Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3: Same Villain, But Different Hero (Spoilers Ahoy)

Forget Paris! This is the real fashion statement

It looks like Iron Man 3 will be the best second sequel since maybe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King or Return of the Jedi. In some ways, this new chapter used the same bad guy as the other two, only with a twist. However, it forced Tony Stark to fight without his "iron cocoon", and stop being "a man in a can". That's why it earned more than 650 million bucks worldwide in a little over a week, and how Leonardo DiCaprio is going to get smoked by another playboy who, unlike Gatsby, got his girl. It also doesn't help that F. Scott Fitzgerald has been turned into a  Pitbull/Busby Berkeley video mashup in 3-D, but let's get to the point...

In the first two IM flicks, Tony was battling an evil businessman. In the third, same story: Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, first arrives in a movie as Tony and his then-girlfriend-of-the-moment as they prepare for the new year of 2000. Tony promises to meet with Killian, but doesn't. We also hear about Extremis, a serum that can regenerate the body. It's impressive, unless you're Claire Bennett. We also see the stuff is very unstable. In fact, it's responsible for half the explosions in the movie. We see Killian again, not so nerdy this time, trying to recruit Pepper Potts into his fold. We soon find out he's using Extremis for his evil plans...and even recruited Maya, played by Rebecca Hall, who was the girl Tony was with that New Year's Eve. Lesson: never stiff anyone, especially on New Year's Eve.

What does make Killian different is how he's connected to the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley. This is the big spoiler that has upset some Marvel fans. Turn away if you haven't see this....

OK.. it turns out the Mandarin is a front. It's like finding out Osama Bin Laden was hired by Blackwater and Rupert Murdoch to keep us scared and agree to anything. Some are upset because we don't see the Mandarin of Marvel lore: a Chinese warlord, supposedly the descendant to Genghis Khan, with special rings that would do as much damage as super-soldiers loaded with Extremis. Why don't we have that in this movie?

Well, the movie is funded by Chinese investors. They wouldn't like a modern Fu Manchu, or a new Mandarin in a business suit, and is an intelligent and very dangerous man.
Making him a puppet of Aldrich, though, is a really nice swerve. That's why the real Big Bad is way ahead of the other two.

The other wise move is forcing Tony Stark to fight with the basics, usually a gun, or homemade gizmos that deal with bad guys. If he wasn't Iron Man, he'd be very popular at SHIELD. When his suit goes haywire and he winds up in Tennessee, where one of the Extremis soldiers blew up, he has to use his wits to figure out what happened. Come to think of it, that's how he built his first suit in an Afghan cave. A few people moaned over his scenes with Ty Simpkins as Harley, but they were pretty good. The kid already knew a lot, and is more helpful that a few thousand of those kids in Gamera/Prince of Space movies.

It was also a great idea of have Tony suffer major after-effects from the climax of The Avengers, where Iron Man had to divert a nuclear bomb through a wormhole to take care of the Chitauri. Who wouldn't suffer PTSD after that? There was a suggestion to recreate the "Demon In a Bottle" story, and maybe they switched it with the "panic attacks". That's my guess, mainly because he refused a beer from one of the friendlier bad guys.

As for Pepper, what happened to her in the last 30 minutes was very surprising. Yes, she does wear the suit at one point, but that was to protect someone else. She doesn't have one made for her, although they should work on that.

Iron Man 3 is the start to the road to Avengers 2 in 2015. If Joss Whedon's hint of "your own worst enemy" is part of the final story, maybe that means Tony slips again. How that may also apply to Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow may be hinted over the next year or so. His influence is felt in the "Phase 2" period of Marvel movies, which is why he got "special thanks" in the credits. It may also explain the post-credits scene at the end.
For now, let's enjoy the trip, as it's starting very well. Your turn, Thor.

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