Iron Man 3 is available to rent or buy now.
When Shane Black does anything, it’s bound to be subversive. The third instalment of the Iron Man trilogy has an uneasy relationship with fans due to a fake-out Mandarin reveal and it being less Iron Man and far more Tony Stark. Here the festive, winter setting dovetails with the thematic complexities that Black explores as Tony reaches the winter of his inner discontent. It’s an ironic commentary that the genius billionaire playboy and philanthropist is stripped of almost everything during the happiest and most celebratory time of the year.
Many misunderstand the greatness of Iron Man 3 in its interrogation of why it has to be Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit. Similar parallels are found in Tony’s speech to Peter during Spider-Man: Homecoming, as the valuable lesson he learned in Iron Man 3 dovetails with his pep-talk. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has often pushed Iron Man to the forefront of discussions of what makes an individual superhuman. However, it’s always been Tony’s dogmatic intelligence and, ultimately, heroic nature that makes him stand out. Just as Obadiah Stane remarks in the original movie, “Tony Stark built this in a cave, with a box of scraps!” Here we have a surprisingly intimate interrogation of Tony Stark, not just as a human but also as a vigilante who shares much in common with DC’s Batman.
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In an interview for The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black explained his reasoning for setting his film during the festive holidays, “it creates its own little encapsulated event in time … Christmas bands together and cements a story. You feel like there’s a common unity among all the people in it.”
The Christmas backdrop brings Tony Stark down-to-earth as he is stripped of his power. Meanwhile, the snow, ice and fairy lights also bring us a powerful emotional resonance when thinking of family, isolation and adversity. Here Tony’s intelligence is a shining beacon in the dark malaise of the night, with his trusty helper/agitator Harley by his side. There’s an undeniable magic to their scenes together. While many at the time debated this as a manifestation of Tony’s subconscious, in truth, it played more to Tony’s lack of family. Here young Harley is like an adopted son to Tony in his time of need.
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Iron Man 3 is the only Marvel feature film to date, fully incorporating the sentimentality and natural magic encapsulated in Christmas. And only Shane Black could strip away everything about Iron Man and somehow make the best Iron Man film out of a Christmas box full of scraps and some plucky father-son-Esque know-how.