10 Questions about ‘Iron Man 3’

Posted: May 8, 2013 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , ,

Y’know, we always do this – post-game analysis of summer movies that make it seem like we didn’t like them (or, in Braak’s case, make it seem as though Joss Whedon has become his arch-nemesis, which…I mean, it’s a one-sided nemesis-ness? But it’s there).

So let me get this out of the way: Iron Man 3 is a fun movie, not least of which because it is very much a Shane Black movie, down to his very specific Black-isms that, during the stretch in the middle where Tony doesn’t have access to his armor, make it feel a lot like an amusing hybrid of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Iron Man 3But of course, once you leave the glamor of the cinema, questions arise. This is a normal reaction, once entertainment-brain shuts down and critical faculties reassert themselves. Sometimes, it’s a harsh and irreversible process – what I like to call the “Signs Effect,” after walking out of that particular movie and going from a feeling of terrified excitement to the realization that that was the dumbest, most insulting motherfucking movie I’d seen in quite some time, in less time than it took to reach the car.

Anyway, Iron Man 3 isn’t one of those. It’s pretty good, there are some flaws, but nothing that’ll stop you from enjoying yourself. All the actors are top of their game, there are a couple interesting twists, it’s considerably funnier than Iron Man 2 (which, even if you’re willing to forgive everything else – which I largely am! – does have some serious groaners). Won’t change the world, and (ideally) won’t even be the best superhero movie this year (Man of Steel and The Wolverine kind of NEED to be very good, to make up for their previous attempts). But worth the money (don’t – DON’T! – see it in 3D. For christ’s sake, 3D adds nothing to a film, it’s just there to get $3 more out of you, seriously, plenty of 2D screenings, don’t encourage this nonsense) if you’d like to catch it in theaters.

Now then! Questions and observations but mostly questions because as I go through it in my head there are a few things I’m not clear on (and from here on out, Spoilers Are Go, but if you saw the movie now is the time to assert your knowledge): 

Q: So…was the military funding AIM?
As I understand it, Killian started up Advanced Idea Mechanics largely on the basis of Maya’s Extremis research (also, there is a brief fakeout that AIM is just “Mia” backwards, but Maya is how it’s spelled in the comic and the credits, FYI). Maya points out that though she didn’t intend it that way, but Extremis had military applications and so got military funding. And all Extremis test-subjects are military veterans. AND, Vice President/Character Actor Not To Be Trusted Miguel Ferrer was involved.

But the movie – which by the final act was pretty distracted by all the giant explosions going on – never really followed up on this. Which doesn’t really bother me, because…

Q: Does this mean AIM is now a part of the Marvel Movie Universe?

One day, buddy. One day.

One day, buddy. One day.

I assume so, since just because Killian is dead doesn’t mean the “think tank” has been disbanded, only discredited as a legitimate operation. So, now there’s a gang of rogue scientists lurking about for future movies to play around with. Hopefully with a fondness for bright-yellow jumpsuits.

Kevin Feige made mention recently that the long-brewing Ant-Man script had to go through some tweaks to get it more in line with the current movie continuity (since it was initially written before Marvel movies were automatic successes with their own mega-plots). And being that a) Ant-Man’s a guy who doesn’t really have much of a rogues gallery to draw on, and b) the Extremis enhanciles fit into the “dicking around with post-human biology” science that’s Hank Pym’s forte, that seems like an easy fit.

What I’m saying is, there is now a very good chance that M.O.D.O.K. will make it to the big screen before fucking Wonder Woman.

(Also Batroc the Leaper. Seriously, let that sink in. Batroc the Leaper – a LONG-TIME FAVORITE OF MINE – is in the next Captain America movie, and at the same time Warner Bros. can’t figure out how to make a franchise out of one of the most recognizable characters of the last century. Amazing.)

Q: Tony probably shouldn’t have given his home address to the Mandarin like that, should he?
No! No, he probably shouldn’t have, that was KIND OF A HUGE MISTAKE! Ho ho!

(On the other hand: That’s a huge house built on a cliff. Something tells me that is not information that is hard to get hold of.)

Q: Wait, the mother of the Extremis subject who blew up in Tennessee had a huge file on all the other subjects, but when Tony showed up to talk to her, it was revealed she didn’t know who he was, and had brought the file for someone else. Who was that file for?
This, I may have just missed a line of dialogue or an inference, was the scarred-lady enhancile there to trick her into giving her the file by claiming to be Homeland Security, so Killian could scrub a data leak? Because if that’s the case, why did she leave the bar before Tony showed up? Seriously, who was that file supposed to go to? So…help? I definitely missed something.

Q: Maya Hansen didn’t really need to be in that movie, did she?

