Countdown to Age of Ultron: Iron Man 3 Revisited

Dave and I took a bit of a break to watch Daredevil (Dave finished it, I am less than halfway through). But now we are back to watch the final four movies leading up to Age of Ultron! Just in time for spring, 2013, it's the Iron Man Christmas movie!

 Buds.

Buds.

RG: I found it sort of hard to write about Iron Man 3 even though it is fantastic and I love it. I think mostly because it's the third damn Iron Man movie and there are only so many ways I can say Robert Downey Jr is awesome and I love this character.

Quick question, Dave: when you hear the words 'Iron Man' do you think of that kid who came into Strange Adventures years ago and sang "I am Iron Man, killing all the fat kids with my hands" to the tune of Black Sabbath's “Iron Man”? Because I sure do.

DH: I think of that kid and his song often, and fondly. And I think it was “Punchin’ out fat kids with my hands”, which is even funnier somehow.

RG: Either way, it was one of the highlights of my life.

Where I had been suffering from Iron Man fatigue going into The Avengers, I went into this movie full of excitement to see a new Tony Stark story. The Avengers had reignited my love of the character, and I knew within minutes of watching Iron Man 3 that this movie was going to be great. I think the moment was probably when “Blue” by Eiffel 65 played over the flashback scene. That got a huge laugh out of me. Perfect choice to bring us back to 1999/2000.

 Tony is kind of rocking a Mia Wallace look too.

Tony is kind of rocking a Mia Wallace look too.

DH: I’m also a big fan of Happy Hogan dressed like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. And a big fan of Rebecca Hall in general. One of the only false notes in this movie, for me anyway, is our introduction to Aldrich Killian as a nerdy inventor who idolizes Tony and, when rebuffed, turns to supervillainy. It’s a bit too much like the Riddler in Batman Forever (or, to use a later example, Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

RG: Just wanna say, though, Guy Pearce was awesome in this movie. Once he’s full villain he is extremely evil. And I love how Miami Vice he looks. Not only because he’s in Miami, but because it kind of fits with what a total nerd who gets rich might think he should dress like.

 "I've been waiting for this moment for all my life. Oh lord."

"I've been waiting for this moment for all my life. Oh lord."

DH: There were three years between this movie and Iron Man 2, and that’s worth noting because there were only two years between the first and second film. I think based on how Iron Man 2 turned out, it’s safe to say that three years is the absolute minimum amount of time needed to turn around another film in a series. Or at least, to make sure it’s a good one. Although I just realized Captain America: Civil War is coming out only 2 years after Winter Soldier--fingers crossed that Marvel has got this sequel game figured out by now. They certainly seem to have it down.

After The Avengers, I remember thinking, “This is as good as it’s gonna get. They can’t possibly maintain this momentum, we’ve seen the peak, it’s all downhill from here.” I was happy to be proven wrong. I’ve enjoyed every movie Marvel has cranked out since.

RG: Yes! I actually think it's a toss-up if I like this movie more or less than The Avengers. I really,  really love it. And Winter Soldier is my favourite of the bunch! Although, I am a little concerned about this upcoming Civil War movie. It seems rushed. I dunno.

The phrase “You Know Who I Am” gets repeated a lot throughout this movie, which is fun because there are so many bait-and-switch moments that we don’t really know who anyone is. There are lots of twists and reveals with characters throughout the movie, and there are so many Iron Man suits that the audience, and the characters, often don’t know who, if anyone, is inside them.

DH: This is a movie that genuinely surprised me a number of times, which is not always something that happens in these big tentpole genre movies. I mean, I love them and all, but you can usually figure them out pretty quickly if you’ve seen enough of them.

 Totally sane.

Totally sane.

RG: Following the flashback, we see a slightly crazed Tony building robot suit after robot suit. We get to see his robot pal, Dummy, again, much to my delight. Dummy is wearing a dunce cap, because Tony punishes his robots and I love that so much.

So, it's quickly established that Tony is living an isolated, pretty unhealthy life these days with no sleep and talking mostly to robots and to Jarvis. And then we learn why, and that's when I really fell in love with this movie. 

