I finally got to see Iron Man 3 yesterday after a series of mishaps, and it was great fun, totally entertaining, and hurrah for Shane Black who gets to make movies again, and sometime Beat penpal Drew Pearce, who also gets to make more movies, and hooray for Robert Downey Jr. for being able to sell almost anything. The superhero genre has finally delivered a truly great acting performance, although it’s not that much greater than everything else RDJ has ever done, and it shows why people stuck by his talent through dark times that were truly dark. It also presented, in Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin, the greatest Marvel movie villain of all times. Genius, and a nice break from the Older White Man string of villains in Many Many Marvel Movies, like Jeff Bridges, William Hurt, Sam Elliott, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Brian Cox, Hugo Weaving, etc etc etc.

As entertaining as it was, it did leave me with some lingering questions—I am not trying to be a spoilsport but these kind of nitpicks can ruin my enjoyment of a film.

#1: What the heck were the villains trying to do? They glowed, they got red hot, they regenerated and they were hatching a huge plan to kill the president in order to…kidnap Pepper Potts? Glow and get hot? Grill up some burgers? I dunno. It was never explained and though it didn’t really need to be to drive theplot, it was still kinda sloppy. Or just a joke. Villains gotta ‘vil, it’s just taken for granted, as shown by Guy Pearce’s evil gelled back 80s hair, and Miguel Ferrar being Miguel Ferrar.


#2: Where was the US government all this time? While the main theme of Iron Man 3 may have been masking and identity (thank you AC), the subtext was that government is useless and industrialization is good. Not to be crass, but the timing of the movie after the Marathon bombings—with their fairly comprehensive (after the fact) investigations and use of intelligence and vast show of governmental power—made many things in IM3 particularly unrealistic to me. Like, in the real world we sadly learned that a relatively dinky pressure cooker bomb will shred people’s legs off, but Jon Favreau’s Happy survived at ground zero with a bloody nose? Right. Also, with a murderous terrorist at large threatening Tony Stark, the Army decides that having Stark’s house under surveillance isn’t necessary, especially when three unknown choppers laden with heavy armament are headed for said house. AND that when Iron Man in #42 escapes the destruction of his house, no air surveillance can track him. We can track Santa for God’s sake!

These are all things that would not have made for a good story, but they annoyed me.


#3: Why were there no people from Tennessee living in Tennessee? Has anyone ever watched the news? When an 10-year-old Tennessee child confronts an intruder he does not use a potato gun, he carries a real gun. That was Flaw #1. Also he had no accent, nor did anyone else in the small town of No Responsible Adults, TN. Except for the ubiquitous Dale Dickey (above) who plays the Redneck Woman in countless movies and TV shows and is actually from Knoxville, TN. Why couldn’t the Disney kid have a Southern accent? Would it have offended people? I have a friend from Tennessee who ran down a litany of other problems with this sequence, from the availability of tech in the area to the inaccurate depiction of the bar, so suffice to say, this did not pass the local sniff test.

#4: Are the Marvel movies going to get more and more Disneyfied? Tony Stark teaming with a 10 year old moptop was just the visible part of the Disneyfication iceberg that’s drafting into to the Marvel movieverse. Marvel Studio pictures have always had a pretty familiar formula, from the wifebeaters all the heros used to wear, to the kinds of villains, to the chugging music that plays while the hero stares at a computer to track down the villain, to the grey-blue color scheme, to the fight at the warehouse at the end. With the Avengers and more so IM3, a more glistening sheen has begun to slide over the surface, a little more big-eyed, a little more schmaltzy. I love Shane Black but this was in no way a Shane Black movie—it was safe and comfy like a pair of brand new $200 running shoes. Tony Stark abandons the kid Harley because he’s a user: just as he did with Killian 13 years earlier. But now he has to send him a science lab to be warm and cuddly. I know that the end of Stark as Charming Bastard User is character development we had to see, but doing it in relationship to an adorable moptop who lives in Tennesee and carries a potato gun was too much for me. Not that a Marvel Studios movie will ever be “dark and gritty” or look as pretty as a Legendary superhero movie, but the tone is evolving. Just you wait until they get to Rocket Raccoon.