Pictured: A superfluous character

Pictured: A superfluous character

I GUESS, because the 1999 flashback is an interesting way to introduce the Extremis concept and seed in Tony’s involvement in it later, it makes more sense that it’d be an attractive lady scientist, and hey, that is how it was in the comics.

But I’m pretty sure you can write her out of the script in about 30 seconds and nothing changes.

Q: So, The Mandarin turns out to be a fake-out, much like Ken Watanabe’s Ra’s al Ghul and, to a certain extent, Bane. This…there’s something to talk about here, right? About, like, the 21st century, and social networks, and terrorism and celebrity and stuff?
Well sure, there’s a bunch to talk about, but honestly this feels like work meant for a film student who wants to write a final paper while also watching a bunch of superhero movies, so go for it kid, I’m not doing your homework for you. I’ll just say three things:

1. I know I probably should’ve asked about this last summer, but: Does it bug anyone else that with the reveal in Dark Knight Rises, that Bane’s origin is actually Talia’s makes Bane kind of bullshit? I mean, Tom Hardy’s performance is still fun as hell and I’ll keep doing that Bane voice until someone physically tries to stop me, but…seriously. Once Talia is revealed, Bane is reduced to “Talia’s buddy.” He even gets killed like a punk. Catwoman just shoots him and that’s that. I mean why even come up with a speech pattern like that, if that’s how it’s gonna go down?

2. More to the point, let me just say I enjoyed the shit out of the Mandarin reveal, mostly because like Venom in the Raimi Spider-Man movies, he’s a comics character that, while sort of “important” in the comics, just doesn’t FIT into the universe the movie crafted. So, good for everyone involved for accepting that and doing something interesting, rather than, say…y’know, making Spider-Man 3 under protest.

3. Though that does raise some questions about the Ten Rings terrorist group that was part of the first Iron Man movie. Is the implication that Killian created an entire terrorist iconography for his own purposes? That’s pretty elaborate. And now that you mention it…

Q: What was Killian’s plan, again?
OK, so follow with me. Killian started up AIM on the back of Maya’s Extremis idea, then tested it on veterans. Then, when those test subjects started exploding, he concocted the Mandarin identity to take credit for the in-country “bombings” as cover for the Extremis kabooms. And, once he kidnapped the president and stuffed him in the Iron Patriot armor, he was going to use the Roxxon tanker oil spill as the staging area for another grandiose “Fuck the West For Their Transgressions” Mandarin “attack”? And then Killian would’ve produced a dead Mandarin to be hailed as a hero? And at this point, VP Ferrer would…give AIM prestige and more military contracts?

Put another way:

1. Create false terrorist threat
2. ???

For this plan to be successful, Rhodey should’ve been dead first, right? Because otherwise how would anyone explain the Iron Patriot armor being used to kidnap the president? This is another of those, “I may have missed something, by all means, explain” moments.

In any event, it kind of seems like AIM was doing pretty good with getting military contracts without convoluted supervillain plotting, but then, isn’t that always the way.

It’s a good thing Killian died. I imagine M.O.D.O.K. has multiple plots filed under “BRILLIANT AND TERRIFYING SCIENCE-SCHEMES” that Killian just didn’t have the imagination for. He’s the administrator AIM deserves!

Q: Wait, didn’t that movie end wrong?
So, hang on. Tony blows up his remaining armors and gets the arc reactor removed from his chest and has the shrapnel finally removed.

Then there’s all that closing narration about how the armor was just a metaphorical cocoon, and even without it, Tony’s still Iron Man.

And Tony successfully solved the stability problems involved in the Extremis process, which is why Pepper didn’t explode in a post-credits sequence or anything.

Add all those things together, and doesn’t it make the most sense that Tony – who’s already been adding crap to his own body to physically summon his armor – would undergo the Extremis process himself to heal his heart and become a better Iron Man?

Like, isn’t that what the whole movie is suggesting comes next?

So…what the hell. Did someone get gunshy about implying that Tony was using the “evil” bio-tech (which also had addictive qualities, apparently)? In which case, why not have his eyes glow blue at the end to signify that it was now “good,” akin to internalizing the arc reactor (I realize how stupid that sounds, but you see what I mean)?


Q: Hey, Tony’s anxiety issues kind of disappeared without much discussion, huh?
I guess the implication was that once he started getting proactive again with the inventions and the Mandarin investigation he felt like he had more of a handle on things. Did kind of feel like that closing narration was mostly just waving away those problems, though.

Q: Why, at this point in time, do people still leave the theater before the credits are over?
It Fucking Baffles Me.

  1. braak says:

    (or, in Braak’s case, make it seem as though Joss Whedon has become his arch-nemesis, which…I mean, it’s a one-sided nemesis-ness?

    FOR NOW.