The whole post-traumatic stress disorder plot really impressed me. It just adds a really nice layer to this epic series of films. Aliens can't just show up and destroy New York City without lasting repercussions. At the end of The Avengers we saw Tony Stark, a relatively new superhero, fly a nuclear bomb through a portal to another galaxy. It was expected to be a suicide mission for him. He survived, but he can't just pretend that didn't happen. I love it.

 That food they are eating looks really good. When he bolts out of the restaurant I was like "But the food!"

That food they are eating looks really good. When he bolts out of the restaurant I was like "But the food!"

DH: Absolutely. Cap is a soldier, Thor is a warrior god, Black Widow is a superspy, but until fairly recently, Tony was just an inventor and a rich jerk. So to go from that to fighting off an alien army with the fate of the world at stake...there would have to be some fallout.

RG: Tony being on the verge of a nervous breakdown also gives us a great reason for him to build many, many new suits. They are all fun to see. I love the scene where Pepper comes home to what she believes is Tony lounging on the couch in a new suit, but turns out to be a remote controlled suit.

 Possibly the funniest image in film history.  

Possibly the funniest image in film history.  

I think this movie does so much work developing Tony Stark. This is the fourth movie that he has played a major role in, but I think this one goes way deeper than the other three combined. He's much more human, but also much more heroic.

 We have a new winner for funniest image in film history.  

We have a new winner for funniest image in film history.  

What’s important to me in honoring Favreau and what he’s contributed with the first movies, which I went back and watched again and again, is they’re part-thriller, and there’s also a lot of romantic comedy. The extent to which rom-com figures in the early Iron Man movies is substantial. The relationship stuff — what some people might unkindly call the soap opera stuff — is just as important in some ways as the technology and that was amazing to me. Make them care about the people, make it funny, and then have the mythic stuff that’s sort of dark and powerful and portentous and then take the curse off that, take the piss out of the myth if you can. It’s just juggling.
— Shane Black, Moviefone, 2013

RG: I remember feeling kind of uneasy in the theatre during the first Mandarin TV spot. It just seemed too real to be enjoyable in the context of a silly blockbuster. But, of course, it's one of several things in this movie that isn't what it seems.

DH: Watching it this time, in the context of things like ISIS, those videos were a lot more troubling to me now than they were when the movie was released. But as you say, they’re not what they seem, and I feel like the ISIS videos didn’t really ramp up until after this movie. If Iron Man 3 came out now, it would come across as pretty insensitive. But as it is, it’s just a case of incredibly unfortunate timing.

I wanted a voice that would disconcert a Western audience. I wanted a voice that would sound far more homegrown and familiar — a familiarity like a teacher’s voice or a preacher’s voice. The rhythms and tones of an earnest, almost benign, teacher — trying to educate people for their own good. Therefore, that’s the timbre that I used for him. I think it would be more disconcerting and threatening to hear almost a patriarchal voice rather than a screaming, ‘villainous’ voice.
— Ben Kingsley, The Huffington Post, 2013
 My favourite Primitive Radio Gods song.

My favourite Primitive Radio Gods song.

RG: Putting Tony in this small town in Tennessee for a decent chunk of the movie is a pretty neat move. For one thing, it eliminates the mystery of why the Avengers aren't helping Tony out. For another, it places Tony outside his comfort zone. And for another THAT KID!!!

 Let's just go ahead and make this kid Rick Jones.

Let's just go ahead and make this kid Rick Jones.

Tony's interaction with the kid in Tennessee is incredible. I laughed so hard when the kid told Tony his dad went to go to the store six years ago and never came back and Tony says "Which happens, dads leave. No need to be a pussy about it." Every conversation they have is so great. "Do you know what this crater reminds me of?" "I don't care."

DH: The scenes with the kid should have been terrible, as many scenes with a wisecracking kid can be, but they are really funny. Props to Ty Simpkins’ performance, but also to Drew Pearce and Shane Black’s script.

Speaking of which, Shane Black was the perfect choice to direct this film. I love that he helped RDJ along the comeback trail by having him star in his last movie, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and it seems like RDJ returned the favour by bringing him on board to direct this movie. I love Black’s 1980s output, like Lethal Weapon and his work on the screenplay for The Monster Squad, and I love how much this movie fits in with his best-known work. It’s kind of a buddy movie (Tony and the kid, Tony and Rhodey, etc), it’s set at Christmas, and like Lethal Weapon, the plot hinges on emotionally-damaged veterans on both sides of the fight.

