Dissecting The MCU
Iron Man 3
After “The Avengers” blew up the year before, we were treated to another round of personal adventures with our favorite mighty heroes. Lots of people were concerned at the time if the other movies would feel pale in comparison to “The Avengers,” but for me, that wasn’t the case. I had read comics for many years prior to this project, so I personally knew how this worked. I knew that superheroes teamed up, then they split, and they teamed up and then they split. Rinse and repeat. I was curious to see how general audiences without all things comics knowledge would feel about this. I am sure there were some naysayers in the field, but overall, it seemed like regular moviegoers were okay with it, as “Iron Man 3” made a mint at the box office. So, it seemed like Marvel’s ever-growing experiment was still going to pay off.
We have now officially caught up with my writings. The year 2013 marked the first year I started my blog. I grew up watching “Siskel & Ebert At the Movies” then when Siskel passed away, I kept watching “Ebert & Roeper At the Movies.” I read every single Roger Ebert review, every single one I could get my hands on. I collected his movie yearbooks. He was the first critic who truly showed me that film criticism was worth something, that it mattered. That it could be taken seriously. He taught me that movies were true pieces of art, not just mindless entertainment after a long week. My love of movies grew bigger than it ever had been. Sure, there were several online voices who taught me that you didn’t need a bachelor’s in journalism in order to write movies, you just needed an internet connection and a way with words. They certainly pushed me to write. But Roger Ebert was very special to me, one of those people who shaped my life without even realizing he did it. When he passed away, it left a hole. I was determined to not care if I didn’t have a writing degree. Before this blog, I used to write movie reviews on Xanga, Myspace and Facebook. It was something I always wanted to do. In my circle of friends, I’m the movie nerd. It was Ebert’s death that finally made me realize that my voice could be part of the mix, even if I only got two readers, I was determined to write.
If you’re interested, you can read my original review of “Iron Man 3” right here.. I had recently began collecting all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so while I had “Iron Man 3” in the house, I hadn’t watched since my first viewing up until last Sunday night. I was dreading it, because although I did overall enjoy the movie, it was one of those movies I just didn’t return to for pleasure. I was jaded by the few key disappointments the movie left for me. It’s amazing how viewing something after years away, removed from all the hype, can totally change how you process a movie. Sunday night felt like I was watching a new movie for the very first time. I should have known this. I am generally one of those guys who give movies second chances, just to see if I enjoy them more after some time away, and I have to say I found “Iron Man 3” much more enjoyable watching it years later.
One thing that we really don’t see in superhero movies is the human toll on some of the least spectacular characters, and I found that aspect of “Iron Man 3” much more relevant this time around compared to my first viewing. Much of the movie deals with Tony Stark’s PTSD, how badly he was affected flying that nuke into space, passing through that wormhole and seeing the other side of space near the end of “The Avengers.” Tony Stark isn’t like Captain America, who trained to be a soldier. He isn’t like Thor, who grew up fighting on many battlefields. He isn’t like Black Widow or Hawkeye, who have seen lots of action as field agents for S.H.I.E.L.D. Even though he has much more control of his behavior compared to, say, The Hulk, the toll it takes on him emotionally very much parallels Banner’s feelings. Even though Banner may have better control over his feelings. At least, a few of them. There where are a couple moments in “Iron Man 3” when it feels like Tony might just be taken to an emergency room. Dealing with humanity in the eve of all of this spectacle made things feel real.
“Iron Man 3” is also a movie about the demons we create. That age-old rule your mother or father probably told you about. How we always have to watch what we say or how we act towards colleagues or even strangers. Because even though there is seven billion people on this planet, the world is small. It’s amazing how, even in my own life, how I run into people I never thought I’d see again. People come and go in our lives, and its strange how some do pop back into our lives, so its always important we keep in mind how we are treating those around us. That plays right into the opening scene. A scene featuring the one-hit wonder by Eiffel 65. A scene where Jon Favreau’s Vince Vega “Pulp Fiction” garb still makes me snicker. A scene where Tony Stark meets Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hensen and Guy Pierce’s Aldrich Killian. Killian is a timid, injured man who invited Stark to his think tank entitled Advanced Idea Mechanics. Knowing the comics, I did get a little gitty. Stark tells Killian that he will talk to him about his company, but he ends up sticking him up for a night with Hensen, another person he just drops after a one night stand. That night is really important going forward in the film.
