Thursday, January 7, 2016

Recap: "Iron Man 3" Part 3: AIM

As far as the internet arguments would have you believe, Iron Man 3 simply ends at the big twist regarding the Mandarin. Not because there are people on the internet actually saying this, but because any discussion of the movie inevitably gets sidetracked at this point. But because I’m saving everything I have to say about that twist for its very own post, I’ll be moving on to see exactly how Tony gets out of this particular scrape.

Ten bucks says it has something to do with armor. Any takers?
Tony wakes up tied to a bedframe, which is par for the course for Robert Downey, Jr. But unlike Sherlock Holmes, who was tied up naked to a fancy bed, Tony Stark is fully dressed and tied to a rusty bedframe in the middle of AIM’s evil headquarters/mansion.

Maya: “Just like old times, huh?”
Tony Stark: “Oh, yeah. Zip ties. It’s a ball.”

“A bit too tame for me these days, though.
You should see what Pepper can do with a baker’s dozen satsumas and a car battery.”
They have a bit of an awkward conversation. Tony clearly blames Maya for falling in with a bad crowd, but Maya tries to insist that she puts her research first.

Maya: “Extremis is practically stable….”
Tony Stark: “I’m telling you it isn’t!”

And the fact that AIM needed to make up a terrorist to cover up Extremis’s instability kind of proves his point.

Maya: “Then help me fix it.”

And she pulls out Tony’s nametag from all those years ago, showing what he wrote on the back: the formula that helped her stabilize Extremis enough to start human trials.

Either that, or Tony was trying to drunkenly write down the Konami Code.
Tony Stark: “Did I do that?”
Maya: “…yes.”
Tony Stark: “I remember the night, not the morning.”

I don’t believe for one second that you actually remember that night, Tony. Another thing Tony doesn’t remember is exactly what the heck he wrote down all those years ago. What the one thing he does remember about the past is that Maya used to be a good person.

Tony Stark: “Get me outta here.”

But alas, it’s not that easy. Tony stays tied up, and Killian comes in to deliver some more villainous rambling.

Killian: “You know what my old man used to say to me?”

"Get out."
"No, the other thing."
"You're losing your hair."
"No, that was my father."
Killian: “One of his favorite of many sayings. ‘The early bird gets the worm. But the second mouse gets the cheese.’”

Tony, finally face-to-face with the swaggering douche that Killian has blossomed into during the past decade, naturally assumes that this display is because Killian’s still pissed off over Switzerland. The answer is ‘kind of.’  As Killian explains, when Tony Stark failed to meet him on the rooftop, he had some time to search his soul. After contemplating… other ideas.

Killian: “…I considered taking that one-step shortcut to the lobby. If you know what I mean.”
Tony Stark: “Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out what happened to the first mouse.”

But on that rooftop, he realized how much of a nobody he was and epiphanated right on the spot.

Anonymity. Nobody comes after somebody that they don’t know exists.

Killian: “You simply rule from behind the scenes. Because the second you give evil a face, a bin Laden, a Gaddafi, a Mandarin, you hand the people a target.”

That’s…. brilliant. I mean, it’s an idea that’s been done to death in various forms before, but when you look back at the last two Iron Man films, Killian has a point.

Obadiah Stane’s downfall came when he said “It was me the whole time!” and proceeded to rampage through the streets in his warsuit. Justin Hammer almost had the right idea, but got it backwards by putting himself in the wrong role as the face, not the man behind the scenes. And Ivan Vanko made the same mistake that Obadiah did. Aldrich Killian is the first villain in the series to actually learn from the mistakes of others. Including himself.

The only weak link in the chain here was Trevor Slattery, who was more than willing to drop character and spill the beans. Still, he nailed the role.

Killian: “They say his Lear was the toast of Croydon. Wherever that is.”

It's not Aberdeen. I learned that from Doctor Who.

Killian: “Anyway, the point is… ever since that big dude with the hammer fell out of the sky… subtlety’s kinda had its day.”

