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Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 postera review by Nalini Haynes

Iron Man 3 follows on from The Avengers with billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) suffering panic attacks, stressed about the aliens in New York.

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 (), 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?’


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.

Gender issues

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.

[Spoilers sweetie]

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.

Sad now.

Disability agenda

[Spoilers continue]

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.

[Spoilers end]


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.

Three stars.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


  1. OK so my own personal review of Iron Man 3 and a counterpoint to the Lord of Dark Matter Nalini.

    It has been a few months now since I have seen Iron Man 3 so I am relying on memory so I might be fuzzy on some exact points but I wanted to provide a review after reading the above.

    A bit of history. I have been reading comics since 1984. I did not read the classic Iron Man issues I only read about the famous stories but I have read enough Marvel comics over the years to be familiar with the character that existed pre civil war in the marvel universe.

    I have read a couple of Iron Man stories and a few marvel team up issues and things like Secret Wars and some what if issues and a few issues of Avengers enough to know how the character sounds however I am not invested in the character like others. I have not read Extremis (the comic that the story is based on however from seeing the film and understanding the plot of the storyline from the comics I know enough to get a feeling that I don’t need to read it to appreciate the film.

    Now I came into Iron Man 3 with high expectations and a real taste for the world and characters. I was interested in seeing how “Phase 2” of the marvel cinematic universe evolves. (All the movies between Avengers and Avengers 2)

    After seeing the film I found it both enjoyable and also disappointing. I believe that among Geeks I am a rarity. I did not watch Iron Man 2 and come away disappointed or feel it was an ordinary film. I loved the movie and was genuinely excited for the entire Avengers through line that started at the end of Iron Man and delivered with Avengers. Iron Man 2 was a great film because it served the over story that marvel was trying to tell (end of Iron Man 2 Review),

    So after the amazing experience of Avengers I was ready to spend another 2+ Hours in this world, and this is why I was disappointed with Iron Man 3. It did not feel like a part of the larger Marvel universe. It felt cut off and if anything by the end of the movie it felt like the end of the Iron Man films. If you watch this movie and I told you that there would be no more Iron Man in the Marvel movies you would feel like you had seen Iron Man’s exit from the Marvel cinematic universe.

    Now I’m going to discuss a rumour so please understand that I mention this with no hard facts beside that I saw it on the internet so it must be true. The end of the movie has a fun tag line however it is not what I would call an exciting stinger to get me pumped for Thor 2 or any of the other “Phase 2” films. It was cute and funny and a nice cameo, however the original stinger was apparently going to be Tony getting a distress signal from space and would lead into Guardians of the Galaxy film. That simple beat would have given me what I feel Iron Man 3 was missing a link to the wider Marvel Universe. Now if AIM is developed over the course of the Phase 2 films then I will stand corrected but I from that movie experience it didn’t hint at a larger story.

    The relationship between Tony and the Kid is something that I have to disagree with the Dark Lord. I felt that as a character piece that it worked well. I feel that Robert Downey JR is playing the biggest kid in the room. Someone who gives in to his 12 year old boy way more than he should and because of that the kid was a great example of how Tony has matured since we first meet him at the start of Iron Man 1.

    The child is the closest thing Tony has had in the movies to an emotional peer. The other characters around him are all much more grounded than Tony and certainly more responsible.

    Pepper gets a great role in this movie I felt that there was a lot for Gwenyth to do and her character shows a real story in this movie and gets to be Rescue for a few moments (The character Pepper Potts is in the comics when she has her own Iron Man suit).

    In addressing the disability issue, I think when you have a comic book movie you have to allow for the grotesque and the caricature. I mean we are talking about super soldiers and Norse gods here. Guy Peirce is playing the classic villains journey. A man who is an outsider who changes himself to be the ideal that he sees. Yes Tony is shallow with him but that is not in a heroic moment. The things that he does in 1999 are shown to be what they are character faults and an illustration of his reckless emotional attitude and callous personal nature.

    Also the poor judgement that the character shows because of his daughter is an illustration of his mental state not his daughters. She is shown happy and positive and is not being seen as a wretched character because of her disability. It is her father who is taking the actions not his daughter so I cant agree with that conclusion.

    With the military vets I think that you can also see them as victims they are people who are being manipulated they are told they made the right choice but it is shown the consequences of that action.

    With the major villain reveal, let me say I enjoyed it but do think that they wasted a great character who could have been soo much more.

    The one thing that really bugged me after the movie was the climax. This is something that should not have appeared in the trailers. This was THE MOMENT of impact and should have built to a climax however because I had seen the trailers a part of my mind kept waiting for it to happen and when a bread crumb was dropped it was easy for me to see where it was going before it was revealed. I mean I understand why they choose to show that action however I just feel it would have been better to hold that back so that it could be a moment in the film.

    So my review I would give it a C+ with potential to be a B+ if we had the climax kept out of the trailer

    • Thanks for taking the time to make such a detailed comment!

      What I’m getting from this is that we disagree on the details and yet we agree on the rating for the movie. Odd but interesting.

      More debate is welcome.


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