The Resurrection of Tony Stark


I usually hate it when someone starts out a review with some sweeping generalization of an idea, but I’m about to do it. I just wanted you to know that I’m upset with myself for doing it.

Shields protect us, but they also weigh us down.

Ok, that’s out of the way.

We’re living in a Post-Avengers world now. The consequences of which are bigger blockbusters, an inevitable Justice League movie from DC, and the vindication of Joss Whedon. For Tony Stark: PTSD. In the movie a small boy, a big fan of Iron Man, asks him about the climax of The Avengers, “How did you escape the wormhole?” A simple question spikes Tony’s heart rate and sends him sprinting to his iron suit where he has JARVIS (the onboard AI) check for cardiovascular trouble. There’s nothing physical wrong, JARVIS diagnoses an anxiety attack. Couldn’t be possible. How could Iron Man be taken down by something so simple and so internal? He is the Invincible Iron Man after all. So little can hurt him as long as he’s in the suit, but if his weakness is inside, he can’t be the hero he needs to be. How do we fix that? Remind Tony of who he is without the suit. Thus a new hero is born: The Mechanic.

Well not really…but sorta.

In the most interesting section of the movie, Tony is stranded without a suit and only his wits to save him from the bad guys. Quick note about the bad guys: their strength is internal. They’ve been upgraded by the latest Marvel pseudo-science, Extremis. They can regenerate limbs, survive virtually any injury, and heat their bodies up to over 3000 degrees (I forget which scale) one of them even breathes fire. These Extremis goons seem to have no emotions and no weaknesses. They’re touted by their creator Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) as the next step of humanity. They’re the perfect counterpoint to Tony Stark, who’s failings are the failings of a human being. Tony mistakenly believes that his strength comes from the suits, not from himself.

Iron Man 3 was written (with Drew Pearce and probably an uncredited Joss Whedon) and directed by Shane Black, who audiences haven’t seen since 2005’s excellent Kiss Kiss Bang BangIron Man 3 may be Marvel’s first film to which you could apply auteur theory. Black is able to make his mark as a filmmaker, despite Marvel’s agenda of delivering a movie for the masses that will also suitable prep us for the inevitable Avengers 2. The film is filled with Shane Black’s trademark humor and tangential storytelling. A seemingly disparate group of plot lines converge together into a satisfying conclusion for both character and narrative means (not unlike Kiss Kiss). Shane Black is the perfect fit to the irreverent Tony Stark. The movie even behaves like the character of Tony Stark. At any moment it seems that it is about to get too emotional, too serious, too violent, or too ludicrous, it immediately undercuts the mood with with witty humor. It serves the movie well, keeping things light and in the spirit of Marvel’s take on the comic book genre. Christopher Nolan’s Batman this is not and it shouldn’t be. Of course it has the requisite action set pieces filled with explosions, which are all excellent and exciting. It even has the first good final battle sequence of any standalone Marvel film.

The movie opens with a line that I’m paraphrasing as “We create our own demons.” Iron Man 3 might be the first Marvel film to have a tangible theme throughout, and it is plainly stated with in seconds of the movie’s opening. Without spoiling anything, I ask that when you watch the movie keep this theme in your mind and you’ll see how it applies throughout. Every obstacle faced by every character is born first from themselves in some way.

I’m not going to remark on the performances, the special effects, production design, or any of the technical aspects of the movie. They are all up to Marvel’s exceptionally high standards, if the film has any weaknesses, they’re not from any of these things.

Iron Man 3 is about Tony Stark learning to live without the iron and remembering who he truly is: the mechanic. Because of this the movie is elevated above the fluffy nature of the Marvel film to a worthwhile examination of character.

The credits end not with Iron Man Will Return, but with Tony Stark Will Return, and that says it all.