No, but you don’t understand why I liked Iron Man 3 so much.
In all the other Avengers movies, we see characters going through pain and trauma and heartache. We see Steve lose practically his whole world and still carry on. We watch Bruce struggle with trying to figure out just how the Hulk fits into his life and his psyche; it is implied that he deals with depression and tries to end his life. We hear Clint and Natasha and their angst about the “red in their ledgers”, the things they have done, and we watch as Thor essentially comes of age and deals with the pain of having his brother fall down deeper and deeper. We KNOW the pain and the issues and the upset are there.
But Iron Man 3 is the first time we actually get to witness—REALLY witness—the aftermath of heroics.
In the first part of the movie we see Tony Stark dealing with real, honest-to-god PTSD. He has panic attacks, he can’t sleep, he gets reckless and has a harder time taking care of himself, he obsessively spends hours working on suits so he can protect Pepper—even though in doing so he is unintentionally threatening their relationship. Rarely has such a thorough job been done in showing that all the flash-bang-let’s-save-the-world action would, in real life, have some serious psychological consequences.
Then, as the film progresses, we see him laid low. REALLY low—we see him get taken apart piece by piece. He loses his home, he loses contact with the people he cares about, he loses his suit—which means, in the context of the past few films, that he is in some ways dead. “He is Iron Man”, after all, isn’t he? The public sees him as one with the suit, and in a sense, so does he—a good deal of his self esteem, his sense of being able to defend people, is locked up in what he can do in the suit. And now he’s stranded in the middle of nowhere—he can’t fly, he can’t fight much, he’s still suffering from PTSD, he’s being actively hunted by the few people who don’t think he’s dead. All of his real ability is locked up in his brain, a place not everyone would think to look. We see him almost completely broken down.
And then we watch him build himself back up again, but with one major difference: he does it without the suit.
In most of the second half of the film, in almost all of his major victories, Tony is not in the suit. He breaks into Killian’s mansion essentially with odds and ends he’s cobbled together. He saves the passengers from Air Force One with a suit he’s remotely controlling. He wins the final battle with a whole bunch of suits that he is not in at all. Rhodes saves the president, and Pepper kills the villain. Not Tony. And at the end of the day he blows up all the suits and tosses his mini arc reactor into the ocean.
Iron Man 3 is brilliant and underrated precisely because it lets the hero be a real man—a man, not a man in a suit. A person who can still work wonders even when he’s at his very lowest, when he’s stranded and battling mental illness. Someone who can’t operate completely alone, who lets other people have some victories as well—heck, who needs his friends and teammates to win. And as he says at the end of the movie, while he may not always wear a suit, he will always be Iron Man.
And personally, I think that is an A-freaking-plus storyline to bring into this franchise.
THANK YOU AND BLESS THIS POST
I liked this part of IM3. I did not like the villain or his plot, and a lot of the stuff didn’t make sense, but I did love Tony’s character arc. And Pepper’s. And Rhodey.
As with Thor, I loved the characters more than the movie.
I actually really adore what they did with the Mandarin - because he’s a caricature, he’s everything Americans fear about terrorism, created by the corporate end of the military-industrial complex, and his entire character is a sham.
And what they did was literally the only way they could have handled that character and that plot that could work.
Because the Mandarin isn’t the villain - the Mandarin is a boogeyman, he’s a falsehood created and directed by the people who want America/ns to fear what they think Islam is. The villain is the guy propping that up, the guy selling a lie about “safety”, but doesn’t actually give half a damn about anything other than lining his own pocket and polishing the image of his own self-serving genius.
It is literally the only way they could have used the Mandarin and have had it work.
I got my degree in homeland security - they do not teach about the 3 billion Muslims who are the guy standing in front of you at the grocery store, or the girl in the Hello Kitty hijab. They don’t touch the 80-90-some-odd-percent of terrorism in the US being perpetuated by right-wing Christians, because that doesn’t fit with the story that creates contacts, jobs, and rocket launchers. They teach about the spectre, the big scary idea of what a terrorist is supposed to looklike - they teach about the Mandarin.
Everyone that story right up, and that: that is downright terrifying.
ALL OF THIS, just click on my iron man 3 tag if you want more of my thoughts on the Mandarin, which had actually made me not see the movie for fear that it would be more anti-asian/chinese propaganda.
Additionally I adore the end so much. There is literal and metaphorical therapy going on, with Tony spilling his guts/fears/hopes to Bruce and Tony being willing to take the shards out of his heart.
I mean, if you look at the arc of Tony through the movies as a metaphor, he’d been essentially treating his wounds as a strength. There’s something in his heart that is, or has the potential of, killing him, but it’s the thing that gives him power. You can relate this to his intelligence, his assholeness, his weapons, his drinking, his obsessions, his past with his family. Things in his heart that are killing him, and that he identifies himself with, things that ‘built’ Iron Man.
But he took the shards out. Because he’s more than that, he’s literally/metaphorically/narratively more than his traumas.
And I found myself in tears at the credits because I didn’t think that a superhero movie was willing to go there.