After the massive success of The Avengers in 2012, Marvel movie fans were all waiting for Iron Man 3 with the highest of expectations. The movie was advertised to be much darker than what we had come to expect from the Marvel movies and it was also set to star Ben Kingsley as longtime Iron Man villain and fan-favorite character The Mandarin as the main antagonist of the film. Little did we know that while financially and critically successful, Iron Man 3 would turn out to be one of the Marvel movies most looked at as a disappointment by fans.
As the last movie in the character’s own trilogy, Iron Man 3 had a lot riding on it and, in retrospect, maybe should have been held off for a later time. Characters like Thor and Captain America are only just finishing their own trilogies, and we can’t help but feel that there was a certain rushed quality to Iron Man’s third outing. The movie was not without its merits, but it sadly gave us a lot of bad to go along with it. Today, CBR takes a look at 11 things that didn’t work in the movie at all, and five that, thankfully, did.
16. DIDN’T WORK: ALDRICH KILLIAN
In the Marvel comic books, Aldrich Killian barely exists. He only appeared in one issue of the Iron Man comics, in a page that saw him dead by his own hand. He was a scientist who, after selling the Extremis virus to terrorists, killed himself. End of story. Never was he supposed to turn into a main antagonist to Tony Stark, something which Iron Man 3 decided to do anyway.
Sure, the movie was constructed in a way that there was a certain twist that hinged on just who exactly the true villain was. And that twist would have been effective if it hadn’t been so plainly obvious that Killian was evil as soon as we saw him. The movie could have started with Killian killing himself, only to reveal later that he had faked his death. Instead, we got the caricature of a villain who was never meant to live past his usefulness.
15. DIDN’T WORK: MAYA HANSEN AS A SECOND-RATE VILLAIN
One of Iron Man 3‘s now most infamous facts came in the revelation that Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen was supposed to be the movie’s main villain, but the decision was changed due to a producer doubting that a female villain would sell enough toy merchandise. Instead, Maya was reduced to a second-rate villain role, in a reluctant manner on top of that.
Where we could have had the MCU’s first strong female villain, we instead got a character who was unsure of her role in the events to come, a scientist who fell in with the wrong people and ultimately tried to help Stark out, only to die unceremoniously at the hands of the movie’s real villain. With a shared past with Stark, Maya could have been an incredibly compelling villain, one that could have changed the movie as a whole.
14. WORKED: STARK AND RHODEY’S RELATIONSHIP
Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes is Tony Stark’s best friend, but that was hard to figure out in the first two Iron Man movies, where Rhodey, as Stark’s conscience, came off as more antagonistic than friendly. But all of that changed in Iron Man 3, where Rhodey was now there to help his friend in his time of need whenever he could.
Iron Man 3 saw Stark and Rhodey work as partners, almost in a buddy-cop kind of way. Both in and out of their armors, these two were now unequivocally on the same side. Sure, the two did end up fighting side-by-side in Iron Man 2 in a long-awaited team-up, but this time Iron Man 3 gave us the relationship between the two friends we had all wanted to see, something that was crucial in setting up the events of Captain America: Civil War.
13. DIDN’T WORK: STARK’S PERSONALITY
Tony Stark has always had a colorful personality. Egocentric and sarcastic, he was easily set apart from the rest of the MCU characters and became its most recognizable character from the get-go. In a way, his personality was endearing and it made Stark, Stark. But then, Iron Man 3 pushed things too far. Instead of the character we knew, we got one who doubled-down on everything that made him unlikable.
In a movie that saw Stark suffer so many ordeals, it was confounding sometimes to see his more deplorable qualities shine through in moments where they never should have, like being mean to and making fun of a kid who only wanted to help him, as well as proving unhelpful to his friend Rhodey when he counted on him to lend him an armor. These were all moments that sadly lessened the character of Tony Stark.
12. DIDN’T WORK: A CHANGE IN FORMULA
Director Jon Favreau established a certain formula in Iron Man and Iron Man 2. A flair, a signature of sorts that we came to identify with the character such as simple, taken-for-granted things like the energetic use of AC/DC music as Iron Man’s soundtrack (and literal soundtrack in the case of Iron Man 2.) In fact, “Back in Black,” “Shoot To Thrill” and “Highway To Hell” all served to bookend the two previous movies.
