Iron Man 3 is Tony Stark’s epilogue to The Avengers, Josh Whedon’s film about the formation of Captain America (Steve Rogers), Iron Man (Tony Stark), Thor, the Hulk (Dr. Bruce Banner), Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) and Hawkeye (Clint Barton) into the superhero team. Since Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) fell out of the sky after battling aliens in The Avengers, Stark’s been plagued with nightmares. Even thinking about New York sends him on panic attacks.
The genius billionaire playboy philanthropist has a lot to panic about. The Avengers’ enemies span worlds and galaxies. But the action in Iron Man 3 doesn’t have to do with the Avengers’ shared past.
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist who has been bombing sites from Kuwait to the Grauman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, has a personal vendetta against Stark. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), the criminal mastermind behind the Mandarin’s plans, offered his think tank services to Tony Stark years ago, but Stark refused. Now, the villains want what Stark has: his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). And Killian is willing to ruin Stark’s Christmas.
Written and directed by Shane Black, the third installment of Iron Man resembles the narrative arch of John McTiernan’s 1988 action flick Die Hard, which followed NYPD officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he tried to save his wife against German terrorists during a Christmas party in Los Angeles. In Iron Man 3, Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) serves as Stark’s Sgt. Powell (Reginald Veljohnson), the friendly black cop who assisted McClane in his rescue operation.
Not only do both the movies occur during the same time of year in warm, sunny places, but they also feature spectacular explosions and fireworks. The films contain terrorist plots and show the bravado of its heroes. Officer John McClain walks on broken glass while Tony Stark throws himself at glass windows at one scene, not wearing his protective Iron Man armor.
To continue the analogy, both films have been well received. During its opening weekend on July 22, 1988, Die Hard brought in $7,105,514, ranking third in box offices. Iron Man 3, which was released on May 3, brought in an estimate of $175.3 million domestically, ranking no. 1 in theatres during its opening weekend. Despite containing a nearly identical story arch, this illustrates the successes of both films.
Although Iron Man 3 is an upgraded version of Die Hard, its popularity extends beyond the fiery-orange explosions. Rather than limit the action to 40 floors in one building, Iron Man 3 capitalizes on its global plot. Shane Black and Drew Pearce’s screenplay takes Stark from his mansion in Malibu, Calif., to investigations in Rose Hill, Tenn. With unlimited Stark Industries technology, Iron Man 3 shows off Stark’s new armor and gadgets. He can now power multiple robotic suits without wearing them.
Compared to other films in the franchise, Iron Man 3 highlights Stark’s emotional distress. Although Stark is known for his biting wit, Drew Pearce and Shane Black’s screenplay shows that underneath his robotic armor, he’s human. He’s cagey when Colonel Rhodes questions him on his lack of sleep. Instead of replying with a flippant remark, we see Stark break down with post-traumatic stress.
This is a clear departure from the Tony Stark we’ve come to love and expect. In fact, in one scene when the audience expects a witty or misogynistic comeback, Stark’s response is, “I’ve got nothing.”
Without his sarcasm as a shield, Stark seems more vulnerable and serious. This is exemplified in one scene featuring Stark and Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), a Tennessee boy who finds Iron Man in his garage. As Harley begins prying into Stark’s life and the events in New York, Stark starts hyperventilating about not being able to save Pepper Potts. With the straightforward reasoning of a child, Harley is able to calm Stark down: “You’re a mechanic, right?” Harley asks. “So build something.”
“Okay,” Stark answers.