May 3 2013
by J.D. Cook
I’d seriously like to ask Marvel Entertainment to return the 15 dollars and 15 cents it stole from me last night. The first true Iron Man comic I read was the highly lauded Extremis run written by Warren Ellis. This spawned a good run of issues which eventually led to the Mandarin returning in sinister style and trying to use Extremis to destroy much of humanity. I can’t say enough about how much I loved reading those issues. So it’s easy to see why I was excited to see both the Mandarin and Extremis (a sort of super soldier serum) appearing in Iron Man 3.
Let’s rewind for a second. In the first Iron Man the ‘Ten Rings’ a terrorist organization kidnap and hold Stark hostage forcing him to escape via the construction of his first Iron Man suit. In the second Iron Man film the ‘Ten Rings’ give a ticket to Ivan Vanko so he can go attack Stark. These were large references to the character of the Mandarin appearing in the 3rd act of an Iron Man trilogy. The ‘Ten Rings’ are what makes the Mandarin powerful in the comic books as they are ten literal rings he discovered in a crashed alien space ship that provide him all manner of powers. Now in Iron Man 3 these breadcrumbs lead to absolutely nowhere; more on that later though.
Spoilers Here Down
Back to Iron Man 3 the film. Let me step outside myself and look at this film not as a fan of the Iron Man comics or the character but simply as a movie goer. Don Cheadle was non-existent in the film which is sad because he is great. The character of Maya Hansen was not developed at all leading to no feelings when she is killed. The film starts with a very awkward voice over intro that literally sounds straight out of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the Christmas setting lends nothing to the film. Young Ty Simpkins is the film’s lone stand out as young Harley a child Tony Stark teams up with in the best section of the film. The action itself was fairly underwhelming…all of the best scenes really were shown in the trailer. The villain of the film is an evil corporation…where have I heard that before…Iron Man 1…Iron Man 2? I mean you know a plot thread is cliché when your own franchise has done it before but this time there was no hilarious performance by Sam Rockwell to save the day only a dull uninspired performance by Guy Pearce an actor I really love who seemed like he was given nothing to work with. Oh and both times it seems like a main character might die and shock the viewer they survive as expected in ways that were completely predictable. I mean this film really had nothing going for it besides the humor which I admit was awesome but if they wanted to do a comedy they probably should have…well just done a comedy.
Now it’s time for me to get real nasty and pick this apart like the comic book fan I am. The biggest problem with this film is the Mandarin. This one’s a huge spoiler so you may want to stop reading here if you haven’t seen the film. He doesn’t exist. In the film Ben Kingsley is playing an actor hired to portray the Mandarin as a pseudo threat. So an evil corporation funds terrorism. There is a plot I haven’t heard in a billion films before!? On top of that the Mandarin is supposed to be Iron Man’s arch nemesis. As stated above he should have been revealed as the guy pulling the strings behind what happened in Iron Man 1 and 2. Before this film was released I was worried that he wouldn’t be given the ‘Ten Rings’ which give him powers. Not only did he not have those but he had no power at all. Imagine if in the Dark Knight the Joker just turned out to be an actor hired by a corporation…not only an actor an idiot actor. I mean Christopher Nolan may be hyper-realistic about super heroes but at least he respects them. How disappointed would you feel? Just imagine any of your favorite villains and now imagine being excited to see them on the big screen for the first time and then having them revealed as nothing. This was a cruel joke played on comic book fans by Shane Black. In fact this entire movie basically feels like it is Shane Black flipping off all the ‘nerds’ who actually care about Iron Man’s mythology because it isn’t just the Mandarin he got wrong.
In the comics Guy Pearce’s character Aldrich Killian kills himself in the first page of the Extremis story. Maya Hansen is the main antagonist of the story and the twist is that she seems like a good person for the majority of the story only being revealed as bad near the very end. This is a deep moment of the story because she and Tony had grown extremely close over the course of the plot. Speaking of; Hansen uses Stark as a sort of guinea pig over the course of the story and tests Extremis on him because it is the only way he can stop a lone loose test subject who was also injected with Extremis. Tony Stark then adds in some additions to the biological program of Extremis which when complete allows him to interface with technology using his brain thus allowing him to control his Iron Man suits without being in them etc. In the film they do not touch on this and he instead controls the suits via control implants in his skin.
Extremis itself turns a small number of people into super strong, fast healers who can also breath fire in some instances. It depends on what Extremis is programmed to do as it essentially re-writes the human body. In the film those people who get Extremis turn into bombs or ‘lava’ people who have the ability to burn things. They don’t seem to have much super strength or power and really are only threatening because they can heal and burn you.
A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) the company Killian runs is a huge evil scientist network in the comic books. They are at least as powerful as Hydra another evil organization. In the film they seem to only be Killian and his lackeys.
This really is a bad film and certainly the worst one Marvel Entertainment has released. As a fan I feel cheated and I’d happily re-write the film for them because it’s obvious their writers didn’t care at all for Iron Man or his history. If they had read any of the comics they would have hopefully come up with a much better narrative for what may be Robert Downey Jr’s last go as Iron Man. Comic book films need to be treated like actual comic books where new writers arrive and take characters that have been developed through years of stories and create new and interesting plots for them to progress through. In other words super heroes need a good Steward who is going to respect the lore of the heroes and villains while crafting a new and exciting narrative. In Iron Man 3 none of the characters histories or development in the comics was respected resulting in a trash film that should be ashamed of itself…are you serious the Mandarin is an actor?! I want my money back!