On Iron Man 3

iron-man-3-armorAs I previously wrote, The Avengers was a masterpiece. It might have been a somewhat shallow superhero story, but the way that it took different narratives, converged them into a single climactic epic, and left the resolution open to allow individual films was brilliant. And the movie itself was one of the great superhero movies of all time. Of course, I went into Iron Man 3 with high expectations.

I was sorely disappointed.

If you look at other reviews of the movie you will find a lot of Marvel Studio worship, praise for everyone involved in the movie, and a warning that talk of the Mandarin will be limited, because otherwise the movie will be spoiled. If you’re concerned about these spoilers and are dead set on seeing the movie, I’ll let you know what section you need to skip. But do read on. The truth is that Iron Man 3 isn’t worth the 10$ movie ticket. Wait until it’s on Netflix or Redbox instead. Here’s why:


After the events of The Avengers, Tony seems to have developed some kind of PTSD. He can’t focus on anything except how limited his technology is when compared to that of gods and aliens. This is the main focus of the movie. Throughout the entire film, viewers are treated to a half-broken Tony Stark who is trying to cope with PTSD and his relationship with Pepper. At times, the movie borders on romantic comedy. I found this quite irksome, because the reason we go to superhero action movies is to see superheroes do action things. This brings me to my second point of complaint about the movie.

2. Action Scenes

Action scenes, while decent, were few and not too spectacular. Furthermore, most of the action scenes weren’t action scenes as much as “survival” scenes where Tony would be under attack and try to survive. We see one of these in the Trailer when Tony’s house is under attack. I should note that the final battle was actually really great. It was probably the greatest fight in the Iron Man movie series. However, one great 5 minute action scene that still isn’t as great as the action scenes in The Avengers doesn’t make up for limited average action and a long story focusing on internal conflict. Still, all that great action was, in the end, spoiled by the mediocre antagonist of the movie, “The Mandarin”, which brings me to my last complain about the film in this rant.

3. The Mandarin and Storytelling (Spoilers Ahead)

A lot of people have complained about Ben Kingsley playing an Asian character. I don’t care about any of that. I thought that the aesthetics of The Mandarin were fairly good and imaginative. I liked how The Mandarin looked in the movie. But that’s the end of it. In the comic books and the 90s Iron Man cartoons, The Mandarin was a force to be reckoned with. In the original lore, he comes from a wealthy Chinese family. He manages to acquire ten rings – they’re called “Magic Rings” but in reality they’re just incredibly technologically advanced – which allow him to control elements, have kinetic powers, and create illusions among other things. Given that Iron Man 3 takes place after the events of The Avengers, it wouldn’t be so hard to make the connection. Some private contractor got some wreckage from The New York incident, sold it to The Mandarin, who proceeded to unlock some of its secrets, and there you go. But that’s not how it happened. Instead, the creators of Iron Man 3 wanted to make The Mandarin seem “more real”, so they downgraded him to an actor. You see, Kingsley’s Mandarin isn’t the real antagonist in Iron Man 3, despite the trailers having sold him as such. The antagonist in Iron Man 3 is Aldrich Killian, a scientist-CEO corrupted by the power granted to him by the Extremis virus. They try to justify this in the movie by having him say “I’m the REAL Mandarin”. Um, no. You’re just another generic power-hungry mad-scientist / CEO who wants to control the world for no reason other than wanting to control the world. The “Real” Mandarin has an ideology, a grudge, and seven more layers of depth than this Killian-Mandarin. And what about Kingsley’s Mandarin? An actor who was offered drugs and prostitutes in exchange for acting as some ominous figure.  You know, because western sensibilities can’t handle an Asian as a bad guy, so they had to resort to a cookie-cutter white dude.

(End Spoilers)

In the end, Iron Man 3 was a sub-par Marvel film that wasted the opportunity of showing that the events from The Avengers had a wider effect than just in the psychology of the characters involved. Having The Mandarin use some alien tech from The Avengers wreckage would have been great – in a way, it would be showing the fallout of what happened. But they wasted that opportunity in favor of portraying Stark as a nervous wreck. It’s not a horrible movie by any means, it just doesn’t live up to the standards set by Marvel films since Iron Man 1. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, just wait until its out on Netflix or Redbox.

Now let the fanboy hate commence!

Addendum on Thor 2

Not surprisingly, they showed the trailer for Thor 2. That “Darkens since Before the Universe was Born” better be Galactus (the only thing that was there before the Universe was born) and Thor better somehow get an upgrade to Rune King.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on May 5, 2013, in Film Commentary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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