The Many Problems Of Iron Man 3

The Many Problems Of Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 has a laundry list of plot holes, and director Shane Black made some very questionable choices. Here, we discuss some of the film’s largest issues.


Warning: this article discusses major spoilers for Iron Man 3.


Iron Man 3 has been out for a little while now, and I just got around to viewing it yesterday. I had been highly anticipating the film, as it looked amazing from the trailers and I felt it had a good chance at erasing my memories of the sub-par Iron Man 2. Would it be as good as The Avengers? I certainly had hope. Unfortunately, I walked out of the theater a bit disappointed. While Iron Man 3 is by no means a bad movie (review here), it definitely falls short of greatness. The film has a laundry list of plot holes, and director Shane Black made some very questionable choices. Here, I will discuss some of the film’s largest issues, in my own humble opinion. Once again, this article is filled with spoilers, so continue at your own risk if you haven’t seen the film yet.


Where the hell is S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Seriously. I understand that it would have been tough to have one of the other Avengers make an appearance, but couldn’t Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury have made at least a cameo? Or, since Agent Coulson is “dead”, at least some other nameless S.H.I.E.L.D. guy in a suit? The country and the President are in extreme danger in this film. This is not a somewhat isolated incident like the fight between Obadiah Stane and Tony Stark at the end of Iron Man (which  S.H.I.E.L.D. did make an appearance for, by the way). They’re not even mentioned by name. It’s hard to write it off with a hand-waving, “oh, they were off doing other important business.” The President is captured and almost set on fire. Super-powered lava monsters with Wolverine-level healing factors are on the loose. C’mon.


Iron Man 3 Screen Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Tony Stark



The Mandarin

Ah, the main point of contention for most of the people who saw Iron Man 3. The twist, where Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin is revealed to be nothing more than a drug-addled, nutty actor designed to divert attention away from the true mastermind, Guy Pierce’s Aldrich Killian, was kind of brilliant. This twist was an amazingly-well-kept secret, and something I truly did not see coming. That said, they completely sh*t all over one of Iron Man’s greatest foes. Even if Shane Black felt it absolutely necessary to keep this twist, it could have been done without reducing The Mandarin to comic relief. Some have speculated that perhaps Ben Kingsley’s character really was The Mandarin all along, that it was a double bluff and we’ll see him again in a future film, ten rings and all. No. They so badly tarnished this character that he can no longer be taken seriously in this series’ continuity. It’s quite a shame, because Kingsley was fantastic and a bit terrifying as the character. Not to mention, the whole thing just reminded me of the Bane/ Talia switcheroo in The Dark Knight Rises, which wasn’t quite as bad, but still seemed unnecessary. Now we’ll have to wait for the inevitable reboot to give this villain justice.


Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley The Mandarin


The Iron Man Suits Were Totally Nerfed

Seriously, did Tony have his suits made in the same third world, child labor shoe factory that Iron Patriot found? The Iron Man suits have never been as utterly unreliable as they were in Iron Man 3. In past films, it’s endured tank shells, Whiplash’s electric whips, being hit by an F-18 at mach speed, a battle against Thor, and more. The Mark 42 armor, which is admittedly a more mobile prototype, falls apart at the drop of a hat. Better yet, why the hell is Tony using a faulty, underpowered suit rather than the tried-and-true ones when he knows the Mandarin threat is imminent? It’s hard to take Iron Man seriously as a badass superhero when his suit keeps falling apart like a bad Comic-Con cosplay. Which brings me to…


Iron Man 3 Review Screen 2 Robert Downey Jr


Who Provokes A Terrorist And Gives Away Their Home Address?

Ok, I get it, we’re talking about Tony Stark, the cockiest bastard probably in all of Marvel Comics. Still, this is post-Avengers. We’re led to believe that Tony actually cares about more than just himself, like, oh, say, his girlfriend Pepper for instance. Putting yourself in danger is all fine and well when you have access to an array of Iron Man suits, but Pepper doesn’t. And she’s living in that house when he taunts The Mandarin into blowing the place up. I’m amazed she still wanted to be with him after such a dickish, brainless move. In fact, the whole thing seems designed just to CGI in an (admittedly awesome-looking) explosive action sequence and put Tony on the run with his crappy, untested suit to get the plot going.


Iron Man 3 Home Attack


Why Did Killian Inject Extremis Into Pepper?

This made no sense to me. She was either going to explode, or get crazy super-powers and become very hard to control. Sure, the final scene that had her taking out Killian was pretty badass, but it all seemed like a late-game rewrite because the writers didn’t know what else to do. Also, why did Tony “cure” her? Or did he just perfect the virus so she wouldn’t explode? It seems like it would be a good idea to let her keep those powers, considering all the danger she was put in (by Tony) in Iron Man 3. Also, why did Pepper’s bra not burn away, considering the rest of her clothing did? Whatever that thing was made of, Tony should have made his suits from it instead of the aluminum foil utilized for Mark 42.