“Shoot To Thrill” was even featured in The Avengers when Iron Man made his grand entrance. And yet, AC/DC’s music was nowhere to be heard in the third film. Instead of musical bookends, we got Stark’s voiceovers, something that was never used in either prior movie. Was it too much to ask for the final film in Stark’s trilogy to end with “You Shook Me All Night Long” in a fitting musical conclusion?
11. WORKED: THE FINAL BATTLE
While the first Iron Man movie was unanimously praised, some fans felt let down by its final act battle. The second movie looked to make up for this by raising the stakes and the spectacle, but that was clearly outshined by the final battle of Iron Man 3, a battle that saw Tony Stark summon an entire army of armors to fight against Aldrich Killian’s Extremis-enhanced soldiers.
Finally, fans weren’t treated to an armor vs. armor battle. Stark was facing off against super-soldiers, and that gave us a different kind of battle that featured enemies who could cut through steel like melted butter. Seeing Stark jumping from armor to armor as he battled his opponents, trying to make his way to Pepper in order to save her was a spectacular battle sequence that was as original and inventive as it was exciting.
10. DIDN’T WORK: PEPPER’S FAKE-OUT DEATH
During the movie’s final battle, Tony Stark was desperately fighting his way towards saving Pepper Potts. When Pepper seemingly fell to her death, the prospect of the ramifications were shocking. Stark had failed, and he took it out on Aldrich Killian. But then, all of the emotional possibilities of this darker Tony Stark were lost when Pepper was revealed to be alive.
Pepper’s death could have led to some very intense emotional growth for Tony, and it could have fueled his desire to build Ultron in order to save humanity in a way he couldn’t. This could also have led to his surprising stance and evolution in Captain America: Civil War where Tony sided with the government. But all of that was undone with Pepper being alive, and Avengers: Age of Ultron and Civil War had to go about different ways to get the character where he needed to be.
9. DIDN’T WORK: THE DEPICTION OF A.I.M.
In the Marvel comic books, Advanced Idea Mechanics is an evil organization that can, on its best day, rival Hydra in the evil, take-over-the-entire-world agenda. They are a group whose members are mostly recognized (and ridiculed) for wearing yellow outfits that resemble that of beekeepers. They are a fixture and mainstay in the comic book world, and many fans were excited to see them appear in Iron Man 3.
But the fans’ hopes were quickly squashed down by a group that didn’t look like anything from the source material, one that could only be compared to any other regular evil group with basic hired thugs as employees. A.I.M. more or less lived and died along with their founder and leader Aldrich Killian, and not a single beekeeper outfit appeared on-screen, even as a joke.
8. WORKED: STARK ON HIS OWN
Both the first and second Iron Man movies were built around Tony Stark and his home. His environment, his mansion, his workshop and his armors. But the third movie saw it fit to smartly avoid those crutches and throw Stark to the proverbial wolves. With his armors destroyed (that we knew of) and his house obliterated and sunken, Stark was now away from his support system.
Lost in the middle of nowhere, Stark was now on his own, with only his wits and skills to help him out. This was a great callback to seeing him beaten and taken prisoner in the first half of the original Iron Man movie. It was a move that looked to take Stark back to his roots, with only the tools he could find at his disposal to come out the other end as a better, stronger hero.
7. DIDN’T WORK: THE HUMOR
The first two Iron Man movies had their fair share of humor, quips and moments that made us laugh in the right moments without going overboard. Drama was never sacrificed for the sake of a joke. But then the third movie came around. From the looks of the trailers, it looked like we were going to get a much darker film in the vein of the original movie.
Little did we know that we would get a film even lighter than its predecessors. In fact, the movie doubled-down on Stark’s personality and the humor that derived from him, to the point that the movie was more about Stark’s quips and jokes than his evolution. Stark can be a funny character for sure, but not one who prioritizes his jokes every time his life, or the life of someone he loves, is in jeopardy.
