Monday, January 4, 2016

Recap: "Iron Man 3" Part 2: Fire

Once again, I’d like to apologize to my readers. Thanks to forgetting to actually post an explanation for my absence, it was probably as if I had just disappeared from the face of the Earth for the past couple weeks. But in a way, that’s kind of appropriate, as Tony Stark now finds himself in the same position.

It's, like, a metaphor, man.
Tony Stark drags his armor through the heavy snow of Tennessee, which is a little hard to swallow if you know anything about Tennessee, finally coming across a payphone, which he uses to send Pepper’s voicemail an apologetic message. Putting her in harm’s way, being an idiot, the big-chested rabbit, he apologizes for the lot.

Tony Stark: “And I’m sorry in advance because… I can’t come home yet.”

He tells her to stay safe and makes his way to a random garage to crash in. Inside, he finds a couch. So naturally, he sits his armor down on it.

"We never talk anymore."
Tony Stark has a history of avoiding his problems. That's why he hides in the armor. And now, by treating Iron Man as another person, he's probably pretending that Iron Man's problems are not his problems. Which probably doesn't work, seeing as how Tony Stark has a buttload of problems, too.

He starts pulling shrapnel out with some pliers when a kid with a potato gun (Ty Simpkins) comes along to threaten him.

Welcome to Tennessee.
Tony criticizes the design, but the kid manages to demolish a mason jar with it, so he decides to criticize another aspect of it.

Tony Stark: “And now you’re out of ammo.”

But the conversation quickly becomes civil as this kid does what all kids do: ask questions.

Kid: “What’s that thing on your chest?”
Tony Stark: “It’s a, uh, electromagnet. You should know, you’ve got a box of ‘em right here.”

The kid asks what it powers, so Tony simply reveals Iron Man on the couch.

Kid: “Is that Iron Man?”
Tony Stark: “Technically, I am.”
Kid: “Technically, you’re dead.”

Of course they use the picture from his drunken birthday party.
Tony describes himself simply as “the mechanic” and says that Iron Man isn’t doing too well. And they talk about the armors; Iron Man, War Machine.

Tony Stark: “It’s Iron Patriot now.”
Kid: “That’s way cooler!”
Tony Stark: “No, it’s not.”

After they talk about how cool it would be to add a stealth mode to the armor, the topic soon changes to the kid’s parents. After all, he’s in their garage.

Kid: “Well, my mom already left for the diner, and dad went to 7-Eleven to get scratchers. I guess he won, ‘cause that was six years ago.”
Tony Stark: “Hmmm. Which happens, dads leave, no need to be a pussy about it.”

“Look, I get how this crap is supposed to work.
I see a little of myself in you, you get me in touch with my inner whatever, I emerge a better person, yadda yadda.
Sorry, not in the mood for this touchy-feely crap. This ain’t a Disney movie.”
“Technically, it is.”
"Don't be a smartass, either."
Tony asks for a laptop, a cell phone, a digital watch, the pneumatic actuator from the potato gun, a map of town, a spring, and a sandwich. In return, Tony hands over a non-lethal weapon so this kid can get revenge on the school bully.

“Isn’t that just meeting violence with violence?”
“Who do I look like, Gandhi?”
“No, you look like Sherlock Holmes. That Mandarin guy looks like Gandhi.”
The kid introduces himself as Harley, and Tony gets philosophical.

Tony Stark: “You know what keeps going through my head? ‘Where’s my sandwich?’”

As Tony gets his sammich, rescue teams do their job at Tony’s demolished home. Pepper finds a helmet with a flashing light in the wreckage and puts it on, finding Tony’s message waiting for her. Once Pepper knows that he’s safe, she and Maya drive to safety. On the way, Pepper demands to know why Maya wanted to see Tony.

Maya: “I think that my boss is working for the Mandarin.”

Huh. Good answer.

Pepper: “Tony says you’re a botanist.”
Maya: “That figures; what I actually am is a biological DNA encoder running a team of 40 out of a privately funded think tank, but sure, you can call me a botanist.”
Pepper: “This boss of yours, does he have a name?”
Maya: “Yeah. Aldrich Killian.”