Killian reveals the next step of his masterplan: giving Tony something to fight for. He brings up a hologram of Pepper Potts, having been injected with Extremis. Her body is still figuring out whether or not it should just up and explode. Killian hopes that maybe Tony will be suddenly motivated to work on stabilizing the formula. He gets in real close to Tony to try and persuade him further, with the Extremis glow glinting in his eye, but is suddenly stopped when Maya grows a conscience and points a deadly syringe at herself. After all, if she dies, then who will monitor Killian to keep him from exploding?

Nobody, since she simply shoots her dead.

Killian: “The good news is… a high-level position has just been vacated.”

And off he goes to talk to Savin about getting Rhodey out of the Iron Patriot armor. Saws seem to be doing nothing, so Killian decides to show of his Extremis abilities to try and melt through the darn thing to get it to open up. While things get a little heated for Rhodey, Killian tells Savin that he wants Pepper moved out to a new location.

Savin: “She’s still in Phase Two.”

“Exactly. I want her as my trophy before her contract expires.
I hear that Natalie Portman doesn’t want to come back after Phase Two.
I want to make sure Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t decide to join her.”
Over with Tony, his watch goes off.

“Damn, I’m missing Dora.”
Apparently randomly, he asks a henchman (“Ponytail Express”) what the distance is between Tennessee and Miami is while the other guy breaks the watch to turn it off.

Ponytail Express: “832 miles.”

Man, this guy is wasted as a henchman.

But Tony’s ready for some revenge, and vows to kill the destroyer of watches first. He attempts this by flicking his wrists like a fool.

Sherlock and Sherlock. Huh. Didn't even realize that at first.
As Tony fails to accomplish anything important, Rhodey begs his onboard computer not to automatically eject him from the melting armor. When it decides to anyway, he leaps out and immediately start punching people.

Then this happens.

It actually happens.
Even Rhodey’s surprised by it. So surprised that Savin manages to knock him out with little effort. As Killian walks away, gloating about how he’ll have both the president and the “Mandarin” under his control (allowing him to manufacture a new War on Terror), Tony continues to fail to do anything. Meaning that his constant threats amount to less than nothing. That is, until a single gauntlet of his armor responds to his wrist flicks and flies onto his hand, allowing him to start kicking butt.

Back in Tennessee, Harley unlocks the garage, allowing the larger parts of the armor to zoom off to Miami, as Tony manages to beat up a room full of henchmen with only a rocket boot, gauntlet, and a gun. Except for the last guy, who wisely surrenders.

Henchman: “Honestly, I hate working here; they are so weird.”

Funny words coming from the movie’s stunt coordinator.

The armor soon arrives, though significantly low on power, allowing Tony to spot the Iron Patriot taking off without Rhodey inside, but keeping him from following. Speaking of Rhodey, he meets back up with Tony outside the mansion and they team up to ambush Trevor Slattery. Trevor is his usual self, but they manage to get a bit of information out of him. Killian’s plan involves a big boat and the Vice President. Tony is placated by what little information they got, so he talks strategy with Rhodey as his facial injury switches sides.

Seriously, editor, what the heck?
Tony remembers something Trvor said about having a speedboat, so he and Rhodey soon end up using it to chase after the “Iron Patriot.” Tony calls the Vice President up and warns him that the Mandarin has some kind of plan for him. But the Veep convinces Tony that he’s surrounded by the Secret Service and therefore completely safe. And the president is safe with Col. Rhodes. Which is when Rhodey speaks up to point out the flaw in that assumption. And with this knowledge, the Vice President vows to alert Air Force One. Which he doesn’t do for two reasons.
  1. His daughter is missing a leg. He probably joined up with the Mandarin in exchange for an Extremis cure for her. 
  2. He’s played by Miguel Ferrer. Miguel Ferrer is always a bad guy.
Elsewhere, the president boards Air Force One with the oddly-silent Iron Patriot while the real Iron Patriot tells Tony that they can either save Pepper or the President. But Tony’s busy talking to JARVIS about his cellar, which I’m sure has nothing to do with the third act.