    Anyway, I think AIM’s plan (really, Killian’s plan, since “AIM”, as an organization, is apparently just him and that hot botanist) is “1) create a terrorist threat, 2) sell unspecified terrorist countermeasures [I think the idea was that they would fix the Extremis process and then sell it to the Army], 3) Profit.”

    Though, obviously there are a lot of questions raised here that aren’t answered, among them that AIM actually seemed like it already had a bunch of money and The Army probably didn’t need a super-terrorist threat in order to invest in a working Extremis product.

    Also, it is secondarily weird that the founding of AIM goes like this: Killian creates AIM. Killian hires the Hot Botanist to work on her Extremis project for AIM. Thirteen years later, Extremis is AIM’s only product. So, wait, did Killian not have any mad science when he founded it? Did he create AIM banking entirely on being able to recruit the Botanist into it? In the intervening years of not being able to produce a prototype that didn’t make people explode, did they never actually make anything else? How did they get all those military contracts, then?

    I think if they’d clarified exactly how this process was supposed to work (“AIM wasn’t allowed to do legal human trials of Extremis, so creates a super-terroristic threat in order to get the Army to okay it and give them a billion dollars”) it would have been a lot stronger, but I think this is also ultimately a really disappointing use of AIM.

    AIM could have been a great, natural extension of both the other Iron Man movies (which are about who makes what kinds of weapons, and how dangerous that technology is — IMAGINE for a second, if AIM was made up mostly of a bunch of weapons engineers that Stark Industries fired after they went legit), about how America’s military spending compared to its science is ridiculous (IMAGINE if Killian’s real go had been genuine post-humanity, and he only went into weapons development because that’s where the money was — he needed to create a specific threat that Extremis would be needed to solve, because otherwise he couldn’t get the billions of DoD dollars [for that, Extremis would need to be presented as both horrifying but alluring, and Killian would have needed to be a for real believer, both of which I think would have made the movies stronger]), and finally ALSO about humanity vs. technology:

    i.e., the movie really LOOKS like it’s going to counterpose two ideas of humanity: Tony Stark’s terror at just being a guy in a suit when compared to actual super-humans, and Killian’s interest in making human beings functionally superior. Killian provides the ANSWER to Stark’s PTSD, but he’s also maybe a crazy lunatic.

    (There was also plenty of room to have AIM infiltrate the military-industrial complex, dropping hints not just that they gave Iron Patriot his paint job, but that they’ve been doing research and development for the government, for SHIELD, for all kinds of things.)

    Also, also, AIM should have had all kinds of bonkers weapons, AIM is such a great fucking idea, I can’t believe they wasted it with, “What about…I don’t know, some mutant volacno people or something?”

    Triple also: remember how Aldrich Killian has the power to breathe fire? And how he uses it exactly once to no effective purpose?

  2. braak says:

    Oh, I also read the “MIA” on the file as “Missing In Action,” and took it to mean that Stark thought the guy was MIA, but actually he’d been taken into AIM.

    But that just also makes it weird that the mom had the guy’s file in the first place? I don’t think they give your parents that when you explode.

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    1) I THINK the mom had been gathering that file on her own, since she said something about everyone thinking she was crazy about it.

    In any event, I was mostly distracted by the casting. That lady plays a really convincing meth addict on Breaking Bad, and a really grizzly werewolf pack mom on True Blood.

    She has what we’ll call a “lived-in face.”

    2) Maybe it’s because it had no effective purpose that Killian decided NOT to breathe fire anymore?

  4. braak says:

    Well, that’s confusing. Are we meant to believe that’s the first time he’d tried it? How did he even know he could do it, then?

  5. braak says:

    I think a good choice for Extremis would be if it were something like a cure for cancer except (and here is the key, because why wouldn’t SOMEONE want to fund that, even if it kept making people explode) the whole thing about it is that it actually increases tumor growth and turns the tumors into a viable organism, slowly phasing out the “healthy cells.”

    That’s a nice, crazy monologue from Guy Pearce waiting to happen, “All this time we’ve been thinking about it wrong. We don’t need to cure cancer, cancer is the future. Extremis will let us cure humanity.” It also then becomes a nice parallel for Tony Stark talking about how his Iron Man armor was a cocoon (i.e., like a human body is for the Extremis-cancer-people).

    The point of all that is that then it would be an easy step to make MODOK, as just a giant pile of hyper-sapient brain tumors.

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    Do not muddy the purity of a man with a giant head in a robot chair.

  7. Jefferson Robbins says:


    – Do Iron Man suits just scale automatically so anybody can fit inside? No matter what they’re wearing otherwise, like when the President got stuffed in the Iron Patriot while still in his business suit? Pepper is both taller and wispier than Tony; shouldn’t she just be rattling around in that chassis like a castanet bead with her thighs and neck exposed to the air? Doesn’t it chafe if you get inside one of those things without some barrier of lycra between you and the metal? Why was Rhodey wearing a Polo shirt and Dockers?