Uh, eyes on the road, Pepper!
Speaking of Killian, he gets an update that his henchguys couldn’t find Tony’s body. But he can’t dwell too much on that; the Mandarin’s arriving at his house to televise his latest threat. Killian lays down the rules of no talking and no eye contact, and the robe-clad villain himself arrives and begins his latest spiel, with teleprompters at the ready.

Back in Tennessee, Tony has eaten his sandwich and put his materials to good use, including his new, limited-edition Dora the Explorer watch. Harley takes him to the memorial set up for the bombing incident. As Harley explains, the official story is that Chad Davis, a military vet with a few medals, “went crazy,” made a bomb, and blew himself up, leaving Hiroshima-style shadows on the wall. Five of them. Even though six people were caught in the blast. The local story is that the shadows represent their souls going to heaven. And since Chad was no doubt going to Hell, he didn’t get one. And if you know anything about Tennessee, this sounds about right. Typically, people down South are unfailingly nice… unless you royally piss them off by, say, randomly killing innocent people.

Harley: “Know what this crater reminds me of?”
Tony Stark: “No idea. I’m not- I don’t care.”
Harley: “That giant wormhole. In, um, in New York.”

And as Harley presses the topic, for the second time, a kid has set off Tony’s PTSD, and a panic attack ensues.

Harley: “Do you have medication?”
Tony Stark: “No.”
Harley: “Do you need to be on it?”
Tony Stark: “Prob’ly.”

This time, with no armor, he manages to eventually calm himself down by telling the kid to shut up and running to the corner and breathing deeply. Throwing snow at Harley also makes him feel better. Back on task, Tony heads off to meet with Mrs. Davis at the bar. On his way there, he bumps into a woman (Stéphanie Szostak) with some very distinctive scars. Tony, classy guy that he is, compliments her haircut. In return, she compliments his Dora watch.

Tony Stark: “Limited edition.”

There is no possible way this lady could be any hotter.
He heads inside and finds Mrs. Davis, clutching her son’s tags. He joins her for a drink and she seems to know what he’s there for. She even brought a file and everything… even though Tony never asked for one.

Tony Stark: “Clearly you’re waiting for someone else.”

Tony takes a look at the file, which seems to be labeled MIA, even though Chad never was MIA. And in the file, he also finds something on a “TAGGART, J”. With his suspicions confirmed, Tony tells Mrs. Davis that Chad didn’t kill himself. Somebody used him to kill people. Mrs. Davis realizes that Tony isn’t the person who called her. And just like that, Scar-Lady appears to reveal that she was the person who called for a meeting. Not only that, she’s with Homeland Security and uses her authority to handcuff and arrest Tony.

The local Sheriff just happens to be in the bar (well, this is the South) and isn’t too happy with her going over his head to arrest someone. And said Sheriff is played by Spencer Garrett, a name that means nothing to you unless you’re a big fan of Simon Tarses, a one-shot guest character in a single episode of Star Trek: TNG.

And if the Expanded Universe novels are anything to go by, people are.
As they argue, Mrs. Davis slides Tony the file while the argument gets a little heated.

Literally. Looks like I was wrong when I said she couldn’t get any hotter.
Okay, so. This is getting a little off track, but, hey, that’s what I do.

This lady’s name is Ellen Brandt, and she’s taken straight from the comics. Basically, she works for AIM, just like she does in this movie. In the comics, her husband was Ted Sallis, who was turned into a creature of rotting swamp matter through a sequence of events that I can’t be bothered to elaborate upon here. Long story short, he becomes the Man-Thing, whose Giant-Size comics have been a source of easy jokes for a very long time. The Man-Thing has the ability to burn “those who know fear” with his touch, which is the source of Brandt’s distinctive scars in the comics.

Why am I bringing all this up? Simply because I love the little Easter egg here. And also so I can refer to this combustible lady by name as I describe this next scene.

Tony runs outside from Brandt, seeing as how she just melted his face with her badge, but only finds Savin exiting an Audi to enter the fray. He tries to shoot Tony, but his aim is thrown off by a snowball from Harley. Tony runs into a nearby restaurant to lure Brandt away from civilians and after using her heat to melt his cuffs off, he manages to set a trap for her involving a gas leak and Chad’s dog tags in a microwave.

Tony Stark: “You’ve walked right into this one: I’ve dated hotter chicks than you.”