Onboard Air Force One, “Iron Patriot” uses his Extremis powers to lock some agents in a room before going after President Ellis with melee attacks, because he apparently doesn’t know how to use the repulsors. After securing the President, “Iron Patriot” (actually Savin in disguise) gets ready to take him elsewhere. When Iron Man arrives, Savin is out of the armor, and the President is gone. But there are plenty of innocent people still onboard. That little fact changes when Savin blows them out of the side of the plane. Iron Man quickly takes care of Savin with a repulsor to the chest, finally getting revenge on the man who put Happy in a coma. Then he takes care of the people falling out of the side of the plane.

Thirteen people. In freefall.

Tony’s solution? “Barrel of Monkeys.”

On steroids.
Jury’s still out on whether or not Tony could realistically slow down their momentum before they all hit the water, though. I’ve seen conflicting opinions. But as far as the movie’s concerned, Tony’s idea works. And with a skydiving team credited for this movie, I’m inclined to think that an impressive amount of this scene was accomplished by dropping actual people out of a plane, filming them falling in formation, opening the parachutes, and repeating as many times as necessary. I mean, obviously, some of it must have been done with blue screen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the midrange shots were filmed on location in the sky. And if not… well, they fooled me.

I was also fooled into thinking that Tony Stark had been in the armor the whole time. He is not.

Or getting hit by a semi would have been the end of the movie.
Remember when Rhodey said they could either rescue Pepper or the President? Tony took a third option and sent his armor off to Air Force One while they went after Pepper. But now, they have no President and no suit. So Tony tells JARVIS to activate the House Party protocol.

Back at Tony’s mansion, his cellar opens up, revealing a vast space under his armory. From deep within, lights come on.

Over with Killian and Pepper, she’s tied up and he’s being creepy. He admits that Pepper isn’t just here to coerce Tony into helping.

Killian: “You’re here as my… trophy.”

Because even after Extremis, he’s still that petty little dweeb.

But the time to be a creeper is over; the Iron Patriot armor arrives at Killian’s big ol’ boat and spits out the President. What boat, you ask? Well, as Killian explains, it’s the infamous Roxxon Norco, which spilled all that oil a while back. And now, it’s time for the President to pay.

President Ellis: “What do you want from me?”
Killian: “Uh, nothing, sir.”

He just wants the President dead so he can install the Vice President as his puppet. The Roxxon Norco thing is just an excuse for the Mandarin to teach another “lesson.” After the President is strung up, Tony and Rhodey sneak aboard the ship and run around while Killian supervises a camera angle test. For a former weapons manufacturer, Tony’s a little clueless as to what exactly Rhodey is telling him to do as they undergo heavy fire. And he uses up all his bullets, unaware that Rhodey’s magazines don’t fit his gun. Whoops. And to make things worse, the Extremis soldiers are coming. Thankfully, backup’s on its way. Lots of backup.

Remember how Tony’s latest armor was the Mark 42? Here comes the rest.

God yes. That's the stuff.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Iron Legion is on the scene and ready to go.

Tony Stark: “JARVIS, target Extremis heat signatures, disable with extreme prejudice.”

As the various armors start kicking butt, the boat starts a-rockin’. So Tony has the big armor named “Igor” steady the thing.

Remember this. Tony Stark won't.
The scene is… just beautiful to behold. There are so many awesome armors flying around fighting bad guys. Each with their own function and name. For example, Tony tells one named “Heartbreaker” to go help out “Red Snapper.”

Unfortunately, Red Snapper blows up in spectacular fashion, sending debris everywhere, including the room where Pepper is. So Tony suits up in the Silver Centurion to fly up and help her. I’d like to remind you all that the Silver Centurion is my favorite armor from the comics.

