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The Best & Worst Moments Of 'Iron Man 3'

Features
by The Playlist Staff
May 6, 2013 1:29 PM
46 Comments
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Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr., Kid, Ty Simpkins
Sending Up Father Figure/Son Bonding Cliches
Shane Black is justly well-known for putting a self-referential spin on worn genre cliches to come up with something that gets to have its cake and eat it: it benefits from the familiarity and shorthand nature of these tropes, while also sending them up. Nowhere is that impulse better illustrated than in the Tennessee segment of "Iron Man 3" in which Stark teams up with angel-faced urchin Harley. What threatens to become an obviously manipulative, irritating diversion from People Falling Out Of Things That Are Blowing Up, is pulled back from that brink time and again, by a black hearted one-liner from Stark or a deliberately annoying, un-cute moment from Ty Simpkins (who did a surprisingly non-cloying version of "precocious kid"). Yes they bond in the end, and yes the kid gets the ultimate Extreme Shed Makeover, but there's been just enough "I am not your father" sourness along the way for that not to grate too much.

Ben Kingsley Mandarin
Ben Kingsley
As much as some of the more diehard fans are up in arms over the totally non-canon way The Mandarin is portrayed here (and it does open up some interesting questions about future potential Iron Man villains if, despite protestations, they do come back for a fourth outing), we can't really complain about this major character getting short shrift if only because, written as it is, it gives Ben Kingsley a chance to flex his fun muscles. His Trevor Slattery is a brilliant creation, and if his cluelessness is clearly an impossible front to maintain (he did, after all, shoot a guy in the head on live TV), the portrayal is just sly enough, as well as being outright funny, that it gives a sinister edge to what could otherwise just be a patsy. And the character reveal of him coming out of the toilet was one of the best-done twist moments we've seen; he adds a layer of loopy comedy that plays well as distinct from Stark's quickfire quippy wit. So even though we've got big issues with the architecture of the villain plot (see "Worst"), on aggregate we'll take it if it gives us a performance as enjoyable as this one.

Iron Man 3, Paltrow, Mask
Mature Relationships 
Tony and Pepper's relationship has gently subverted the typical hero/girl Friday model throughout the series, but it's at its most interesting here. Where usually there's some element of rivalry or will they/won't they suspense, here they're in love, they're together and what they're struggling to do is maintain a mature and mutually fulfilling relationship. Not exactly sexy on paper, but the stars make it so, and give the emotional core of the film a kind of wisdom that is refreshing for a comic-based movie aimed primarily at teenage boys. And it's not just Pepper and Tony, but Rebecca Hall's Maya Hansen (despite the major problems there, see below) runs counter to what we might expect in this regard too. After one night with Stark, she's not desperately in love with him and the way her arc plays out is less the old Bond routine of the bad girl being made over by love and self-sacrificing at the last minute, and more about her coming to a realization about herself and where her own moral compass has broken down. She's not a well-drawn character by any means, but at least she's not a bit of fluff, and the awkward "girl I had a one-night stand with meeting my long-term girlfriend" moment is nicely mined for its comic potential, but not over-egged into being something more important than it is.

Worst

Iron Man 3, Guy Pearce
Lack Of Motivation For Villainy
Maybe our biggest gripe about the film, and one that bleeds into other points covered in this "worst" section, was the lack of a defined and memorable arch-villain. Guy Pearce is as reliable as ever in the role of Aldrich Killian, but he's simply not given clear enough motivation or clear enough goals for him to be a truly interesting, worthy adversary to Stark, and with Maya Hansen eliminated relatively early, and The Mandarin revealed to be a stooge, there exists something of a vacuum at the "evil" end of the good/evil spectrum. As much as we enjoyed the opportunity it gave Kingsley to bring us the gonzo entertainment of Trevor Slattery, the fact is that the Big Bad being a guy ultimately motivated by a ruthless but straightforward desire for power is just not as scary as the idea of a terrorist motivated by some arcane and unstoppable whacked-out ideology. What is it that Killian wants exactly? What is his endgame? To control the U.S. government via a proxy President and also have a mouthpiece terrorist at his disposal so he controls both sides of the equation, right, but well, why? What's in it for him? If he's supposed to be a crazy-mirror-image of Stark, right down to his genius and his attractive sidekick, we should also have a similar idea of what it is he needs to achieve and why -- and revenge on Stark for standing him up a decade ago doesn't really cut it.

