's archenemy, and archenemies aren't something you want to bastardize. It'd be like watching an interpretation of the Joker so off-the-wall that you just can't take it seriously.
KJ on May 10, 2013
But here's the thing that most people forget. Kingley wasn't the Mandarin. The Mandarin was Killian. or who knows this might not be the end of the Mandarin storyline. As Marvel's Kevin Feige recently answered a tweet that we will see Extremis in the future movies. If you're the type of person who subscribes to the notion that "a hero is only as good as the villain" then understandably you'll be pissed. But for me anyway IM3 was never about the villain. It was about Tony's identity and how he deals with the effects after the Avengers. The villain was secondary and in this case the villain was a mixture of Killian/Ultimates Mandarin/Mallen. They've taken a lot of liberties with IM3 and I think most of us have come to expect that the films will not be an exact version that we read in the comic books. As for the Joker reference... Come on, I think you know that's a weak comparison.
Ben S. on May 11, 2013
Actually, my comment about the Joker was in reference to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3KeDPR5VKs People aren't forgetting that Killian was the Mandarin, because he wasn't. That line of his where we said he was the Mandarin sounded more metaphorical than anything else. But fans of the movie are taking it literally in order to justify the twist that a lot of comic book lore fans are hating. I don't always subscribe to the "hero is only as good as the villain" but I think that such an idea wouldn't have been half bad in this movie. I'm all down for exploring post-Avengers Tony Stark, but there was so much more potential there than what the movie gave us. Nobody expects the movies to be exactly like the comic books. I'd be massively disappointed if a movie was exactly like the source material to a tee, because then there are few surprises. But some things don't HAVE to be changed for the sake of a surprise or a quick laugh, and the Mandarin twist just didn't sit well with me as a result.
KJ on May 11, 2013
I am Iron Man... This is in general the concept brought to life throughout the film. Tony Stark as an ego maniac and possessing super human capabilities while in the suit has, for some reason, a lot of appeal (and Tyler, I may see Fast and Furious 6). Tony Stark stripped of his narcissistic character flaws, oh, and the suit, left me wondering why I didn't see a chic flick with my wife. Sure, we get it, he is iron man with or without the suit. But, lets face it, Iron man without the suit kinda sucks. I also feel Black over did it on bringing out not just the emotional weaknesses of Stark, but of the suit (Jarvis) as well. It seems the suit that once withstood great punishment could no longer handle the simplest of villain threats. All in all I did enjoy the film and agree with your many points. Ever consider a rating system to post at the end of your review? It may help me decipher your opinion at a glance.
ccbarnes on May 10, 2013
I'm all for a grittier tale to remind you of the inner qualities of the lead role but Skyfall is a poor example because it truly was an awful piece of shit.
Payne by name on May 11, 2013
How could you praise this garbage at all? Iron Man 3 was a TERRIBLE movie. How dare you compare it to Skyfall and saying that it's "Dark"?! This movie was a complete joke, what filth.
Jenny on May 12, 2013
I feel robbed. the "Starkfall" idea was stolen from my sound off post on IM 3. have you no shame? LOL
karl on May 14, 2013
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