By Kyle B. Stiff
Iron-Man 3 is better than you might think. Here’s why.
In the first movie, Tony Stark was an egotistical douchebag. He was brilliant, made a fortune selling weapons to shit-bags, and anytime he walked into a party he would drop hilarious bombs that resulted in free drinks and bags full of vaginas thrown at him. He was the kind of dickwad that all young men aspire to be: A shithead adored by everyone.
This can make for an entertaining movie, but in terms of storytelling, this sort of protagonist is a baby chick at the beginning of his life cycle. He can’t stay that way. If he did, then he would become the real-life equivalent of a balding, overweight middle-management nobody who dreams of the “good old days” when he was the popular high school football star who couldn’t stop smelling his fingers in class because they smelled like some cheerleader’s yeast infection. No matter how cool somebody is, they have to grow and develop or else they can easily become hardcore losers. (This is why anyone who is sixteen and totally content with their life needs to wake up in a cold sweat, stumble to the bathroom, take a painful nervous shit, and reexamine everything they thought was true.)
This is where Iron-Man 3 comes in. Tony Stark, the world’s coolest dude, has had a few life experiences that lead him to believe he may not actually be the coolest dude in the world. He’s in a committed relationship with a great lady, but he spends all his time worrying about losing her because of an intense fear of running out of charming one-liners. During his time with the Avengers he found out that there are other planets and other dimensions filled with ass-kicking, dick-stomping behemoths that he can’t put in check due to a lack of actual superpowers. The guy prone to rocking the house while drunk and blacked-out is now prone to nervous breakdowns followed by washing his underwear in the bathroom sink with the door locked.
Then there’s the Iron-Man suit itself – or, if you want to get all symbolic, Tony’s ego. Like a lot of cool dudes, Tony’s at his best when his true self is locked away in a suit of impenetrable steel. He can do anything he wants and people love him, but behind the mask he’s a huge phony. There are lots of instances in the movie when people don’t even recognize Tony Stark – not until they see the mask, that is.
SPOILER FOR THIS PARAGRAPH!!! This theme of being a phony wearing a mask is shown in perfect, crystal-clear, high-def clarity with the Mandarin. He’s an actor, a guy who never got over the thrill of being congratulated over some “awesome” performance he gave years ago and has been trying to duplicate that high ever since. Like a lot of actors, he’s grown addicted to wearing masks. He’s so addicted that he may no longer even possess a real self, which is why he has to spend much of his time hilariously passed out. Also, how awesome is it that the Mandarin dovetailed so nicely with Osama bin Laden, especially when you consider that the original videotape used as evidence for bin Laden’s role in 9-11 obviously starred some guy that looks like Jolly Saint Nick rather than a wealthy Saudi ectomorph? In fact, take note that all the shenanigans in Iron-Man 3 were, in fact, false flag shenanigans! END SPOILER!!! SPOILERS ENDING NOW!!!
When the shit goes down in the second act, Tony finds out that his suit, his mask, isn’t going to help him. He gets his shit pushed in by forces beyond his understanding and nearly loses the only person who gives a damn about his true self behind the mask. Instead of giving up, he pulls his head out of his ass and puts himself in uncomfortable situations that force him to think on his feet. Tony Stark was the hero all along, not his fancy phone or his fancy status or his fancy iron shell.
In the end, it may have seemed strange that Tony dealt with his army of drones the way he did (he’s probably gonna need those in Avengers 2, right?), but symbolically it made total sense. People who identify with the mask they wear usually don’t wear just one mask. They have many, and ninety-nine percent of them are complete bullshit. Tony had to pull the plug. By building Iron-Man suit after Iron-Man suit like he was an assembly line, Tony was almost literally thinking “inside the box” and needed a hard reboot. If the aliens or interdimensional freaks that he has grown to fear do attack, as they most likely will in Avengers 2, he’ll have to come up with new plans using that big brain of his. He’s going to have to come up with the sort of plan that only Tony Stark could come up with. As for the actual Iron-Man suits, mobile infantry armor can be cranked out by conventional defense contractors at this point.
In fact, Iron-Man 3 would be a lot better if it was the second movie (assuming we’re dealing with yet another trilogy). The first movie was a great introduction to Tony as a dynamic character. The third movie was great as a second act that beat the shit out of the protagonist and showed him that doesn’t have the world all figured out (much like Luke biting off more than he could chew and losing his hand). If that were the case, then we could look forward to a third chapter, an ending to the Tony Stark series, in which he no longer acted as a frontline combatant (which he isn’t), but worked behind the scenes as a charismatic leader and a brilliant planner. Leave all the punching and throwing shit around to Captain America and Thor… Tony’s too smart for that.
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Hey readers! If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.