Tell her about how you went 12-for-12 with Maxim’s cover models that one year.

Brandy: “That’s all you got? Cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?”
Tony Stark: “Sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography.”

The ensuing blast takes care of her by throwing her into power lines, but Savin has decided to bring down the water tower by melting part of it. And to make matters worse, he takes Harley hostage to bargain for the file on Chad Davis. This doesn’t last long though, thanks to the anti-bully deterrent Tony gave him earlier. A flash bomb.

Remember, Tony told him to use this on another kid. What a responsible adult.
And with Harley safe, Tony manages to use his spring-loaded, homemade, improvised repulsor to knock Savin back while he escapes to Savin’s Audi. After sassing back and forth with Harley for a bit, Tony gets in and gets ready to drive off to the next stage of his plan while Harley gets to guard the armor. But Harley’s face ends up in a pout as yet another father figure gets ready to drive off.

Tony Stark: “You’re guilt tripping me, aren’t you?”

Tony proves immune to the powers of stereotypical narratives and leaves his tagalong kid behind.

“Sorry, kid, I draw the line at sidekicks. Unless you want to end up like Bucky.”
“Captain America’s buddy. Fell out of a train. Never found the body.”
“Well, then couldn’t he have survived?”
“Interesting question. Ask someone who cares.”
“Later, dorks!”
“…I really hope Bucky comes back to life and beats him up.”
As Savin gets back up and continues to heal, the Mandarin hijacks the airwaves again. And this time, he’s not alone. President Ellis watches from Air Force One as the Mandarin hold Thomas Richards, an accountant of Roxxon Oil, hostage. And he’s going to shoot this guy in the head unless the president calls the Mandarin up to plead for this man’s life within thirty seconds.

This… is a complicated dilemma. If the president doesn’t call, then he condemns a man to certain death. If he does call, then the Mandarin has proven on live TV that he can control the president. This sort of thing is why America’s official policy is to never negotiate with terrorists. But still, that’s a man’s life. And President Ellis breaks down and calls the number. But the Mandarin doesn’t answer the phone. He fires his gun. The worst of both worlds. The president gave in to a terrorist and it was all for nothing.

Mandarin: “There’s just one lesson left, President Ellis. So run away, hide, kiss your children goodbye, because nothing, not your army, not your red, white, and blue attack dog, can save you.”

“Hey, that’s not very nice.”
“Sorry, I meant the other attack dog. The metal one.”
“Well, you could have been more specific.”
The president gives the order for Rhodey to track him down once and for all as Tony decides to stop watching the road and look at the file he was given. And when he flips over the piece of paper that says MIA, he realizes that somebody actually wrote “AIM” on the other side.

“Ugh, that tired old cliché.”
Meanwhile, Iron Patriot is in Pakistan, tracking down a lead on the Mandarin. As he aims his ample weaponry at some people, his phone rings. Tony has a few questions for him, first and foremost, he’s confirming whether or not AIM was the group behind his “Iron Patriot” upgrade. And since the answer’s “yes,” he asks Rhodey for his username and password so he can get into their database.

Rhodey: “It’s the same as it’s always been, WarMachine68.”
Tony Stark: “And the password, please?”
Rhodey: “Well, look, I gotta change it every time you hack in, Tony.”
Tony Stark: “it’s not the 80’s; nobody says ‘hack’ anymore. Gimme your login.”
Rhodey: “…WARMACHINEROX. With an ‘X,’ all caps.”

The local Ten Rings members get a chuckle out of this, but that’s nothing a gatling gun can’t fix.

There are very few things a gatling gun can't fix.
Tony stops at a local beauty pageant and sneaks into one of the local TV vans, as one of the familiar-looking judges delivers his verdict.

“Stan Lee as a dirty old man. Well, after Stripperella, I can’t say this is really a surprise.
Tony gets to work connecting to the internet, but it seems as though Chattanooga has slower internet speed than even I do. Which is actually the opposite of real life, where Chattanooga has some of the fastest internet in America, oddly enough. After Tony has a quick run in with his greatest fan, who just so happens to be working inside the van…. Okay, I can’t gloss over Tony’s reaction to the guy’s tattoo.

Which, as the guy explains, was modeled after a Tony Stark doll he made. Totally not creepy.
Tony Stark: “A Hispanic Scott Baio.”

