Happy Holidays, True Believers!
As part of 4YE-mas, I’m restarting the MCU Rewatch. Sorry about the hiatus due to grad school related reasons.
Hopefully, we should be able to get these things going at a fairly good clip now that my time is a bit freer.
Due to a rather happy coincidence, our next movie is set during Christmas. So hey, two birds with one stone.
Today, we’ll be looking at Iron Man 3.
This film kicks off the Phase Two start of the MCU, which can definitely be characterized as experimentation phase for the Studio. They know that they’ve got your money, now let’s try to do a lot of different stuff story wise.
Such as the Mandarin twist, which has been talked about to death, so I won’t talk about it too much. Although, I will be honest and say that my opinion is it wasn’t bad. Weird, but not bad.
Iron Man 3 definitely takes that to heart.
Originally, I was going to talk about the evolution of Tony Stark. Buuuut seeing how his character is still evolving into the MCU, I’m abandoning that to talk about Christmas and how it is used in the film.
MERRY FREAKING CHRISTMAS
For some reason, Iron Man 3 director and co-writer, Shane Black, likes to set a lot of his films around the holiday season.
Three of his films (whether writer or director) have been set around Christmas in some way: Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Iron Man 3 is the latest film to join in on the holiday fun.
There’s a lot of good reasons as to why Christmas.
The holidays do tend to make the atmosphere more tense. Sure facing down villains isn’t quite the same as seeing your racist uncle, but damn if the struggle doesn’t feel the same way.
Then there’s the fact that, as a society, we are told to have a good holiday season. Nearly getting killed by terrorists? Not really the definition of a good holiday season.
Or we can talk about how the Mandarin can be read as an analogue for Santa Claus. The character is perpetuated by belief in the film, rather than truly being real. Except that he may be, but we can never really know.
The big reason for Christmas, or at least the reason I see, is that the holidays make you take stock of your life.
Take It’s A Wonderful Life: a man looks at how people would have been without him and it puts his day to day life in perspective. The message of the holidays is about attempting to be a kinder person, and to take stock of what we have.
Iron Man 3’s Christmas time setting allows Tony Stark to really evaluate his life and his choices.
Take a look at who he is in the start of the movie: untreated PTSD, panic attacks from The Avengers, building suit after suit in an effort to be prepared. Tony is so focused on how everything can go wrong that he’s not looking at how everything has gone right.
He’s not seeing what good there is in his life.
By the virtue of the fact that Iron Man 3 is set at Christmas, the season allows for a guided meditation on what is really important in Tony’s life. Is he Iron Man or is he Tony Stark? What is important to both or either?
Inevitably the answer is that he’s Tony Stark with Iron Man being a part of him. By getting rid of the mini arc reactor, Tony symbolically takes control of his life. He chooses Pepper, Happy, and Rhodey over everything else.
When he tells JARVIS to destroy all the suits, he prefaces by saying “Screw it. It’s Christmas.”
While a huge part of the Clean Slate is for Pepper to show her that he is dedicated to her, the other overall part of it is because it is Christmas. Tony has, through the past couple days, looked at his life without all the trappings, the suits, or whatever and has seen that Tony Stark is better than Iron Man. He has had his own It’s A Wonderful Life moment where he decides to take control of his life again.
Tony Stark has realized that he doesn’t need Iron Man to be a hero, much like how George Bailey realized how important he is to the people who surround him.
The Child Sidekick
Curse this trope.
If there is a more hit or miss trope in the existence of history, then I would be surprised. Usually, this is dependent on how good of a child actor was obtained and well the part was written.
Because let me tell you, some people just cannot write a convincing child.
And I remember a lot of people complaining about Tony Stark getting a kid sidekick. That it was going to stuck because of it.
Harley Keener, however, was a character that a lot of people ended up liking.
So why is that?
Well there are a couple of reasons.
1) Harley didn’t overstay his welcome.
In a lot of movies with kid sidekicks, it kind of becomes more of the kid’s movie than the actual protagonist’s. Nominally, we’re supposed to follow the hero of the story with the child just kind of acting as a supporting character. They help the character in some way: whether it be discovering paternal feelings or not becoming a grouchy adult or something.
Harley was only in for a chunk of the movie. The story was still Tony’s, and the film didn’t stop just because Harley was introduced.
He also was not brought along on the potentially deadly mission, which shows Tony being a responsible adult.
2) Harley helped.
Again with these types of characters, the way they overstay their welcome is because they don’t have much to contribute to the story.
Usually, they exist as something for the hero to save. Or as a reminder that you need to get those babies out. Or as a child surrogate or something. Any attempt to help usually ends up with them in trouble and the protagonist having to save them.
Harley, however, averted this by showing to be smart and clever. He’s not on Stark level, but it’s clear that he does love science and knows the subject.
In his own innocently insensitive kid way, he kind of gets Tony to confront what happened to him. Now, I don’t recommend getting a kid sidekick into trouble as a way of combating your inner demons or possible case of PTSD, but it helped.
And Harley recognized that Tony was not in the best headspace.
Ultimately though, in the brusque way kids have, Harley gets Tony to not get over his issues but to reprioritize them.
And that is a pretty huge thing to do.
To End A Trilogy
Iron Man 3 marked the end of the first solo franchise in the MCU (Iron Man 4 rumors notwithstanding).
Tony Stark’s story as it were, or his solo adventures, ended with this film.
So how do you end a trilogy?
Three movies to mark all the necessary character growth and development needed to show someone changed.
Well the MCU itself makes this a very tricky subject to talk about.
Tony’s character is still growing and changing.
The man we will see in Captain America: Civil War will be different from the one we find at the end of Iron Man 3.
What we do see, and realize, is how much Tony has changed by the end of this film.
Iron Man 3 has a flashback to the party where Tony met Yinsen.
And we can see how different the man from the party is to the man we see now. He has changed, and he knows who he is.
I think this is a movie where Tony defines himself.
In Iron Man, he was defined by Obadiah Stane and the media as the Merchant of Death.
In Iron Man 2, he was defined by Howard Stark’s legacy and Iron Man.
In Iron Man 3, Tony defines himself.
As he says: “My armor 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.”
Tony Stark’s journey has led to this moment. He doesn’t need to be a hero, but he can be because he sees himself as one.
He just had to prove it to himself first, and that’s what his solo films were leading up to.
And that’s how you close a trilogy.
Come back next time when we talk about Thor: The Dark World!
We’ll talk more about Loki, necessary scenes, and other fun things.
Until next time True Believers! Have a happy holiday.
(all gifs are credited to Tumblr)