#5: Why was this movie set at Christmas? Granted, it makes it a nice holiday film so you can watch it over the holidays, like Die Hard, and sets it apart from other Marvel movies, but it makes me think it was supposed to open at Christmas once, even though that isn’t the case.


#6: Is this the most toyetic Marvel Movie yet? 42 different Iron Man suits plus Iron Patriot and Rescue!

#7: Is Jon Favreau being both “Foggy” and “Happy” the most alarming double superhero movie casting ever? Discuss.


  1. Answer to Question #1: The villains were looking to take over the American government by putting their puppet Veep, Miguel, into the Oval Office.

  2. I *think* that Killian’s plan was to control both the terrorism and the government response to it through his puppet President, so that he could profit from his ginned up War on Terror. Although everybody in these movies already seems to have unlimited resources, so it’s hard to see why he’d bother with such a complicated plan. As you say, villains gotta vil.

    What I really couldn’t fathom is why Stark would keep 42 autonomous Iron Man suits in his back pocket waiting for a Act Three he couldn’t know he would survive to see. Why not have them patrolling the mansion in Act 1? Why not send for them in Tennessee? Why not use them to storm the Mandarin’s place in Florida? Did I miss a line of dialogue about them being inaccessible until the climax?

  3. Well first of all, come now, I think we can all agree that the superhero genre delivered its first truly great acting performance with Heath Ledger’s Joker.

    As for the Bad Guy Plot, what my son and I put together was that (SPOILER) the bad guys wanted an Eternal War on Terror, to be fought using their brand of super-soldiers. Their Veep Miguel was part of their plan.

  4. Yeah Killian explains his whole plot at one point towards the end, I’m pretty sure; or at least, it’s strongly intimated. The kid wasn’t at all Disneyfied and very Shane Black because Tony was a total dick to him. Tennessee didn’t bother me. All his films are set at Christmas. The Foggy/Happy thing is a terrifying anomaly.

  5. 2: “…a relatively dinky pressure cooker bomb will shred people’s legs off, but Jon Favreau’s Happy survived at ground zero with a bloody nose? Right.”

    …well, right. From a physics standpoint: a pressure cooker bomb produces shrapnel, which does the shredding. The bombs in Iron Man 3 are not made of steel, leaving the heat and the concussive force. And then Happy spends the rest of the movie in a coma covered in injuries.

  6. I agree with a lot of your points but I completely disagree with the thought that this wasn’t a Shane black movie. The subversion of tropes (I.e. the henchman that gives up) the free flowing conversational narration, the buddy cops feel between stark and rhodey, or even the dialogue as a whole all felt 100% Shane black to me. And safe? thats absolutely ridiculous. Polarizing is more likeit. Exhibit A: “Trevor”. I rest my case.

  7. My own problem with the Extremis folk was that they’ve apparently managed to overcome conservation of matter/energy. Where exactly is the material to regrow those limbs coming from, let alone the energy to repeatedly heat up to 5400 degrees Fahrenheit without any source of fuel? (note that most Marvel characters use the handwave of mass/energy coming from another dimension).

    Per the credits, the Rose Hill, TN scenes were actually shot in Rose Hill, NC, a town of about 1,300 50 miles out from the primary filming location of Wilmington. Eastern NC isn’t that much like [fill in blank region] TN, despite the states’ proximity; NC’s a very wide state, and Rose Hill is about a 600 mile drive from TN on I-40.

  8. @ Tom Galloway – does it bug you that Captain America has overcome the physical limitations of the human body? He doesn’t get fatigued the way we do (pulmonary limitations, lactic acid build-up in mucles, etc). Why let something like that bother you? It’s comic book/movie super science.