Love it.

Anyway, Tony explains the situation real quick to get his new pal to speed up his internet connection, and quickly hacks into AIM’s servers, discovering a bunch of interviews with various military veterans, amputees, people with other injuries, et cetera. Aldrich Killian interviews them all and tells them that he’ll be pumping them with Extrmis. Anyone who can’t handle the addiction or the explosive side effects will be… let go. Tony watches as Ellen Brandt’s arm grows back in some of the archive footage… shortly before Chad Davis blows up.

The Mandarin was never setting bombs. Human bombs were misfiring.

Tony Stark does a little Bat-deduction as he guesses that Extremis, though faulty, was offered up to the Mandarin for the purpose of blowing stuff up. Over with Pepper and Maya, they’re in a hotel, talking about stuff.

Maya: “Fun fact: Before he built rockets for the Nazis, the idealistic Werner von Braun dreamed of space travel. Stargazed.”

“I don’t see what this has to do with anything. Like, literally anything that we were talking about just now."
Maya: “Do you know what he said when the first V-2 hit London?”

“’Business is booming?’”
Maya: “’The rocket performed perfectly. It just landed on the wrong planet.’”

“Seriously, it’s great that we’re passing the Bechdel Test, but can we please talk about something relevant?”
Maya eventually talks about how they all begin wanting to do science for the sake of science… before it gets ruined by people who want to use it for other purposes. Unless you’re Bruce Banner, in which case you just want to blow up frogs all day long.

There’s a knock at the door, and the room service guy enters, only to get his neck snapped by Killian. He grabs Pepper by the throat and starts arguing with Maya. It seems that Killian is indeed working for the Mandarin… and so is Maya. Killian’s a bit annoyed with Maya hanging around Tony Stark, and Maya is annoyed that Killian was trying to kill Tony when he still had so much he could offer the Mandarin’s cause. But now that they have Pepper, they have a bargaining chip to get Tony to do what they want.

Over with Rhodey, he’s still flying around the Middle East, checking out another possible Mandarin location. This time, he stumbles upon what appears to be some women forced to work on textiles. They’re quite grateful that he’s rescuing them, except for the one who’s really an Extremis soldier in disguise. She disables his suit with her heat and calls Savin for pickup.

Rhodey: “You want this suit, you’re going to have to pry my cold, dead body out of it.”
Extremis Soldier: “That’s the plan, Colonel.”

Back with Tony, he’s driving off while calling Harley for a full report.

Harley: “Yeah, I’m still eating that candy. D’y- do you want me to keep eating it?”
Tony Stark: “How much you had?”
Harley: “Two or three bowls.”
Tony Stark: “Can you still see straight?”
Harley: “…sort of.”
Tony Stark: “That means you’re fine, gimme JARVIS.”

JARVIS, speaking from the Iron Man helmet, is better than he was, but still isn’t at 100%.

JARVIS: “I seem to do quite well for a stretch, and then at the end of a sentence, I say the wrong cranberry.”

“Oh, crap, he’s turned into a Monty Python sketch.”
But on the bright side, JARVIS has pinpointed the remote location that the Mandarin has been broadcasting from: Miami. He thinks that JARVIS’s speech systems are just acting up, but Harley confirms it. The Mandarin is hiding out in Miami. Tony wants to fly there in his suit as soon as possible, but…

Harley: “It’s not charging.”

Tony stops the car.

Tony Stark is without his armor. He thought his armor was on its way towards being fixed. He was wrong. The one thought that kept him going, that he could climb back in his armor and hide away from the world once again, is nothing more than a hollow lie.

JARVIS tells Tony that it is charging, but not very well. As panic grips him, worse than ever before, Harley asks Tony a question that pierces Tony to his very soul.

Harley: “You’re a mechanic, right?”
Tony Stark: “Right.”
Harley: “You said so.”
Tony Stark: “Yes I did.”
Harley: “Why don’t you just build something?”

His breathing slows. His heartbeat slows.

Tony Stark: “…okay."