Then we pick up in present day. Stark is now reeling from the events of “The Avengers.” What defines Tony Stark as a character throughout all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that he is constantly trying to right wrongs he feels responsible for, while also keeping those he loves out of harm’s way. He chooses to be Iron Man because missiles with his name on them are causing unwanted destruction on innocence around the world. He chooses to fight with The Avengers once Loki killed a good friend of his. Now in “Iron Man 3,” he’s tired of the fighting, and he’s got a huge suit build-up. He’s working on technology that will allow him to control the suits without him being in them. He’s tired of putting people in harm’s way, but he knows his inner demons are taking a toll on him, so why not remove him from danger while still being Iron Man. Plus, he’s so worried about Pepper Potts that he wants to be closer to her. Potts can’t adjust to the gods, the rage monsters, the aliens, the superpowers, the weird villains. She doesn’t want to adjust, she doesn’t feel the need to adjust and Tony doesn’t can’t ask her to adjust.
Not to mention, there is a new tech-savvy terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who is beginning to attack the free world like crazy. In 2013, I knew for a fact that The Mandarin we would be getting in the movie would be vastly different from his comic book counterpart. Iron Man was created in the midsts of the Vietnam War. So, in Tony Stark’s original origin, he captured by The Viet Kong. In 2013, Vietnam isn’t the enemy anymore, but Middle Eastern terrorists are. So, in the first movie, Stark is captured by modern terrorists. The Mandarin was a wacky character in the comics, and yes, slightly racist. I was blown away that Paramount even decided to go with him as a villain in the movies. But they did, and they got Ben Kingsley to play him. So, I was expecting big things. I have to say that even all these years later, I am still not a huge fan of the Mandarin twist in the middle of the movie. I am sure that those not familiar with the villain found the twist clever and unpredictable. But I think the obsessive-compulsive need to ground Iron Man in reality hurt this third chapter. In the comics, The Mandarin had power rings, one for each finger. Hence, the name of the terrorist organization that kidnaps Stark in the first film. In a world that has always established super soldiers, gods, aliens and wormholes, would it really be so weird to feature a villain with power rings?
This also leads to the biggest problem with the “Iron Man” trilogy in general. It’s really the only trilogy in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe where each film just merely treads water. The first “Iron Man” is about a jealous billionaire getting back at Tony for his accomplishments, and using outside forces to do so. “Iron Man 2” is about a jealous billionaire getting back at Tony for his accomplishments, and using outside forces to do so. Finally, “Iron Man 3” is about a jealous billionaire getting back at Tony for his accomplishments, and using outside forces to do so. Out of all the trilogies in the MCU, it’s the most disappointing because it’s the least ambitious. I guess Marvel thought they could just coast on Robert Downey Jr’s charm. Iron Man is a rich character, and I wish they gave him more to do in his own movies.
There is a compliant by hardcore DC fanboys that makes me laugh out loud. It’s when they say they can’t connect with Marvel films because they are for kids. Simple. Sincere. Totally untrue. Yes, the Marvel movies know they are movies, and they aren’t afraid to wink at the audience. But solely for children? No. So, does every superhero movie have to be a clone of “The Dark Knight” in order to be relevant now? There is much content scattered throughout the MCU that is suggestive towards children, and we will discuss this as we go. There isn’t lots of action in “Iron Man 3,” but the action in this movie is brutal. The attack on the Chinese Theater in “Iron Man 3” is brutal, freaky, and something that would scare children. The way extremis works is enough to give children of a certain age nightmares. There isn’t much Iron Man in the movie at all, its more of a movie about how Tony has come this far in this story, and it’s a deeply personal movie. A movie that forces Tony out of his comfort zone as Iron Man, and I’m not sure that’s something kids look for in their superhero movies. Not everything in the MCU is for children, and I think “Iron Man 3” is about the last movie you introduce to your children.
I was glad that Shane Black was able to let loose on a movie of his. Whether you recognize the name or not, you know who Shane Black is. He gain momentum in the 1990’s for his scripts “Lethal Weapon,” “The Last Boy Scout,” “Last Action Hero” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” No matter what you think of any of those movies above, because of a middle man director getting in the way, ALL of the movies listed above are watered down versions of what Black wrote. As I watch “Iron Man 3,” it seems there is more “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” in “Iron Man 3,” the first movie Black both wrote and directed and also starred Robert Downey Jr. The humor matches that movie, as well as the tone and style of “Iron Man 3.” There is still lots of Black in it, which I ultimately enjoyed. I enjoyed better than I did six years ago, but it will still be a Marvel movie I watch the least for pleasure.