Iron Man 3 Pepper Extremis Gwyneth Paltrow


There are other things that got under my skin about Iron Man 3, but these were the greatest offenders. While I thought the film was passable and enjoyable as a popcorn,mindless flick, it had the opportunity to be much more than that, in my opinion. Hopefully Thor 2 and The Avengers 2 deliver.

11 thoughts on “The Many Problems Of Iron Man 3

  1. I guess maybe I was too easy on this one, for I can understand where you’re coming from on a lot of these points. You obviously have read the comics as opposed to me, so it’s understandable that you would be angered by The Mandarin, the Iron Man suits, S.H.I.E.L.D. and everything else. They bothered me as well, but not as much since I enjoyed myself enough to say I liked Iron Man 3, and also the other aspects such as the message, visuals and acting were pretty good. To each their own, I suppose.

    • Yeah, as I said at the beginning I didn’t hate the film but these points, and especially the Mandarin twist, really brought it down for me. I actually never read the Iron Man comics, but I respect the comics enough to know it was a bad move to render The Mandarin as comic relief. That’s like if they did something similar to Two-Face or The Joker in a Batman film, fans would be really angry and rightfully so.

  2. The Mandarin twist was ballsy and brilliant, and completely necessary in my mind. Matt Singer does a much better job of explaining the issue, though:

    Also, while they don’t really explain it in the movie, we’ll get to see what was going on with Shield in the next Captain America movie (I do think it would have been nice to have an agent appear even in a small role and say that they’re stretched thin, for example, or just say that they can’t assist for whatever reason).

    In regards to the suit, the only one that really showed issues with “falling apart” was the new prototype. When you have a suit that can separate into a bunch of pieces and can be summoned from hundreds of miles away, I think there’s going to be a slight trade-off with some things like durability. Much like in the comics, he has a suit for many different situations.

    The terrorist attack on his house – yeah, Tony is still an arrogant dope at times, and he let his anger get the best of him. I guess he assumed he’d be able to handle any attack as Iron Man.

    With Pepper – he wanted Tony to see her suffer, since most people don’t survive the procedure. Also, it was said in the epilogue that Tony stabilized the formula in her.

    Honestly, a lot of the issues I’ve seen with Iron Man 3 have been far more in line with nitpicking than actual plot hole elements.

    • I read that guy’s assessment of the twist, but honestly the top comment is more in line with my own thoughts: “The issue isn’t that the character is changed. It is that the character is changed in such a way as to completely remove what made them interesting and beloved by comic book fans. Nolan’s Joker is radically different from the comics, but still in keeping with the essential truth of what the Joker is, as defined by the comics. Imagine if the twist of the Dark Knight was that the Joker never existed, and was just an actor hired by Eric Roberts’ mob boss character? “

      • Killian was technically the Mandarin, and while some may think that that was something thrown in so as not to completely undermine the character, I thought it was a fine decision. I think having the Mandarin be closer to his comic book counterpart (not necessarily in terms of being Asian but just in terms of being a villain who wants to rule the world with his rings) wouldn’t have been as interesting. They could have tried tying in the Mandarin to the Avengers or even the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy with how he gets his rings (alien technology) but for the story of Iron Man 3 they wanted it to be more contained and not reliant on Avengers (hence no other superheroes showing up, etc). I think it comes down to how it best suits the story and the movie as a whole – your theorized Joker idea probably wouldn’t work, but I think that the Joker is a far more iconic villain than the Mandarin and thus those sorts of theorized risks with interpreting the character wouldn’t necessarily work because the Joker and what he stands for is so timeless, which is why who the character it at his core still remains the same. I personally don’t feel that you the Mandarin does not compare in that regard. Even if he did, the fact that they, again, made Killian the Mandarin is something I’m perfectly ok with.

        • Yeah but in my eyes it’s similar to the Dark Knight Rises – they spend all this time building up a cool villain, then it’s like, “Oh I’m not the real mastermind, it’s them”, and then the real mastermind dies five minutes later. It just ruins the tension and drama for me, for what feels like a cheap gimmick.

          • Yeah, I understand why people have issues with it. I liked the subversion of the character and the way in which Killian was creating the villain to fill a role he needed. Just worked for me, I suppose, but to each their own. 🙂

          • Totally, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. To be clear, I actually really liked Guy Pierce’s Killian as the villain, thought he did a great job, but he should have been the focus from the start. I also thought it was a bit messed up to market the movie with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin as the villain and then once you’ve bought your ticket you realize you’ve been had.

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