Before I dive into this completely factual defense, I will make a few things clear.
First: Tony Stark is my favorite Marvel character. The “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” was nowhere in my Rolodex of heroes until Robert Downey, Jr. took the role. After that, I delved into Iron Man comic books and the rest was history. Everything about the character appeals to me, flaws and all. The weapons manufacturer who has a change of heart, driven to achieve peace, no matter what the cost.
Second: my favorite MCU film is not an Iron Man film. While I love the character, his origin story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is number 2 on my list. The top prize goes to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, that discussion is for a different day. We’re here to talk about Stark’s third chapter in the MCU.
So, sit back, swallow your pride, and accept the fact that your harsh judgment is unwarranted. Let this revealed truth set you free and help you acknowledge the undeniable evidence that Iron Man 3 is a good movie, and undeserving of hate. With its recent trending on Twitter, it’s clear that this is a controversial entry in the MCU. However, I think it’s a pretty great film.
Now, take into consideration that Iron Man 3 was the first film released after 2012’s blockbuster smash The Avengers. So right off the bat, Stark’s third adventure has an insanely high bar set against it. Being the first solo film released in the shadows of the epic superhero team up is no easy task. Yet, writer/director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) took a perfect approach: get personal.
The world knows Tony Stark as the overly-confident smart-ass who can run circles around any scientist who dares to test his genius. But what if something got to him? What if Tony, a human man who has had his eyes opened to what exists beyond his universe, is suffering from an inner pain? This is where Iron Man 3 takes the MCU in a new direction. It gives us a flawed character suffering from PTSD. Stark battles debilitating anxiety attacks fueled by his experience in the finale of The Avengers.
It’s this anxiety that drives him to ramp up production on more suits. Stark learned in the “Battle of New York” that the enemies he and his new allies will face are not just of this planet, and that scary truth weighs on him. While Tony eventually gets a hold of his anxiety and PTSD, that drive to create a “suit of armor around the entire world” stays with him throughout the MCU up until his face off with the Mad Titan.
Here lies the importance of this film. Iron Man 3 sets the tone for the type of man Tony becomes, and how he relates to his fellow Avengers. Because of the events in Iron Man 3, Tony learns that even without his tech and tools, he is still the problem-solving genius. He wears the suit; it doesn’t wear him. That’s why he tells Peter Parker that “if you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” It’s why he creates an AI in Avengers: Age Of Ultron and why he sides with the accords in Captain America: Civil War. Tony’s driven to live out his purpose: protecting the earth using his genius.
Then, Thanos entered the universe, validating his fears and decisions dating back to 2013.
Now, if you’re angered by the portrayal of The Mandarin in this film, let it go. Move past the Mandarin portrayal. Ben Kingsley’s drunken actor doesn’t erase chances of the character appearing in the future. Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian shouting out “I am The Mandarin!” is an egotistical rant, not a statement of fact. The focus is Tony conquering his inner demons, deepest fears, and uncertain future. It’s about a humbled Tony Stark maturing from ego-filled billionaire to devoted protector. You may not agree with all of his tactics, but you can’t deny his dedication to his self-imposed purpose.
In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark finally became the sacrificial hero. While Iron Man and Iron Man 2 gave him the tools to redeem himself from his past, it is Iron Man 3 that places him on his ultimate path. The journey he was destined to take. “And part of the journey is the end.”
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