6. DIDN’T WORK: THE DESTRUCTION OF THE IRON LEGION
At the end of his final battle against Aldrich Killian, Tony Stark — at Pepper’s behest — proceeded to destroy all of his suits of armor, a symbolic gesture that would lead to a new beginning of sorts for the man who calls himself Iron Man. But then, all of that was undone by the very opening scene of Stark’s following appearance in the MCU in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In the movie’s opening scene, we saw Stark inside a new armor, summoning and controlling the Iron Legion, an army of suits that answer to him. This is, essentially, a clean follow-up from Iron Man 3‘s last action scene, if we choose to ignore the fact that Tony was supposed to start fresh. Plainly put, the very opening scene of Age of Ultron negated and ignored the ending of Iron Man 3.
5. WORKED: THE AIRPLANE RESCUE SCENE
The Iron Man and Avengers movies have never been short on amazing action scenes featuring the armored avenger, but few come close to the airplane rescue scene from Iron Man 3. This sequence that featured Iron Man attempt to save 13 members of the Air Force One crew from falling to their deaths had us all on the edge of our seats.
Informed that he could only carry four of them, Stark had to find a creative way to save all 13. In the thrilling scene, Iron Man went from person to person, convincing them to save and hold each other while playing a game of barrel of monkeys. Out of all the movies he was featured in, this was one of Iron Man’s most impressive saves, one that highlighted what a true hero he could be.
4. DIDN’T WORK: THE MARK 42 ARMOR
On the surface, the Mark 42 armor was a great idea and it had a great design. Slightly inspired by the Extremis armor from the comics, this armor could come in pieces to Tony Stark, controlled not by the nanites in his system, but by his repulsor technology. But the mistake was in having the armor being able to be remotely controlled at a distance.
In fact, the biggest scene featuring the armor in the movie — the airplane rescue scene — was capped off with a cheap joke of the armor being smashed to bits by an oncoming truck, a joke that revealed that Stark was never in his own armor for his big rescue scene. It’s something that, in retrospect, removes all tension from the scene when watching it again and makes you wonder why Stark didn’t cover at least one passenger with his armor.
3. DIDN’T WORK: WASTED BRUCE BANNER CAMEO
After the brilliant and exciting after-credits scenes of The Avengers, everyone was highly anticipating Iron Man 3‘s post-credits scene and what it would tease. Everyone naturally got excited when they saw Bruce Banner on-screen. But sadly, the excitement lived and died in that moment, when the scene only played out the joke of Banner falling asleep while listening to Tony’s story.
The Avengers had worked wonders in establishing the “science bros” relationship between the two and it was a great idea to bring these two characters back together. It’s only sad that it was such a wasted opportunity. Instead of a joke, we could have been treated to a quick glimpse of Stark asking Banner for help to work on his newest project, Ultron, setting up the Avengers sequel and the two of them already aware of the idea of Ultron at the start of Age of Ultron.
2. WORKED: MANDARIN PROPAGANDA VIDEOS
From the very first trailers of Iron Man 3, we were shown glimpses of Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin, a character promised as the villain of the piece. And for the first half of the movie, our introduction to the Mandarin was perfect. Introduced throughout a series of propaganda videos, we saw the supervillain as the maniacal and dangerous threat we all hoped him to be.
He was a character shrouded in mystery, the movie choosing to scale back on his scenes in a bid to create a strong amount of buildup for his arrival. These propaganda videos were well-made and promising, highlighting a villain that was true to the core concept of the first two movies. He was a terrorist with a strong network behind him, and he hated everything that America and Tony Stark represented.
1. DIDN’T WORK: THE TREVOR REVEAL
The infamous twist. The reveal heard ’round the Marvel fandom world. The Mandarin, one of Iron Man’s main villains had finally made it to the screen. But, as it turned out, he was a lie. After the promising propaganda videos that teased us a pitch-perfect interpretation, we came to learn that the Mandarin was a creation of Aldrich Killian. Simply a role, played by an actor named Trevor.
Widely seen as a disappointment, this twist made it so that the Mandarin we had hoped to see was never meant to be. Instead, we got the added confusion of Killian claiming — with his dragon tattoos — that he was the real Mandarin, and even further confusion later on that there was indeed a real Mandarin out there in the short movie “All Hail The King.” Sadly, it seems like the Mandarin will never get his cinematic due.
What did YOU think of Iron Man 3? Let us know in the comments!