Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous
will be condemned.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is suited up again and ready to take on the bad guys in the third of the Iron Man series, with a new director Shane Black and his co-screenwriter Drew Pearce. The film begins with a pre lude in which Tony is at at a posh 1999 New Year’s Eve celebration in Bern, Switzerland, when a scruffy young Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) tries to interest him in a very advanced gadget, but, wanting to party with scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), blows him off by telling him he will meet him later on the roof. Not a good move, for 13 years later Adrian has created Extremis, a process for changing the DNA of humans so that they become superhumanly strong and their bodies heat up, able to spew forth fire like a mythical dragon. Unfortunately they sometimes explode with the heat, but for Aldrich that’s a small price for progress.
Still smarting from that blow off, Aldrich becomes Tony’s lethal enemy, as does a seemingly Middle Eastern jihadist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). The latter stages a bombing at L.A.’s Chinese theater where Tony’s worshipful bodyguard Happy (Favreau) is seriously injured. The Mandarin is able to comandeer the world’s media outlets so that he can threaten the U.S. President (William Sadler). To show he is serious he executes on camera the CEO of an oil company. Tony is so outraged by the Mandarin that he issues an on-camera challenge to the terrorist, even giving his home address. He should have remembered pres. Bush’s famous “Come on” speech, because the result is equally disastrous—three heavily armed helicopters attack his palitial cliffside home, demolishing it and almost killing his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Tony himself is thrown into the sea and presumed dead beneath the wreckage of home and cliff. However, he has been able to call his Iron Man suit together—an ingenius process that saves his life numerous times throughout the movie—and flies in it to Tennessee where a blast similar to that at the Chinese Teater had occurred. Here Tony picks up an unwanted partner in the person of the boy Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), who proves more valuable than Tony had surmised. With his mother gone most of the time, and abandoned years earlier by his father, the kid has a sad story to tell—and you will love Tony’s zinger of a response worthy of W.C. Fields.
The last part of the film is filled with comic book action, as well as the barbed humor which Robert Downey is so good delivering. Also he is acquiring a bit of wisdon to counter his arrogance. As soon as he has landed in the Midwest he telephones Pepper and says, “I have a lot of apologies to make… Nothing’s been the same since New York. (See The Avengers to understand this. ed.) You experience things, and then they’re over. I can’t sleep, and when I do I have nightmares. Honestly, there’s a hundred people who want to kill me. I hope I can protect the one thing I can’t live without. That’s you.” It’s good to see this man more at home tinkering with exotic machines than with humans make what amounts to a commitment to her.
The heroics and action are beyond belief, so this film is definitely escapist, but this is not a bad thing. Don Cheadle’s Colonel James Rhodes fights alongside his friend in his own Iron Man suit, both of them showing that creativity and courage are just as important in saving the world as is the great mutant powers of the other X-Men members. The plot takes a delightful twist in regards to the nature of the Mutant—I’m sure that the actor playing him had as much fun as he did when portraying a character the polar opposte, Gandhi. Other than the theme of good versus evil the film offers little in the way of life lessons (especially with its acceptance that violnce is okay in the struggle), but is a lot of escapist fun for adults and children old enough to discern between fantasy and reality. And oh yes, do sit and chat through the 10 minutes of credits, as the last scene with Tony is worth the wait—he is unloading to a shrink whose identity you will enjoy!
1. What do you think of the Marvel Comics’ franchise? (Did you spot Stan Lee, who enjoys a short cameo in films based on his characters? Yes, he was the beauty pageant judge holding the “10” placard.)
2. How are such comics the Grimms’ Fairytales for our time? What do they offer the reader? How is this important to ordinary people in a mass society seemingly with no ability to fight against massive powers?
3. Why do you think Tony Stark is unable to sleep or rest at the beginning of the film? What does he seem to believe in, as evidenced by what he does with his time and talents? Do you think he is in danger of taking Pepper Potts for granted?
4. Tony had at one time been consumed by amassing wealth and power? How has he changed through the course of the three films (as well as in Avengers)? How does his call to Pepper after the destruction of his home show one aspect of his change?
5. Why do you think he is so brusque with the boy Harley? No warm and fuzzy scenes of them bonding, is there? And yet what does he do for the boy at the end?
6. How did the lethal bombing scene go down with you in the light of the Boston bombings?
7. The film is full of expensive CGI effects, as well as human stunts, so do you think it is empty of humanity? How is this human touch maintained (if you think it is)?