Iron Man 3 Rebecca Hall
Maya Hansen's Narrative Superfluity
We love us some Rebecca Hall, and this is not to say there aren't some good moments featuring her character (see "Best") but Maya Hansen here does very little except have a one night stand with Stark back in the day, and then inexplicably show up at his house with the idea of what, exactly? If it's to persuade him to help them stop the unfortunate "exploding" side-effect, why so late in the game, and why does she immediately flip back to Killian's side, especially if it's just to get instantly killed (and if that, we haven't spent enough time with her for that to be a real loss)? Also, she's so brilliant she developed Extremis, but in a decade has never been able to figure out the equation Stark scrawled drunkenly on the back of that note after looking at her research for about 5 pre-nookie minutes? To say nothing of not being able to work out that Killian having a hold over the Stark (in the form of Pepper being tortured) means he doesn't really need her any more? Having your hero be richer, morally stronger, more successful and infinitely smarter in every area of expertise than your bad guys doesn't necessarily increase him, it simply diminishes the stakes.

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46 Comments

  • hairyplums | July 30, 2013 6:33 PMReply

    I thought the movie was OK but I couldn't help but feel slightly let down when I left the cinema unlike the other movies where I came out looking forward to a sequel. I was so looking forward to seeing all the suits in action but even they weren't even as I expected compared to the hype it just seemed like they were all just the same suit in different shapes and colours with nothing more special about them than the average suit in the first film. But the main reason I felt a but let down is the end. If he could have had the shrapnel taken out with surgery then what was the point of ironman 2 and him creating a new element to stay alive? And where is the acdc back ground music in the movie? Everything I lover about ironman in the first film as well as the second and the avengers had gone for me now.

  • divan | July 5, 2013 4:39 AMReply

    This movie was, interestingly, more intelligent than I expected it to be. Certainly better than the Man of Steel crap-fest.

  • kate | June 30, 2013 11:16 PMReply

    hello

  • WardoyoArdo | June 19, 2013 6:25 AMReply

    Great movie, widely big bang, yes agree with comments before, my idol, Rebecca Hall is poor, nothing to do with her short show. Instantly killed by gun. She deserve to get more. Maybe there will Iron Man-4. I believe people out there still waiting the next story of Iron Man.

  • Santos | June 8, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    Thanks for giving Ben Kingsley some credit here. I personally preferred him as Trevor than as "The Mandarin". He was just going through the cliche super-villain motions as Mandarian, but as Trevor you could tell he was having fun and I had fun with him.

  • V G | May 31, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    ummm ......most of your "best" moments should be in the "worst" category. Starting with Shane Black--the whole Mandarin being an actor thing was extrememly lame. Downy was good-- he owns that character.

  • Eoghan Hughes | May 14, 2013 2:45 AMReply

    Killian directly references the blonde guy with the hammer and how subtlety has gone out the window.

  • Dnice | May 10, 2013 12:37 AMReply

    Just like to point out that The Mandarin did not shoot the guy in the head. It was off screen and during the ending montage they show the guy starting to get up. All for show I suppose.

  • Alex | May 9, 2013 11:05 PMReply

    The ending was really disappointing. He's more than likely going to be in the next avengers, he's not going to be hopping around with hawk-eye, he's going to have a suit. He blew up his suits as a gesture and he's gonna either build a new one or be like "hey pepper... 'member how i blew up all my suits? well..." WHOOSH into battle. It soured the extremely enjoyable experience for me. I hope there is an alternate ending on the DVD, because I'm starting to feel that itchiness I got at the end of Spiderman 3.

  • 4ndyman | May 9, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    The little gripe about Tony not having an anxiety attack during the big ending battle isn't medically sound. Panic attack is probably more apt than anxiety attack. A major part of a panic attack is the unexpected release of adrenaline into the system. Adrenaline is usually triggered by the fight or flight instinct, and it helps set a person in motion. Panic attacks occur when the adrenaline is release when there's nothing to fight or flee from. But if someone is already pumped up on "legitimate" adrenaline -- i.e., they're already pumped up and and either fighting or fleeing -- then you can't have an anxiety attack.

  • John_Boy | May 8, 2013 11:21 PMReply

    The writer needs to do some research. Fire breathing is an extremis ability. It cracks me up reading the comments by butt hurt nolan and DC fan boys lol :p

  • 4ndyman | May 9, 2013 11:47 AM

    Research? You mean in the original comics?

    There is no research to understanding a movie. The movie needs to be self-contained. If it relies on outside knowledge to make sense, it has failed.

  • cronball | May 8, 2013 11:11 PMReply

    The writer and some of the comment posters need to read warren ellis series "extremis" that a lot of this was based on. Fire breathing was an ability the extremis villain had and stark had his heart repaired and chest reactor removed ages ago. The kid scenes were awesome and the "house party" ending was cool as hell. people should learn the source material before complaining about it. Oh and killian does reference previous events when he brings up thor. thank god they didnt spend tons of time dwelling on avengers events.