Good God, this scene is like armor porn.
Rhodey’s itching to join him, but the suits apparently will only allow access to Tony. Which is a good idea, considering what just happened to the Iron Patriot armor. But for now, Rhodey grudgingly lets JARVIS fly him away with the Heartbreaker, shortly before an Extremis soldier knocks Rhodey right off of it again. Luckily, Thumper shows up to knock the soldiers into the air, allowing Tank to blast them.

Tony, meanwhile, tries to lift some wreckage off of Pepper, but can’t do it without potentially letting it skewer her. So instead, he reaches for her through a gap in the rubble. So… I told a story in my Iron Man Recap about how my sister’s boyfriend and I lied to her about Pepper dying in the first film. Well, she was with us when we went to see Iron Man 3. And it was at this point that she whispered in my ear that if Pepper died, she was leaving me at the theatre. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous because I knew that Gwyneth Paltrow was hesitant to return to the franchise.

Making things worse for me, Aldrich Killian suddenly melts his hand through the floor to try and rip out Tony’s heart. But when he sits on Tony’s chest to gloat for a bit, Tony demonstrates exactly why this armor is called the Silver Centurion.

Having joined the ranks of hand-losing Disney characters like Captain Hook, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, Killian takes a second to recover as his red-hot hand melts through the floor, shifting the debris to allow Pepper to escape through the floor. Tony exits the Silver Centurion to try and save Pepper, only to find that the majority of his armors are a little busy fighting the Extremis soldiers while Pepper hangs from the edge. An attempted leap into Hot Rod ends badly.

So much for becoming Rodimus Prime, I guess.
On a more positive note, Rhodey manages to save the President and fly him away to safety in the Iron Patriot armor. On a less positive note, Pepper ends up falling into the fire. At was at this point in the theatre that I assumed I’d have to walk home.

Killian: “A shame. I would have caught her.”

Filled with pure rage, Tony runs at Killian, only to fake him out with a slide so he can slip into Nightclub and proceed to kick some butt. When Killian overpowers him, he simply ejects and slips into Shot Gun to continue the fight. In the ensuing scuffle, Killian’s shirt ends up burning away, revealing his tattoos of Fin Fang Foom, an alien dragon from the comics.

Finally, his transformation into a Mortal Kombat character is complete.
Killian rips apart the Shot Gun armor, but just as all seems lost, the Mark 42 returns.

Well, any landing you can walk away from, right?
Instead of suiting up to fight, Tony has it envelop Killian instead, shortly before activating the self-destruct and escaping in Bones. Well, I say “escaping.” It’s a bit of a bumpy ride back to the deck of the Roxxon Norco. And the helmet of the Mark 42 lands nearby, poised and ready to reveal Killian’s face inside, vowing revenge.

But it doesn't.
But then as a double psych out, Killian emerges from the flames, declaring himself to be the true Mandarin. Then Pepper hits him with a metal pole.

That’s one hot Pepper.
But since JARVIS is still locking on to Extremis signatures, he sends the Mark IX to take out Pepper, who responds by punching a hole through it, putter her arm through its gauntlet, and using it to detonate a small explosive and destroy Aldrich Killian once and for all. And all that because Robert Downey, Jr. suggested she should get an action scene.

Pepper: “Oh my God…. That was really violent.”

You know, for somebody who spent two movies as a damsel in distress....

She kicks butt.

With the villain defeated, all that’s left is for Tony and Pepper to make up. And after Tony vows to find a way to save Pepper from Extremis, he makes the ultimate romantic gesture he’s capable of: proving that Pepper Potts is the most important thing in his life.

JARVIS: “The Clean Slate protocol, sir?”
Tony Stark: “Screw it, it’s Christmas. Yes.”

Above their heads, Tony’s armors fly up and explode in a spectacular display of fireworks. Except, presumably, for Igor, seeing as how that particular armor is now an integral part of the Roxxon Norco’s support structure.

