Iron Man 3 The Mandarin

The good news about Iron Man 3 is that it’s a sharply written, well-directed movie. The bad news is that while some of the messages it conveys to the audience hold incredible truth (e.g., “we create our own demons”), it might just be the conspiracy-theorist must-see blockbuster of the summer.

Do you have any friends who think 9/11 was “an inside job”? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. (You might want to consider getting new friends if that’s the case, but in the mean time you could still enjoy a solid movie.) Do you have any friends who refer to the “military industrial complex” at parties so they sound smarter than they really are? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. Do you have friends who hate “Big Oil” and “fat cats”? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. Director Shane Black ingeniously — or perhaps devilishly? — devised a film that is drenched in anti-Americanism in a way that will leave many Americans exiting the theater not even knowing they’re all wet. At the showing I went to in Tyson’s Corner, Va., many people even burst out clapping twice during the film. On many levels, Mr. Black deserves kudos. That’s not easy to do.

Because so much of the movie focuses on Robert Downey Jr. and the “demons” his actions have brought into his life (his enemies literally breathe fire), and because he owns the role, one could forgive friends and relatives if they don’t leave the theater angry. The “truth” about the Mandarin alone, which I will refrain from disclosing here, is one that will play very well in Muslim nations that actually allow Western movies to be screened — for reasons that have nothing to do with their religion and everything to do with conspiracy theories that run rampant in those parts of the world. Given the fact that the writers and producers created entirely new scenes for the Chinese release, it’s not hard to believe that the endeavor was specifically crafted to maximize both foreign and domestic sales. Again, it is rather awe-inspiring what Mr. Black has pulled off.

Strangely enough, perhaps the group of moviegoers who will be most disappointed in Iron Man 3 will be long time fans of the Iron Man comic book. As already mentioned, the “truth” about the Madarin is something that will drive fans of the character up a wall. They will be livid, and rightly so. However, the average person who knows nothing about the character’s history will not care because within the context of the film, the changes work and that’s all that really matters to people who count box office receipts. It’s sad, but that’s the truth.

Moving forward, it will be hard for figure out how an Iron Man 4 would take shape. Robert Downey Jr’s shtick is enjoyable, but even the great and powerful RDJ gets annoying. It was a wise move to knock the chip off his shoulder in the third installment by stripping everything away from him. He needed to be taken down a notch. He needed the smile wiped off his face. He needed to look lost and confused and panicked because sometimes the rich billionaire guy who mocks everyone and everything just comes across as a jerk. Downey had an incredible balancing act to play between being that witty sarcastic smartass with a smile, and being the vulnerable guy who just recently learned their are forces in the universe that are beyond human comprehension — and he did it almost perfectly.

Perhaps my feelings on Iron Man 3 can be best summed up in response to something the Madarin says midway through the movie. The character, played by Ben Kingsley, says that America is “like a fortune cookie — hollow, and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

Iron Man 3 is definitely not hollow. There are many, many layers to it. The acting, writing, directing and special effects are all top-notch. Iron Man 3 does, however, leave a bitter aftertaste. Shane Black could have written a movie that did not blatantly appeal to large swathes of moviegoers who love nothing more than to blame America for the world’s ills, but he did not. Marvel signed off on it. Disney signed off on it, and so did Robert Downey Jr. And for that, while I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it is not one that I will ever purchase for myself.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing Iron Man fly again when The Avengers 2 hits theaters. See you there.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

24 comments

  1. Yeah, a buddy of mine mentioned the whole Truther-like aspect to me the other day. He said that he thought it was a good movie, but jokingly suggested that Alex Jones and Cindy Sheehan co-wrote the script. It does leave me more than a little worried… I’ll see the movie, but not immediately.

    1. It’s a well-made movie. I can’t lie about that. It just gets distracting when you think of certain editorial decisions and you’re like, “Why did they have to go there?” I don’t want to spoil certain aspects of the movie, so my hands are tied … but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at a few parts.

  2. Saw IM3 yesterday and was pretty disappointed. Not from a liberal sucker punch or Hollywood messaging standpoint but in the story itself. It was by far the worst of the 3 movies. There were too many attempts at humor and too much of Tony Stark out of the suit. (WARNING-SPOILERS AHEAD)

    And I HATED making the Mandarin a fake. I loved how the Mandarin was presented in the first half of the movie as controlling a vast network of terrorists who can strike anywhere and anyone, as demonstrated by attacking and destroying Tony’s home. And then to pull the rug out from under the audience and making the Mandarin an actor just reading his lines on a set, didn’t sit well with me. And to play the characters’ discovery of this for laughs made it even worse.