  • Umi Q | May 8, 2013 8:05 PMReply

    SPOT ON analysis, but the well-done but weirdly out of place 60's style end credits also deserve a (dis)honorable mention here.

  • Black | May 11, 2013 9:36 AM

    Sometimes the comic book source material is too ridiculous to stick to. They ditched the Mandarin from the comics because it was so ridiculous. Then they had a guy spit fire.
    Warren Ellis is a great writer but this is just an all-around silly idea.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:21 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:21 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:19 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:19 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • Hector | May 7, 2013 11:18 PMReply

    I'm a big Iron Man movies fan, I love the duality of the flawed, yet charismatic playboy genius, against the unselfish armored hero, but mostly because of Downey Jr. take on the character. This one's unrepeatable and unique to the comic adaptations universe. Those things are still here, and they give so many enjoyable moments, but still, the plot has so many holes and incongruences it's actually distracting. That said. It still is better than most comic heroes movies.

  • woopy-doo | May 9, 2013 7:55 AM

    Hey, Hector, you can stop hitting the 'return' key now. We hear you, loud and clear. And as for Pamela... words fail me. Well, actually, they have obviously failed her too, badly. 'Are' for 'our'? I've never seen that. And God damn indeed (thanks Joesnyderwalk), can I suggest one thing you could do to impress Him, Pamela? Get a good book, or should I say Good Book, on PUNCTUATION. And read it, and then use it. And don't worry about 'the word,' it won't hurt you. Or anyone.

  • pamela davignon | May 7, 2013 7:31 PMReply

    im really upset i have been a fan and so is my son my husband took are son and when he came home he said that one word is in it the word gd last time i talk to God his last name is not dam every movie that has been made based on marvel comics was safe for my son to watch and we did't have to worry about that word that will be one movie we are not adding to are collection no im going to question every movie after this there is no reason to use tha word you can make a great without cursisng God like i said his last name is not dam thank you for making a movie that is not going to be watched and you know kids watch these movies and look up to you guys shame on you

  • JoeSnyderwalk | May 8, 2013 4:49 PM

    God Damn, woman, stop taking your imaginary friend so seriously.

  • Austin W | May 7, 2013 3:54 PMReply

    There was so much wrong with this movie, and while this article praises the director, I think that's perhaps the main source of fault. I'm not an expert on the Iron Man comics, but the movie seemed to diverge so far from the source material that it was hard to believe this is the same Iron Man. I can understand the PTSD Tony Stark is going through after the events of the Avengers, but it's obvious the director's never seen a real panic attack, and the movie treats the attacks more like a joke or gag than a serious psychological problem. If the symbolism behind the prototype armor is simply to show Tony Stark "breaking apart," I think we could've done without it. Why are the new armor suits so easily destroyed? I really don't get that. The motivations of the villains are never really made clear either, even if you accept Killian's one time humiliation years ago, what are the super-powered henchman and the Vice President doing this for? Don't get me started on the fire breathing or the Mandarin. The plot is so full of holes, the characters and their problems/powers go unexplained or underdeveloped or are simply unbelievable, the comedic elements fall flat... I feel like this movie tried to tear down the hero that is Iron Man and make him a joke. The director didn't have respect for the source material, but would rather tell his own idiotic story in the Marvel Universe using its characters.

  • amos | May 7, 2013 11:41 PM

    The PTSD was strange, I wish that they had just not done that. You could tell from his attitude and the dialog that Tony was feeling the stress from New York already. The fire breathing wasn't a divergence from the source. People with the Extremis virus in the comics could breathe fire.

    But yeah, everything about this movie was awesome. Dunno what you're talking about.

  • COINKYDINKO DE MAYA | May 7, 2013 7:29 AMReply

    After the reversal of Maya being a bad guy, you have to reconsider everything that happened before. Why did she go to Tony's place? Perhaps coerced on orders to make sure he was there, notify the strike team, and keep him there until they showed up. Or, perhaps knowing the attack was coming, to make one last attempt to gain the answer to her problem before it was too late and just maybe to try and warn Tony in some way. Or some combination of both motivations, switching from one to the other throughout the scene.

