Everyone and their mother has been eagerly anticipating this summer’s “Opening Day” for movies which Marvel has had on lockdown for the last few years. This year’s starting feature: Iron Man 3. Some people loved it, some people hated it and since its a piece of art, both are correct. I have now seen it thrice and have had ample time to break it down for you from the perspective of a truly dedicated comic book movie nerd.
The first time I saw Iron Man 3, I had a lot of expectations as you may have read in my last blog article. The people out there who have problems with it seem to have had the same expectations. We expected to see the big Iron Man and Mandarin showdown.
To put it in perspective for the people that may know nothing about Iron Man beside the films, The Mandarin is Iron Man’s equivalent to Batman’s Joker. He is Iron Man’s greatest foe with the richest existing content to pull from. So, naturally, advertising the Mandarin as the villain in this movie created expectations of epic proportions.
In the first half of the film, The Mandarin is shown via video transmissions that hijack American air waves and either take credit for or threaten some sort of terrorist attack. This re-imagined, Bin Laden looking version of The Mandarin is understandable. The radical Islamic terrorist is the cigarette smoking Russian of our generation. It’s a character that most American audiences are hard-wired to hate with little explanation of the character’s back story. Ben Kingsley’s awkward yet brilliant choice to give this character the voice of “a Baptist preacher,” as Tony Stark put it, made him even more intriguing.
And then… about three quarters of the way into the movie… the comic book nerd in me felt the cold, hard bitch-slap of disappointment. Tony Stark storms The Mandarin’s compound on his own, with no armor, and cuts through henchmen like a hot knife through butter to find…
A comically drunk British actor? Yes, indeed. We find out that The Mandarin is a facade created to divert attention from the real villain: Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pierce. Apparently, Killian handpicked a once great British actor named Trevor Slattery, who had a substance abuse problem and offered him limitless drugs, women and toys to play the part.
When I first saw the film, I was crestfallen. All of my hopes and dreams aboutIron Man 3 laid shattered to pieces at my feet. I was completely taken out of the story and had an internal fire building that I feared would consume me. I quickly put it out with Dr. Pepper and waited for the finale to see if the film could redeem itself.
The final battle between Iron Man and Killian was an absolute spectacle. I was very impressed. Not impressed enough, however to wash away the sour taste in my mouth from the plunder of our precious Mandarin.
So that was the first time. The second time, I had a completely different experience.
After the mysteries of Iron Man 3 had all been revealed, I had time to savor the well crafted script, the complexities of the CGI effects and the actors’ performances. I quickly got over my nerd rage over the Mandarin when I found myself laughing hysterically at Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Trevor Slattery. Only Ben Kingsley could do this, I’m convinced, because he is a gem of an actor and we should all be glad to have him. Iron Man 3 was alright in my book now. Sure it had its flaws and let me down a bit, but I enjoyed it much more now.
The third time was the kicker. I went with my girlfriend and her six year-old niece Alana. I adored it more when I looked over and saw Alana’s mouth agape during every big action scene. When the countless army of Iron Man suits shows up to save the day in the final battle, I was seeing it through her eyes. She made me realize that the spectacle is the charm of these films. Sure, the stories are mostly solid and the jokes are always on point, but the sheer grandiose display is the bottom line.
By this time, I had made peace with Iron Man 3. I told myself that almost every comic book movie goes against canon and in this case, boldly so. I just had to get to the point where I didn’t let it bother me so much that it clouded my overall judgement. If any of you nerds out there were turned off of Iron Man 3 for the same reasons, or felt betrayed by other superhero epics, I hope you try to approach them differently like I did. Here is a mantra for you to repeat that will remind you how good we all have it nowadays…
“At least its not Batman & Robin.”