RG: I think Iron Man 3 might be my favourite Christmas movie now. Shane Black is the master of writing Christmas action flicks, including one of my favourites, The Long Kiss Goodnight.

 Festive! 

Festive! 

DH: He also adapts to the style that has been already set down in these movies quite well, while adding his own flourishes. Like having the real-life TV talking heads weigh in on Tony’s latest predicament. Which reminds me, is this Joan Rivers’ last big-screen appearance?

RG: Yes it is! I got real sad when she showed up on screen. Her bit was funny, too!

Adam Pally is delightful in his brief appearance as a Tony Stark superfan. I would have loved to have seen someone like that play Hawkeye.

 The glasses and facial hair!!! 

The glasses and facial hair!!! 

DH: He has a line about either his Tony-style hair/goatee combo, or his Tony tattoo, where he says “I had them style it after a doll I made”, that killed me. This scene has a fun companion in Winter Soldier, with D.C. Pierson in the Apple store. I love these little moments of regular folks interacting with superheroes.

RG:  Let's give it up for Ben Kingsley, who is amazing in both roles that he plays in this movie. That twist is so unexpected and so funny.

 Ben Kingsley giving the performance of his career.  

Ben Kingsley giving the performance of his career.  

DH: If I were a bigger fan of the Iron Man comics, I would probably be a bit disappointed that we didn’t get an actual Mandarin in this movie. But I think the twist here is so well executed and funny that it’s hard to be upset about it. One of my favourite gags in this movie is when Tony makes Mandarin/Slattery’s girlfriends lock themselves in the bathroom after Slattery has just befouled it. If you listen, you can hear the girls say “Ew!” when they are locked in there.

 Just the best.

Just the best.

RG: Yes, that's amazing. His performance as that loser actor is so funny. Especially after his legitimately terrifying performance for the first half of the movie. I think maybe it was smart to avoid putting The Mandarin for real in this movie just because that character is a little problematic. And by that I mean "racist." This was a clever way to play it.

Don Cheadle is great in this movie and I am really looking forward to seeing him in Age of Ultron.

 Never thought I'd be on a boat...

Never thought I'd be on a boat...

DH: For sure. “Little knock and talk, makin’ friends in Pakistan…” more great dialogue. And as I said earlier, I love that the third act is like a buddy cop movie with Rhodey and Tony. It occurred to me that Rhodey getting his own suit of armour might be the only major consequence from Iron Man 2, and therefore the only reason to watch it. And even then, I wouldn’t recommend it.

RG: Yeah, well, this movie shows that there are better uses for the suit than to stop Tony from making a drunken fool of himself at his birthday party.

There is a laugh a minute in this movie. The "honestly, I hate working here. They are so weird" henchman is so great.

 Best performance by a one-line actor appearing in a Marvel film.

Best performance by a one-line actor appearing in a Marvel film.

DH: I wrote that down too! One of my favourite lines as well. Another minor quibble--Tony is kinda bloodthirsty in this movie. Earlier on, he vows to kill the Mandarin, and in this scene, he talks repeatedly about which henchmen he’s going to kill first, then he does appear to kill (or at least, shoot) several of the bad guys. I think maybe Shane Black forgot it was a superhero movie and thought he was just making another action movie. Oh well. It’s all still fairly bloodless, at least.

RG: True, but Tony totally kills the hell out of everyone in the first movie too. He definitely has no problem killing people who attack him or his loved ones. And I guess the whole situation with Pepper being captured and tortured and possibly killed makes Tony a little murdery.

That Air Force One rescue scene is so great. Another great reveal at the end.

 Kind of surprised no one died of a heart attack.

Kind of surprised no one died of a heart attack.

DH: I was a little worried that they had shown us too much of that scene in the trailers, but it is still a thrilling set piece. It nails the thing I love so much about the best superhero stories--the hero being presented with an impossible challenge where it seems inevitable that they can’t save everybody, but they somehow find a way to do it. I am way more interested in seeing that than I am in seeing how they fail, and a bunch of people die, and they have to deal with the consequences. That’s how real life works, sadly, and I don’t necessarily want my superhero stories to reflect real life. They’re supposed to provide an escape from it.