Tony’s voiceover sums up all that he’s learned about how mistakes and compromises add up over time as the loose ends get tied up. The Vice President and Trevor Slattery are arrested. Pepper gets “sorted out,” according to the voice over. And Tony gets that shrapnel out of his heart with the help of an electromagnet and a subplot that wasn’t present in most cuts of the movie.

So let me summarize the important parts of this odd situation.

China has a lot of people. Ergo, a lot of people with money to spend on movies. The second-largest theatre-going public in the world, actually. So basically, Dr. Wu, who was briefly seen in the film’s opening, got a few superfluous scenes along with his assistant, played by Chinese national treasure Fan Bingbing. Basically, Dr. Wu calls Tony, JARVIS answers, and Dr. Wu says that Tony has China’s support. Not to mention the actual commercial before the film which asks what Tony Stark uses to “revitalize his energy.” The answer, apparently, is Gu Li Duo, a Chinese milk drink.

Chinese audiences were not impressed with the blatant pandering that added nothing to the movie, meaning that this particular tactic to appeal to Chinese audiences has yet to be tried again.

Marvel has since moved on to hugging, by the look of things.
But… yeah, even without the random Chinese stuff, there’s a bit of a problem issue thing with this scene.

Yeah. Bit of an elephant in the room.
But I’ll get to that in the Review because it actually fits with Tony’s character. I’ll explain later.
At the moment, Tony and Pepper are together on the balcony while Happy Hogan awakens to watch Downton Abbey. And in Tennessee, Harley returns home to find a tricked-out lab waiting for him. With a brand-new Dora watch.

Sometime later, Tony Stark returns to his demolished house to toss his Arc Reactor into the ocean. But… perhaps he isn’t quite finished with his armor, despite admitting in voiceover that he was using it as a cocoon. He picks up a screwdriver and sets off with his robots, ready to start his next project.

Which I’m sure can only end well….
Tony Stark: “I am Iron Man.”

And the credits roll, showing clips from all three movies in spectacular grand finale fashion.

And for some reason, the title looks like it belongs in a 1970’s kung fu movie.
And after the credits go by, the final question is answered… Who was Tony talking to? Well, he starts off by thanking them a lot, saying that just talking about it all helps. There are then two revelations.
  1. He was talking to the other Science Bro, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).
  2. Bruce fell asleep during the Switzerland bit.
Tony Stark: “So you heard none of it.”
Bruce Banner: “I’m sorry, I’m not that kind of Doctor. I’m not a therapist. It’s not my training. I-I don’t have the…”
Tony Stark: “So? What, time?”
Bruce Banner: “Temperament.”
Tony Stark: “You know, now that I think about it… Ohhh, God, my original wound. 1983, alright?”
Bruce Banner: “Yes.”
Tony Stark: “Fourteen years old, I still have a nanny? That was weird.”

And so, the film….


"I was supposed to be in this scene."
Yeah, no. That was an unsubstantiated rumor I read. And one that I can’t actually find any record of, so it might have just been a troll.

And the other rumor was that Tony would fly into space and meet up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, which was never actually going to happen. Ever. The rumor just popped up somewhere and the fans ran with it. And yet, this “original post-credits scene” is still mentioned on numerous otherwise-factual websites, despite being debunked by Kevin Feige, Shane Black, and Peter Gunn.

But hey, the post-credits scene we got (which was suggested by Robert Downey, Jr.) marks Mark Ruffalo’s reign as the longest-running live action Bruce Banner since Bill Bixby. And it’s also the first post-credits scene that doesn’t hint at anything to come. But before we can look at what’s to come, we need to take one final examination of Iron Man 3. But before I can even do that, I need to take one final look at the Mandarin. Once and for all. Though I know there will still be those who disagree with me. Hey, feel free. As ever, I’d love to hear your opinion.

So let’s look at the twist we neverrrrrrrrrrrrrr saw coming.

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