Opening dialogue sets the stage: this movie is about Tony Stark, told from his perspective. The story begins on New Years Eve 1999 with Tony hitting on a woman, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), whom Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is trying to recruit to work in a think tank.
Killian has bad hair, bad teeth and a skin condition. Tony is repulsed by Killian, clearly wanting a quarantine zone between himself and this less-than-gorgeous human being. Tony is so shallow he makes the kiddies’ wading pool look like an Olympic diving venue.
Tony blows Killian off by sending him up to the cold, windy rooftop to wait. Although Killian’s focus was Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), Killian contemplated suicide while he waited in vain. On the rooftop. For the billionaire playboy. Who had hoodwinked him. [sigh]
Instead of suicide, Killian developed a devious plan…
Fast forward to the present. Killian is back with a nice haircut, good clothes and his skin condition is cured. Apparently he’d hit on Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) repeatedly in college; she, too, was shallow in her reasons for blowing him off. Pepper is entranced by these superficial changes, overtly sexually attracted to Killian as he demonstrates his ground-breaking technology.
Pepper rejects Killian’s application for funding because his project has potential for weaponisation. We’ll just ignore the potential for weaponisation for EVERY OTHER PROJECT at Stark Industries, including Tony’s hobby projects.
Speaking of which, Tony’s new prototype iron man suit has flight capabilities for individual pieces, which fly through the air to assemble on his body. Not that this foreshadows anything. And the humour is just a one-off. They wouldn’t repeatedly use the same joke throughout the movie. [snark]
Pepper arrives home, discovering a gigantic, stuffed rabbit outside: Tony’s Christmas present to Pepper. Initially a source of humour, it wore thin as the formerly debonair Tony desperately wanted Pepper’s appreciation for this hideous gift: he wasn’t teasing or using misdirection to conceal a thoughtful gift.
A bombing injures Happy (Jon Favreau), Tony’s long-time friend and former body guard. The bomber was a minion of the Mandarin, a white guy pretending to be Chinese while criticising the lack of authenticity of fortune cookies. The Mandarin published Al-Qaeda-style film clips that magically interrupted national broadcasts (there was no mention of an elite hacking squad).
After Happy was injured, the media circus surrounded Tony demanding a response. Tony apparently lost his temper, revealing his home address as if it was a big secret. Apparently no-one ever noticed Tony’s fleet of uber-expensive cars coming and going from that ostentatious mansion overhanging the cliff.
The terrorists arrive in a fleet of helicopters to blow Tony’s house up. Now they know his address an’ all.
Tony’s house is so 1337 (leet: elite) it takes LOTS OF MISSILES to blow it up.
Fast forward a few minutes, past a few more holes.
Iron man is now underwater, his suit filling up with water.
‘Wait,’ you say. ‘I thought he had air in outer space? Why isn’t the suit air tight for underwater?’
‘Because,’ I reply, ‘HE DOESN’T GO TO OUTER SPACE IN THIS MOVIE.’
Trapped under the wreckage of his demolished house, suit filling up with water, unable to flee, Tony’s suit’s rocket capabilities can’t lift him free.
Jarvis, the AI bulter-computer-dude, tells Tony to hold his breath.
The hand from the suit disconnects, flies off Tony’s hand, turns around, grabs his hand and PULLS HIM OUT FROM THE WRECKAGE.
I’ll stop ranting about plot holes except to mention the kid. Can anyone say ‘Star Wars Episode 1 disaster’ with me? It’s a worn-out trope meant as a cute play for the family audience [sigh]. This trope went over-the-top until I wanted it to STOP PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP.
Screenwriters working on Iron Man 3 seem to have heard of the Bechdel Test (a simple gender-bias test) but I’m not sure if they actually understand it’s formula and goals. I’m not sure Iron Man 3 passed the test because most if not all the time that Pepper and Maya were talking, it was about the men in their lives: Killian, Maya’s bosses and Tony Stark as Pepper’s life-partner, business-partner and boss.
Snow at Christmas time obviously calls for women in bikinis dancing around: is this really a thing in America? At Christmas time?
Stan Lee made a cameo appearance as is traditional in these movies; unfortunately he appeared as an elderly man slavering over the young women parading in bikinis, holding up a ‘10’ score card. Eew. Stan, really? You couldn’t have appeared in the pre-bombing crowd or as support staff for the president or the vice president? YOU COULDN’T HAVE APPEARED IN ANY OTHER ROLE?
Between the bikinis and Pepper wearing a sports bra and leggings after capture, Iron Man seemed intent on parading women as objects of men’s desire rather than as intelligent agents of change.
And, y’know, Maya – brilliant Maya who apparently developed ground-breaking bio-technology in primary school – can easily be replaced by Tony Stark in spite of his ignorance of the project five minutes earlier.
Pepper in an Iron Man costume really excited me then she acquired a super-power. I would have forgiven the creators EVERYTHING if they’d developed this further but a few casual sentences at the end of the movie reveal that Tony ‘fixed’ everything. So, no Pepper Iron Man nor Pepper Phoenix Girl.
If Iron Man 3’s representations of gender were bad, the maligning of persons with disabilities was worse. I already mentioned Killian’s appearance but that was only the beginning.
The bombers are a group of people recruited after acquiring disabilities, mostly from the armed forces after losing limbs in the Middle East. They are called ‘cripples and outcasts’ before being told they have made ‘the right choice’ – a choice that regrows their missing limbs. The cost? They’re American human bombs who murder people on American soil. Because, y’know, that’s a price worth paying to become a ‘whole person’ again.
Even worse, a highly-placed traitor – whose name and position will remain nameless so as to avoid worse spoilers – was motivated by his daughter missing part of her leg. She was pretty and happy in the scene shown, but HEY, MISSING LEG. Not dying, nothing catastrophic but MISSING LEG, PEOPLE. So, in spite of the money at the traitor’s disposal that could have ensured this girl lived a long and happy life with the best prosthetics money could buy – including, perhaps, an IRON MAN LEG – the traitor was party to murder so the bad guys would regrow his daughter’s leg.
The conflicted parental traitor-to-save-my-kid trope was explored so much more effectively, in Star Trek Into Darkness where the parent faced the certain death of his child if he didn’t follow terrorist’s instructions. In that case, the parent became a human bomb and died, poignantly, to save his child’s life. In contrast, Iron Man 3 presented a shallow, selfish man whose vanity precluded him from significant contribution to the fictional world or this movie.
Iron Man 3 is a ‘splodey movie with LOTS of special effects and humour periodically splashed throughout. Attempts to develop character were superficial, undermining the nature of comic-book movies while failing to provide a hero’s journey of any substance. Both sexist and anti-disability, I felt Iron Man creators intentionally excluded me from their target audience. Developments in this movie undermine previous Iron Man movie canon and undermine character development within this movie: although number 3 seems intended to develop Tony’s character, he ends up in the same place as does Pepper Potts in spite of changes within this story. Except they’ve moved house for the next movie.