RG: Oh yeah. Absolutely. That mid-air rescue was so thrilling and was something that really only Iron Man could do, as far as the Avengers go. It not only required his suit, it required his genius and ingenuity, and also his charm because he had to get through to those people as they were plummeting to their deaths.

 "You've got me? Who's got you?!"

"You've got me? Who's got you?!"

DH: This movie has so much more action than Iron Man 2, and it’s all an improvement. And to get back to the dialogue one more time, it is a movie that is stuffed to bursting with great lines. I love the exchange between him and the Extremis-enhanced lady in the kitchen, where she says “Is that all you’ve got? A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner”? And he comes back with “Sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography.”

It’s weird that both this movie and The Winter Soldier feature the hero running around out of costume for the bulk of the running time. Normally that would stick out as a cost-saving measure, or an attempt to trick people into thinking they’re watching anything but a superhero movie, but Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are so well-defined by this point, and we have so much invested in them, that it doesn’t matter that they’re in civilian clothes for the entire middle act.

 Getting too old for this shit.

Getting too old for this shit.

RG: I was 100% fine with Steve Rogers not wearing a costume. Especially fine with him not wearing a mask. He could have been wearing less, even. I can't wait to write about that movie.

I'll say this, too: Tony Stark looked good in this movie. Not a lot of weird tinted glasses or flashy clothes. Plus his facial hair is a little more filled in due to being on the run for most of the film. For real I wish RDJ would stop with the tinted glasses in real life. He's so handsome! His eyes are his best feature! Stop with the weird glasses!

I really like Pepper’s role in this movie too. I like her being both exasperated with, and concerned about, Tony. I like her hanging out on the run with Rebecca Hall. I like her kicking Killian’s ass at the end, and then being kind of horrified about it. I am a fan of Paltrow as Pepper.

 Actually just a paparazzi photo of Paltrow.

Actually just a paparazzi photo of Paltrow.

It was important, especially to take the curse off the damsel in distress thing. I have a hankering for empowered females trashing stuff. Especially when that stuff includes this metal suit that’s been impinging on their relationship. Literally showing up in their bedroom at night and driving her to distraction. It’s in essence Tony’s lover. It’s become the other woman. This f—-ing Iron Man. So she, at the end, has a chance to exact some vengeance on it and reclaim her boyfriend.
— Shane Black, Moviefone, 2013
Gwyneth is... to me, the moment that we knew that this was going to be special six years ago was when Gwyneth walked into the Howard Hughes stages down in Playa Vista and we started rehearsing with her. That’s when we knew. The best.
— Robert Downey Jr., Empire, 2013

RG: This movie was supposed to be the last Iron Man movie, although now there are rumours that there will be an Iron Man 4. And why not? Robert Downey Jr makes like a hundred million dollars for each of these movies. May as well! But the ending of this movie was supposed to be a nice finish to the trilogy, and it was great. I will miss the glowing arc reactor on his chest, though. It looked super cool. I love the moment when he finds the little screwdriver in the rubble of his former home. And that he has his robot friends piled into a trailer behind his car.

I’m not stupid. I like to play ball. I love the company, I love the character, and the people I get to work with and then there’s just the business side of things. I’m not too picky about that either. Let’s see what happens. Chances are... I don’t know... I also take the audience very seriously. I feel bad when I see folks doing movies and the audience is like, ‘Don’t do that anymore.’
— Robert Downey Jr., Empire, 2013
 Off to build Ultron!

Off to build Ultron!

RG: The credits, as per usual, are rad, and provide a nice look back at all three movies. And, oh God, that scene at the end of the credits is MY FAVOURITE! Yet another fantastic reveal at the end of a movie that has so many. Why was the whole movie narrated by Tony Stark? Because he was telling the whole thing to his long-suffering pal Bruce Banner! For real, Tony, get a real psychiatrist. You definitely need one.

 Hey, just be glad you weren't around to listen to the plot of Iron Man 2, Banner.  

Hey, just be glad you weren't around to listen to the plot of Iron Man 2, Banner.  

I'll wrap this up by saying that I love Robert Downey Jr. and I am thrilled the he has signed on for Civil War. He just joined Instagram recently and I would recommend following him, especially during this Age of Ultron press tour. He is truly earning the all-the-money-in-the-world they are paying him.

Up next, we go back to Asgard for Thor 2! I can never remember the subtitle!