  • shahzeb | May 8, 2013 7:41 PM

    They messed up the whole plot....Mandarin is supposed to be ironman's arch enemy....and they made a joke out of him and the great actor Ben kingsly....They killed what ironman brings to the table by removing his arch reactor from the chest so easily as if it was a choice which he could have done 3 movies ago...its supposed to be a power full curse which even with all the technology tony stark has..HE STILL CONNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT THE REACTOR IN HIS CHEST !! UTTER COMMERCIAL NONSENSE,,,(CHRISTOPHER NOLAN IS SOMEWHERE LAUGHING HIS AS* OFF) AMATUERS !! hope remains with MAN OF STEEL

  • Miss Chloe | May 7, 2013 5:04 AMReply

    Here is my review on my new blog Movie Myriad!

    http://moviemyriad.blogspot.com/2013/05/iron-man-3-review-rip-roaring-action.html

  • Berk | May 6, 2013 9:34 PMReply

    The Downton Abbey references were hysterical and will last well into the future!

  • gene | May 6, 2013 6:49 PMReply

    This was a truly awful movie, and poor Rebecca Hall had nothing to do. I am sick and tired of Robert Downey Jr.'s schtick.

  • peter | May 7, 2013 1:11 PM

    Agreed...

  • Alan B | May 6, 2013 5:21 PMReply

    The appearance of Shaun Toub as Yinsen is a great callback to the first film. Surprised it wasn't mentioned. Not only does it pay off the line from the first film about them meeting at a conference, but it also creates some very interesting dramatic irony in which we INSTANTLY understand Tony's hubris and arrogance, pre-'Iron Man'.

  • thislalife | May 6, 2013 5:05 PMReply

    Crazy how people go bananas when comic book movies suspend the laws of belief.

  • thislalife | May 6, 2013 5:05 PMReply

    Crazy how people go bananas when comic book movies suspend the laws of belief.

  • thislalife | May 6, 2013 5:05 PMReply

    Crazy how people go bananas when comic book movies suspend the laws of belief.

  • cirkusfolk | May 6, 2013 3:43 PMReply

    What about the fact that Tony Stark is rarely even in the Iron Man suit in this one, same with Rhodes. Due to his new flying by itself, piece by piece suit, even that sky falling action sequence u mentioned as being a highlight wasn't Tony that saved them but the suit. Something about this just feels wrong to me. This is another reason when all the suits showed up to fight at the end, I just didn't care. Which brings me to all those suits. So he was just keeping 20 different and fully made suits user his house yet was using the "prototype" mark whatever throughout the film that wasn't battle ready etc??? Why? And why did he not call them up to stop his house from being destroyed and his girlfriend almost killed? Also, u mentioned the bad guys motives. How about the bad guys themselves. I'm sorry but the silliness of fire glowing regenerating people that for some reason also have super strength is just too silly even for a comic book movie.

  • Anon | May 18, 2013 1:41 AM

    After Jarvis manages to reboot, he mentions that he has arranged to have people with heavy lifting machines start work on the clean up of the house. Later Tony asks him if it was complete. Even when he does call the suits, there was still quite a bit of debris on the secret hatch. My belief for why he didn't call the suits sooner was that they door couldn't open with the roof sitting on it, at least not without damaging the suits. He had the mark 42 the whole movie, because he likes to play with his newest toys, so it was the one that was closest to him when the attack started. He tried to get to the others, but didn't make it. I would guess not calling them during the attack had to do with it happening very quickly and getting thrown around probably wasn't conducive to planning. I wasn't at all surprised to see so many of them. The glitchy one was mark 42. They made a point of showing that when Pepper asked him if it was about 15, and he looked at his arm. I immediately took that to mean he had went from, I think mark 8 or 9 in Avengers to mark 42. They were bound to be around somewhere.

    I really don't understand the blowing up the suits thing, or the choice to completely nerf the Mandarin. He was a pretty cool villain. It would be cool to see a movie verse take on MODOK.

  • Daniel | May 7, 2013 5:59 PM

    Not to point out the obvious, but Tony Stark isn't Superman. Of course he's going to handle things in a different way - that's one of the amusing things about his character.

  • MT | May 7, 2013 1:12 PM

    Thank you, Cirk. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was letdown at the end of the sky rescue? There was nothing heroic about Stark saving humans via remote control. Superman wouldn't send out a clone of himself to save people, would he?

  • Jeremy | May 6, 2013 4:04 PM

    Tony Stark is much more interesting out of the suit.

  • Washington | May 6, 2013 3:34 PMReply

    I've always wondered what Thor's existence does for religion in the Marvel Universe. Huge increase in Odin worship? Nordic marriages?

  • A | May 6, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    Wasn't the unnamed henchman who immediately surrenders Justin Theroux in a wig?

  • Tom | May 6, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    I think Killian does refer to the events of the Avengers. He mentions something about a guy with a hammer dropping from the sky which is why Killian wanted the Mandarin to be so theatrical.

  • Tanner JK | May 6, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    Having happy's wardrobe mime Vincent's in Pulp Fiction was a touch that I found hilarious.

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