Captain America once asked what Tony is without his armor. Tony Stark is, at heart, a builder. It’s how he coped with his post-Afghanistan trauma. By building an armor and hiding in it. But this time, Tony isn’t building something to avoid his problems. He’s going to build something to confront them head on. But instead of scraps in a cave, he’s buying some stuff at the Home Depot. And after a night of building, he drives to Florida and manages to infiltrate the Mandarin’s mansion.

He uses bolas, chemical bombs, a homemade taser-glove, and a staple gun to get inside, where he finds a drug-addled woman and a guard, who he zaps before taking his gun. It may seem out-of-character for Tony to grab a gun, but let’s face it. Tony is a desperate man who knows that he might have to shoot someone to save the day.

“But Tony Stark doesn’t kill!” say some parts of the internet.

Right, I’m sure the guy in the tank just walked it off.
Tony heads through the mansion until he finds the Mandarin’s room, filled with cameras, anarchist-style murals, a makeup table, a fancy bed, a couple of hookers…. And one hell of a twist.

A toilet flushes as the Mandarin comes out of a nearby bathroom, clad in a t-shirt and bathrobe, excitedly talking about fortune cookies and telling the ladies not to go into the bathroom for a while. Clearly, something’s up. Up until this point, the Mandarin was portrayed more like Osama Bin Laden than Guru Tugginmypudha.

Tony Stark shares this expression with the entire audience.
Tony comes out of hiding and the Mandarin… well, doesn’t exactly react with the rage and fury of a vengeful terrorist.

Mandarin: “Bloody Hell, Bloody Hell.”
Tony Stark: “Don’t move.”
Mandarin: “I’m not moving. You want something? Take it. Uh, the guns are all fake ‘cause those wankers wouldn’t trust me with a real one.”

Tony wants to know where the real Mandarin is. After a bit of comedic waffling...

And demonstrating how gif-able he is....
...the Brit spills the beans.

Mandarin: “My name’s Trevor. Trevor Slattery.”

Trevor is an actor. Periodically, he appears on TV pretending to be called “the Mandarin.” At all started when he developed a bit of a drug problem a while back. Some people approached him and said that if he did a little job for them, then they’d help him with it.

Tony Stark: “What, they said they’d get you off them?”
Trevor: “They said they’d give me more.”

He explains that they gave him drugs, plastic surgery, other things…. And falls asleep. When Tony kicks him awake, he explains why he was hired. As Trevor understands it, there’s this company, right? And they keep having these accidental explosions for whatever reason. So they hired Trevor to go on TV and take credit for these “attacks” to save face.

Tony Stark: “Custom-made terror threat.”

Tony realizes that Killian was behind everything the whole time as Trevor grabs a beer while showing off his Mandarin voice. The voice was fake. As was everything else. Costume, green screen, special effects… Hell, that Roxxon accountant probably walked away smelling like roses and stage blood. Tony says that Trevor’s still going down for what happened to Happy, but Savin ambushes him from behind before he can do anything.

Savin: “Okay, Trevor. What’d you tell ‘im?”
Trevor: “I didn’t tell him anything.”
Savin: “Nothing.”
Trevor: “…no.”
Savin: “Should’a pressed the panic button.”

Like, infinitely gif-able.
So… yeah. That’s the big twist. Iron Man’s greatest comic book nemesis… is a smokescreen.

Obviously, this sparked internet vast debates regarding racism, creative liberties, and so much more. I’ll be going over Iron Man 3’s take on the Mandarin in a separate review from the rest of this movie because, quite frankly, there’s a lot to talk about. And I still have a third of the movie to go through.

But let me just end this part of my Recap by saying that this twist was actually foreshadowed pretty well.

Why does the Mandarin need teleprompters for his own speeches?
They’re not his words.

Why does he occasionally stutter?
He’s struggling with his lines. Probably because of the drugs.

Why is he a vaguely-foreign looking man called “the Mandarin” with a very American accent?
Like a fortune cookie, he’s an American invention made to look foreign.

Why aren’t the underlings allowed to look him in the eye or talk to him?
So he doesn’t break character by failing to successfully ad-lib.

And yet, somehow, the audience neverrrrr saw this twist coming.

Coming up in Part 3! From a custom-made terror threat to custom-made demons.


  1. Sooo....

    Iron Man's nemesis turned out to be drug addicted actor....

    Wonder How RDJ took it.

    1. I'd imagine he had a sense of humor about it.