Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 revisited: ‘Iron Man 3’

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Ahead of the release of the much-anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron in cinemas on 23 April, we’re taking a look back at Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

First up, it’s 2013’s Iron Man 3!


The story

After the events of Avengers Assemble – which you’ll recall saw Iron Man selflessly sacrificing himself by flying an armed nuclear warhead through a wormhole in space and only just about tumbling back to Earth in one piece – Tony Stark’s head is in something of a weird place. (And if you’ve just read that previous sentence, I’m sure you’ll understand why.)

Tony Stark, self-confessed egomaniacal playboy, is having a crisis of confidence. The events of Avengers Assemble have thrown him off his game, and so it’s not a great time for him to face what comic-readers will know to be his greatest foe – The Mandarin.

While The Mandarin enacts a series of terrorist bombings, Stark also has to deal with Aldrich Killian, a shifty scientist floating around his girlfriend Pepper Potts, and all the while trying to battle his own insomnia and anxiety. Quite the full plate, there, Tony.


The characters

As discussed, Tony Stark is rather going through something in Iron Man 3. But, of course, even with all those demons to battle – internal and external – Tony Stark is still played by the irrepressible Robert Downey Jr., and so the motor-mouthed quips and scathing sarcasm still come thick and fast.

Tony Stark might not be as imperiously confident as he once was, but he’s still hilariously, undeniably Tony Stark, and pairing him with ten year old kid Harley proves to be a masterstroke. As the precocious child, Ty Simpkins (soon to be seen in Jurassic World) proves an able foil for Downey Jr., and their dynamic is one of the film’s highlights.

As Aldrich Killian, Guy Pearce is sadly lumbered with one of the less interesting Marvel villains – Loki aside, villains are something of a Marvel weakness in general – but that’s balanced completely by Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin. Which brings us to…


The best moments

As The Mandarin, Kingsley is fantastic. His serious, weighty gravitas lending itself perfectly to the terrorist mastermind… which makes it all the more sublime when the curtain falls, and the twist is revealed.

Ben Kingsley isn’t playing The Mandarin at all; he’s playing a washed up British actor called Trevor Slattery who’s being paid to act as a terrorist called The Mandarin! It’s a rug-pull that might have upset some comic purists (although the Marvel One-Shot ‘All Hail the King’ redeems the move), but the switch is jaw-droppingly unexpected and riotously funny, as Kingsley commits fully to both parts. If the film lacked a good villain, at least it had a great non-villain to play with, and every scene with Kingsley after the reveal is a delight.

Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley Mandarin

Similarly, Tony Stark’s capture and subsequent interrogation by some world-weary and chatty henchmen is also a hoot, with Stark zip-tied to a bed without his suit allowing for some fantastic back-and-forth between the henchmen who foolishly don’t see him as a threat.

The above moments, as well as the repartee between Tony and Harley, make Iron Man 3 undoubtedly the funniest Marvel film thus far. And, as for action, the spectacular assault on Tony’s Malibu mansion is one of the best set-pieces in the MCU to date.


The best quotes

Tony Stark: ‘Where are your parents?’
Harley Keener: ‘Well, my mom’s at work, and my dad went out to get scratchers…I-I guess he won, because that was six years ago.’
Stark: ‘Which happens. Dads leave. No need to be a pussy about it.’

Killian: [on failed Mandarin actor Slattery] ‘They say his Lear was the toast of Croydon… wherever that is.’

Brandt: ‘Is that all you’ve got? A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?’
Tony Stark: ‘Sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography.’

Tony Stark: ‘My armour was never a distraction or a hobby; it was a cocoon, and now I’m a changed man. You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys, but one thing you can’t take away – I am Iron Man.’


Avengers reassemble

Tony Stark and Iron Man are likely to once-again be centre stage in Age of Ultron, seeing as the plot revolves around one of Tony’s inventions going rogue. Activating Ultron, a robotic defence system of his own invention, Tony hopes to give the Avengers a break from saving the world, but before long, Ultron comes to see humanity as the main threat, and so sets out to safeguard the planet… from us!

While Tony left Iron Man 3 in a much more secure state of mind than when he started, this set-back is sure to affect him in many ways – including, you’d imagine, his standing in the public eye. It’s all well and good saving the world, but what about when you’re the one who’s put it at risk..?

Avengers Age of Ultron

If the first Avengers film was rather fantastical, with alien invasions and gods running amok, this time it looks like a more grounded (well, it’s all relative!) technologically themed story. Expect characters from the Iron Man franchise to be peppered (pun intended) liberally throughout Age of Ultron.

While many of the Avengers have had cameos in each other’s standalone films throughout Phase 2, it’ll be interesting to see how their individual adventures might affect the group’s dynamic when they’re thrown back together again.

As the post-credits sequence in Iron Man 3 indicates, the easy camaraderie between Tony Stark and fellow genius Bruce Banner looks set to continue, as film’s entire narration turns out to have been Stark unburdening himself on Banner, therapist style (apparently taking so long that Mark Ruffalo’s hair went grey). Banner may not be “that sort of doctor”, but it’s nice to know that some of Avengers hang out, even when the world isn’t in peril.


What’s your favourite moment in Iron Man 3? Let us know below…

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