    I guess that was my main problem: too much humor. It seemed like every few minutes I was being inundated with some joke or something silly, regardless of the situation. When Pepper was being tortured, Tony, also being held, has called for his armor to come to him but while he waits for his armor, he is threatening two henchmen that they are “about to get it” but nothing happens and the scene is played for laughs until the suit finally arrives. While the woman Tony loves is being tortured. And there is a scene after the credits but it is really not worth waiting for.

    There were some good things. Robert Downey, Jr. was excellent as always. I think all the actors did a good job. The special effects were also top-notch. The story just didn’t work for me and at the end, I just wished that Jon Favreau had made the movie instead of Shane Black.

    1. Hi Ryan. Thanks for the feedback. I totally agree with you on the Mandarin and I would even concede that at times the humor was inappropriate. The Mandarin scene went on for far too long, and like I said: Marvel has probably upset a lot of long time Iron Man comic fans with what they did to the Mandarin. It’s one thing to jerk around a lesser-known villain, but to do that to the Mandarin is like rubbing salt in someone’s wound. Not cool.

  3. The liberals got a hold of this movie! Wouldn’t you know the true bad guy was an American and American military soldiers while the poor Muslims were innocent and we are the bad people. Plus, the symbolism of him blowing up his suits and his girlfriend not wanting to help out the military was all anti-military, anti-guns, anti-Americans. I just felt like Obama was the director of this movie and im very disappointed. At the end what is he trying to say that iron man is done he’s now some great liberal who doesn’t need a suit? JUST HORRIBLE!

    1. Jason, I am continuously baffled by the direction they’ve taken with this movie. It’s definitely is anti-military, and it’s more annoying when the message is coming from Paltrow’s mouth. For every good message it sends (e.g., teamwork), it sends something so skewed and weird that I just have to shake my head (e.g., those who dedicate their lives to national defense are always up to no good behind the scenes).

    2. Douglas, i totally agree with you buddy its just a shame it has to happen in an good old all american super hero movie, next superman will be gay and spider man will turn into a muslim. I hate the direction they are going in with movies these days i hope they take the liberalism back out of the movies we all love that use to promote the red, white, and blue good old american hero’s.

    3. In the last Superman they took out “and the American way” … which is why I didn’t see it. In the first G.I. Joe they made them some sort of United Nations-clown outfit, which is why I didn’t see that one, either.

      I’m looking forward to the new Superman, though. I think Synder will do him proud. I still think he’s a closet conservative … or libertarian, at least.

    1. Lizard,do you have any friends i wouldnt be friends with a lizard or snake for that matter. If you call facts and common sense conspiracy theories then im proud to wear that honor. If i were a superheo i would get rid of you obama minions for sure. Your kind are a cancer on our society and a sign of the times. Go watch im a gay superhero again thats your kind of movie commy.

    2. If memory serves me correctly, Milton was blind when he wrote ‘Paradise Lost.’ He prayed for God to inspire him to complete the project. I firmly believe that prayer was answered.

      Book 9, Satan decides which form he will take to deceive Eve:

      With narrow search; and with inspection deep
      Consider’d every Creature, which of all
      Most opportune might serve his Wiles, and found [ 85 ]
      The Serpent suttlest Beast of all the Field.
      Him after long debate, irresolute
      Of thoughts revolv’d, his final sentence chose
      Fit Vessel, fittest Imp of fraud, in whom
      To enter, and his dark suggestions hide [ 90 ]
      From sharpest sight: for in the wilie Snake,
      Whatever sleights none would suspicious mark,
      As from his wit and native suttletie
      Proceeding, which in other Beasts observ’d
      Doubt might beget of Diabolic pow’r [ 95 ]
      Active within beyond the sense of brute.
      Thus he resolv’d, but first from inward griefe
      His bursting passion into plaints thus pour’d: …

      The snake. The serpent. The “lizard.” Whenever Lizard19 slithers out to jab people with insults, in ways that do nothing other than sow pride in his heart because he can return to the shadows and say, “look how smart and witty I am,” I think of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.’ I can’t help it.

  4. Douglas, yea i agree, i’ve seen all of what you are talking about and it made me sick. I’ve seen the previews for the new superman and it looked awesome i think its gonna be the best one yet for sure.

  5. The more I hear about this movie, the less I want to see it. I might just wait til it comes out on DVD for that. I’m sick of Hollywood trivializing Islamic terrorism in movies and TV and making it out to be no big deal.

  6. Reblogged this on The Orange Mask and commented:
    Funny, I was actually going to post a similar post where I review Iron Man 3. I will say this on the matter: It’s an AWESOME film. Easily my favorite of the three Iron Man movies. Marvel has done it’s job well kicking Phase 2 of its movies off. This movie is solid and I hope that Thor : the Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier can keep the pace going. It’s a Marvel movie. Of course they will. Having said all of that… the reveal about the Mandarin?
    Totally and completely irresponsible.
    I understand. This was written for a general audience. But it was a horrible misuse of the character for sure. I digress.

