Iron Man 3 (d. Shane Black USA 2013)

Iron Man 3 (d. Shane Black USA/China 2013)

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So, what makes a superhero? And what makes a superhero film? Additionally, what would make a sequel to a superhero film? Particularly, an end to a trilogy? The expectations are high. We are in the age of superheroes. Individuals who fight criminals and perpetuate the idea, that you are capable of anything. Now, Iron Man is already a successful franchise. He needs no introductions. Iron Man (d. Jon Favreau USA 2008) did particularly well and the semi-sequel The Avengers (d. Joss Whedon  USA 2012), did even better. Naturally the success would lead somewhere. These expectations are naturally high, and the filmmakers would be cautious to get it right. One would hope. I hope to talk about the film themes and successes, in a way that gives away no spoilers. But I do hope to address the film, in such a way, as to give an analysis of its successes – if any! So let’s start with a question…


What does it mean to be a superhero/Iron Man?


There is something rather political about superheroes. This, comes within the notion that a superhero is an individual that can fend off a group – and usually for America! This is an argument in itself, that has a large political background. But, forgive me, I do wish to talk about the film as a whole and not just this theme. There is something in Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) camaraderie that says he is one man defending America. I mean this beyond his location. In Iron Man, his raison d’etre was largely involved with a significant group of the day. Look at Iron Man’s ally, Iron Patriot/War Machine (Don Cheadle), is it not obvious? There is a lot of issues with this type of depiction but the film isn’t unaware of this. And this awareness actually gives the film a significant edge. The character of the patriot stands in for what Iron Man originally was. However, Iron Man himself becomes the skepticism involved with such a depiction so sickeningly overused today. The Iron Patriot, quite literally, is a tool. Whereas Iron Man is an individual who can think and fight for himself and for his own personal battles. (In fact it is in fighting for himself that the film gains most of its impact). The theme of blind patriotism versus individualism is strong within the film, if not completely original. (It is interesting how this themes plays off against a political background one would hope is long since dead).


As a sequel, aren’t we dragging the franchise out a bit too far? Iron Man 3, conforms to many thematic aspects already explored by Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (d. Jon Favreau USA 2010). This film is for action and visual CGI sequences. The film holds back, like the others do, on its action sequences – leaving some scenes feeling rather bare. However, the films are involved with the central character of Iron Man. A self absorbed showman. It is interesting how his character breaks with the common convention set out by Batman and Spider-man; that no one should know the identity of our superhero. In fact the film plays with this idea for humour. Iron Man our superhero but antihero, offers something quite interesting. A turn on heroism and a turn on ‘superheroism’.


The film as a narrative whole, I felt, was rather predictable, but I know many that found pleasurable surprises in the film. Characters and plot twists appear to offer a lot of entertainment. However, I left the film feeling as if the visuals set up a climax that was left unseen to. I felt that sequences built to an end that didn’t deliver. or at least fell short of their build up. However, there were wonderful performances by Robert Downey Jr. and the scientist intent on revenge (anyone else feel like this is a familiar stock character in superhero films?), Guy Pearce (As Aldrich Killian). But the female characters are rather secondary, rather the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I feel this film is enigmatically successful. One could also say ambiguously lacking. Maybe, it’s better to ask whether you like the concept? As I am sure that the film replicates its own formula well. 


Further Reading

Iron Man 3 on

Marvel’s Iron Man

Iron Man 3 Interview

Iron Man 3 and Female Characters

Shane Black on the Mandarin

Robert Downey Jr. Fansite

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