    – Did Black’s only performance note to Sir Ben Kingsley amount to “be Russell Brand, but older?”

    (Let me say that I really liked the Mandarin’s “fortune cookie” bit, however thudding it seemed on first listen, because it’s a clue to the coming character revelation AND a swipe at Asian cultural stereotypes, which in Marvel comics find their ultimate expression in … the Mandarin.)

    – What does the Dora the Explorer digital watch have to do with summoning the Mark 42 armor all the way from Tennessee to Miami?

    – As my friend Angelo Muredda noted on Twitter yesterday, “Best part of IRON MAN 3 was when the unmanned drone squad murdered all the war amputees.” How much … I mean … Shane Black is a very good writer, but did he set out to embed something like that in the subtext for a political purpose? Because, man, slow clap if so.

    – Is Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3 the first of the Marvel movies in which a superhero explicitly rejects posthumanism, despite the previous steps he took to make himself posthuman? (Leave the Hulk out of this question.) If anybody can wear an Iron Man suit, who needs an arc reactor in their sternum anyway? Doesn’t Tony’s detonation of his armor shells amount to a selfish retreat from the world and a withdrawal of the resources he’d committed to enforcing world peace? IS THERE NOW AN IRON MAN GAP?

    – Did Jon Favreau gain 30 pounds between IRON MAN 2 and IRON MAN 3, or just 25 pounds and a terrible facelift?

    – Am I overthinking this?

  8. Jefferson Robbins says:

    Also, Braak’s idea for tumor-brain MODOK is a movie that only David Cronenberg can make.

  9. Jeff Holland says:

    You are definitely not overthinking Jon Favreau’s weight gain, which made his scene with Pepper look like a ham balloon was talking to a redheaded field hockey stick.

  10. x84jdh says:

    What does the Dora the Explorer digital watch have to do with summoning the Mark 42 armor all the way from Tennessee to Miami?

    -I assumed it was counting down ’til the suit was recharged and could fly to FLA from TEN.

  11. braak says:

    Yeah, that was what I was thinking — I mean, that, or basically just letting Tony Stark keep track of how long it had been.

  12. braak says:

    @Jeff Holland: That is what I am SAYING though:

    how did his head get so big?

    (relatedly: is his giant head part of his design that is Only for Killing, or was that a side effect of the design? Is MODOK unable to perform activities other than killing, or just hilariously incompetent at them? If he tried to do a non-killing activity, like driving to the store, would he naturally just screw it up in a way that led to killing? Or does MODOK just have to think of inventive ways to think or ordinary daily activities as a form of killing?)

  13. Jeff Holland says:

    @Braak – I thought you were talking about Favreau’s head for a second.


    Everything MODOK does – by virtue of his being an organism designed ONLY for killing – is in service to his overall goal of more killing. “I MUST VISIT THE LOCAL FARMERS MARKET FOR KALE, THAT I MAY ABSORB THE VITAL NUTRIENTS NECESSARY FOR FURTHER KILLING!”

    In that case, though, MODOK is also a Mental Organism Designed Only for Kale.

  14. TheUnnamed says:

    Splodie mom brought file for scarface lady. Scarface lady approachs meeting and sees someone who looks like a high profile dead target. She bumped into him to confirm then goes and sets up the take down with her partner.

  15. braak says:

    I guess that makes sense, but this sort of makes the whole thing weird. Did AIM want to kidnap Tony Stark, or not? If they wanted to murder him (again), wouldn’t it have been easier to wait for him to get the file, follow him out of the bar, then kill him and take it? Why, exactly, were they so worried about this woman digging up files if everyone already thought she was crazy and nobody believed her?

    How did they even KNOW she had files?

    I dunno about any of this stuff, man.

  16. TheUnnamed says:

    The actions seemed clear, but yes, the motivations remained murky. FYI, found this site last month, just got to the current posts. Very entertaining, enlightening and enjoyable. Except the deadly dull parts, but I am told those things are different for most individuals.

  17. a second raptor in the bushes says:

    wait wait wait, is ironman 3 just a dolled up episode of Fringe? because this all sounds like a Fringe episode.

  18. bexsiferguson says:

    The scarred faced lady. Why did she still have a scarred face? When Tony was watching the veterans being interviewed she was an amputee. When injected her arm grew back. Why did her face not heal as well? :/

  19. braak says:

    Excellent question.

  20. […] Extremis. This show assumes not only that you have watched all the previous Marvel movies (including Iron Man 3, out on Blu-Ray this week!) but that you were also Paying Attention (especially to Iron Man 3, out […]

  21. Mark says:

    What I don’t get about the ending is why load containers on a oil tanker?

  22. braak says:

    It’s to smuggle all the krugerands.

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