    The story for Iron Man is done at this point. It ended perfectly. Where would a 4th/5th film go? It would be a clear money grab at this point but the story is complete now. Iron Man 4 most definitely should not come out until well after Avengers 2, but the question is really what story would be left worth telling?

  7. The Mandarin twist hurt a lot. i had wondered why they got Ben Kingsley for the role. they always portrayed the Mandarin as chinese. and marvel didn’t want to offend chinese people. so they chose ben kingsley. then they didnt want to offend muslims so they made him a fucking joke. i just can’t even comment anymore on that.

    1. I’ll finish your comment for you, then! You’re right.

      It would be one thing if they made him some sort of really offensive Chinese stereotype. I get that. However, to strip him of all Chinese roots? Unreal. They had to do the whole “WE are our own enemy” thing. Again, that’s fine. Did you see the latest Star Trek? The last Bond film? Well, it’s the same message. I enjoyed Iron Man, but what the editorial process says about where we are as a country is rather depressing.

    2. That’s an interesting question. In one sense, it’s always there. It’s hard to write about good vs. evil without often times rejecting the moral relativism usually preached from liberalism’s pulpit. I think that’s one reason why you see guys like Dan Slott trying to turn characters like Doc Ock into the “hero.” It’s not good enough to have an anti-hero any more, so now we have to make the villain the good guy…

      I think as technology improves you’ll have more and more guys like yourself putting out solid content that can be viewed online, downloaded, etc.

      There are probably more conservatives than we think in the industry, but right now the environment encourages them to be closet conservatives. So you might have a guy who is pretty hawkish on national defense, but he writes comics that highlight his more progressive views on, say, gay marriage. That sort of thing. In terms of safeguarding a career, I can see why many people would go that route. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is.

  8. This is a response to all the comments above from a Conservative Iron Man Fan.

    i’m sorry I don’t see the anti-military message at all really considering that Rhodes is an active officer in the Air Force and he is one of our heroes. None of the villains are active military officers and the ones that where killed, due to the Extremis explosion (the guy in Tennessee town and the Chinese theater guy) didn’t want to and take out all those people, in fact the veteran at the theater begged the other guy (Savin) for help so he wouldn’t blow up. Also politically I hate Paltrow’s guts (like most celebrities in Hollywood), but the reason why her character turned it down is because at this point and since the middle of Iron Man 1, Stark Industries stopped being a weapons manufacture so it makes sense that she would turn it down as the company is no longer working for the military. I should point out i am not against arm’s manufacturer’s at all in fact i want to work for Raytheon. Companies have the right to make what they want. Also how is this anti-gun thing makes no sense as both Tony and Rhody use them during there heroic scenes, also Pepper finishes the villain off with a micro missile she detonated with an Iron Man repulsor.

    Also i am going go on a tangent with the whole rich bad-guy thing. In Iron Man comics at the end of the cold war when the USSR was dying, Marvel started focusing on the flip side of of Tony Stark. Villains like Stane and Hammer and eventually there decedents, who would become important villains later, are supposed to be a representation of CEO gone bad. They represent a dark mirror for Tony. They are people who like Stark invent new technology and sell it, but Unlike Stark who sold it the US Armed Forces and S.H.I.E.L.D. and later went for the consumer market, the Stane’s and Hammer’s funded supervillians and terrorists. That is what Killian is, in fact he is more like the Justin Hammer of the comics than the actual movie version is. Also before you mention that they did that in the first two films (which i admit they did) I am going to point out that the reason why they choose this plot is because it is the most common and and traditional type of Iron Man story to this date. It actually makes sense if you think about it the whole bark mirror thing or exact opposite, it’s done all the time in comic book movies. Also I should say if you’re hero is a billionaire who owns mega- cooperation and lives a high end life style and the film doesn’t say anything about that being wrong how is that being against Capitalism.

    Lastly the whole conspiracy thing and saying that film is trying to portray that 9/11 was a cover up, yeah I don’t see it. Now i’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since you wrote this article was in theaters. However i watched this with the commentary by Shane Black he he doesn’t mention that at all sort of. In fact what you get from the commentary is that they thought it would be cool to have a villain who had all the resources to fake a terrorist scare to cover up his unethical experiments by using an actor to portray a terrorist leader which uses all the influences of actual terrorist (including Bin La-din, may he rot in hell for all eternity) to cover his tracks. I honestly thing that’s clever and more entertaining than a cookie cutter terrorist. Lastly all of the people that bring up the betrayal of Muslims, yeah that’s a gigantic assumption on your part as that’s not brought up at during the entire film

    Have a nice day and hopefully I didn’t bore you all to death.

  9. Now there’s a “Marvel One-Shot” film out that claims that Killian and Slattery weren’t the real Mandarin…. and that the real Mandarin is pissed that they used his name.

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