“Iron Man 3” – The True Nature of Tony Stark
SPOILER ALERT!!! If you have not yet seen the film, read on at your own risk, as details may be revealed.
Throughout the existence of the character of Iron Man, no matter what media, there has always been a very important question. Is Iron Man the hero that he is because of the suit, or because of the man in the suit? Obviously, if Iron Man were someone other than Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), he would be very different, but without the armor, is Tony still a hero? That is the central question in Iron Man 3.
After the events in The Avengers, Tony is something of a mess. He suffers from anxiety attacks, cannot sleep, and is obsessed even more than ever with technology and improving the suit. More than ever before, he believes that the suit is a part of him, and that he and Iron Man are one in the same and cannot be separated. He’s like the person who can’t leave their work at the office, and he can’t even interact with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) just simply as Tony.
Then, Tony’s world is shattered. The terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has threatened America, and Tony basically says “bring it” and even gives the world his address. The Mandarin has his men destroy Tony’s house, including his workshop where his suits are, except one in which Tony is able to escape (after a thrilling scene where he commands the armor to envelope Pepper instead of him in order to save her life, and then she in turn saves him). However, the suit is damaged, and for a significant portion of the film, Tony has to operate without it. It is this aspect that I think makes the story the most appealing.
While Tony did some initial investigating earlier in the film when he had better access to all of his tech, he had to figure out some of the most important parts of the mystery of the explosions with no armor and no assistance from J.A.R.V.I.S. He did have help, in the form of Harley (Ty Simpkins), a young boy whom he meets in Tennessee during his investigation. There is a wonderful fight scene where it is just plain Tony, no armor or technology other than what he can find in the kitchen at a bar, and only his own brain. This, as well as a number of other scenes, remind us of just how intelligent Tony is, and even when he doubts himself and what he can do, Harley reminds him that he himself said he was a mechanic, and that he should make things. It is during this time that not only do we see that Tony the man is a hero, but he himself is reminded of this fact.
Rhodey (Don Cheadle) not only appears in the film, but he goes through some similar moments of self discovery. Now acting as the Iron Patriot, he is separated from his suit and has to fight without the armor, using all of his considerable Army training. I do want to share one thing I thought of when watching some of his scenes. At one point, he is back in the armor, and saves the President of the United States. There had been discussion earlier in the movie about how he used to be known as War Machine, but that had been changed to Iron Patriot. I could not help but think in my head that for a few moments, he had changed call signs again, and he was actually Air Force One.
Another great aspect of this film was the mystery that Tony has to solve. This was not simply a standard “villain attacks, hero defends” story, and it was nice to see Tony have to play detective in many ways. The various twists and turns make things even more enjoyable, as we see who is really behind things, and who can and cannot be trusted. Not having access to much of his tech at this time, he really had to stretch his mind and go back to basics in order to see how everything fit into place.
I want to give a special shout out to the “Barrel of Monkeys” Parachute Team. If you have seen the ads and trailers for Iron Man 3, you may remember a scene where Iron Man and several passengers have fallen out of a hole that has been torn in Air Force One during flight. This entire scene was one of my favorite in the movie, as Iron Man flies to each person, and they all grab each other in a chain style, and Tony guides them to safety. It was an exciting scene to watch, and I’m sure difficult to film.
While all of the actors in the film did a fine job, I think the standout performance goes to Kingsley. As The Mandarin, my first thought was that he was a bit stiff, but then it turned out that he was actually an actor who had been hired to create the terrorist character, so that the real Mandarin, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), could hide behind the scenes and manipulate everything from relative safety. Seeing Kingsley suddenly become the drug-addicted, dim-witted actor Trevor Slattery was a fun transformation, and showed a very different side of Kingsley’s acting ability.
All in all, a very fun and enjoyable film. I love it from start to finish. A complex, compelling story, great action and special effects sequences, and a powerful ending. What is next for Tony? Well, we do know that the character (and the actor) will be appearing in The Avengers 2 in 2015, but since he has destroyed all of the suits, it will be interesting to see how he goes from where this film ends to his role in the team’s upcoming adventure.