  9. Building their ad campaign around a villain who doesn’t really exist in the movie is pretty big risk and far from safe. Especially when it’s a character who’s fanbase has been wanting to see since the first Iron Man movie, pissing off a lot of those fans. I thought it was a great bait and switch but I can also understand how fans could be upset.

  10. >> Did I miss a line of dialogue about them being inaccessible until the climax?>>

    Yes. House fell on them.

    There’s a line about how the salvage/recovery operations finally opened up that level shortly before he deploys them.


  11. This was by far the most snidly whiplash-ish mustache twisting villain I’ve seen in a long time, and yeah, nothing he does makes any sense, Why even bother with the mandarin thing if you have the VP in your pocket. it reminds me of the superfriends episode where toy man build a city on another planet and builds a cloaking device around the earth to get the superfriends away just so they could rob some banks.

  12. Having both a terrorist and a vp in your pocket means that you can manipulate the supply and demand for weapons/technology, which was basically the whole point. If this movie is too complicated for you, maybe My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, would be more your speed.

  13. I feel like such a nerd…Rescue isn’t in this movie (unless I missed a suit)…Pepper briefly wearing #42 does not a Rescue make

  14. >>There’s a line about how the salvage/recovery operations finally opened up that level shortly before he deploys them<<

    Thanks, Kurt. I'm glad to know that there was an explanation given (I wasn't just being snarky.)

  15. How is it flimsy? It happens in the real world all the time. See – funding Osama Bin Laden in the 80s, Iran-contra.

  16. Pretty much every nitpick about the plot I’ve seen on the net so far comes from people that weren’t paying attention during the movie.

  17. Miguel Ferrer. As in Seduction of the Innocent, as well as in many roles displaying his all-around talents as a performer. (Hey, he was misspelled in the on-film credits for Flashpoint, too.)


    1. Pay better attention.

    2. Where is the government EVER in the comic books when superheroes are doing what superheroes do? Most times, they do cleanup. Why didn’t SHEILD just pop up and take down Iron Monger at the end of the first movie? Because we want to see the hero fight. Come on! It’s not an invalid criticism, but how detailed an excuse do you desire to allow for a solo adventure?

    3. OOH, a child with a handgun! Wouldn’t Disney/Marvel get such great press over that!

    4. Probably.

    5. Shane Black.

    6. Iron Man was toyetic before he ever even got his first cartoon.

    7. The Human Torch is also Captain America. Now you discuss!

  19. Why let something like that bother you? It’s comic book/movie super science.

    If what you see on the screen doesn’t make sense, given about ten seconds of thought, then there’s a problem. If what happens on the screen makes no sense and affects the climax, then there’s no story. Regenerating limbs without a source of matter is absolutely impossible. The matter is coming from nowhere.

    The major difference between sci-fi and SF is that SF stories have logic in the extrapolation of science; you can trace an extrapolation back to scientific fact or established theory. With sci-fi, you get a 30-foot-long ant (square-cube law) or the hero hacking into an alien computer (INDEPENDENCE DAY). If there’s no story, then what are you paying to see besides the special effects and, perhaps, your favorite stars on the screen?


  20. @ SRS – so should no one watch Star Trek – warp speeds are impossible with no basis in reality. But Star Trek often has a valuable message beyond the sci fi impossibility. Should we lose out on that because of an impossible aspect?

  21. @ SRS – so should no one watch Star Trek – warp speeds are impossible with no basis in reality.

    You’re not distinguishing between methodical treatments and randomized treatments of fictional concepts.

    If you want to assume that FTL spaceships exist, for the sake of writing SF, then set speed limits and stick to them. In Star Trek: TOS, other galaxies were too far away to travel to, even at warp speed. Larry Niven–his stepping disks method of teleportation was superscience, but he accounted for conservation of energy, so that teleporting in the direction of a planet’s rotation took less energy than teleporting against it. A major reason for writing The Ringworld Engineers was that he neglected to provide a stabilization system for the Ringworld in the original novel, so he wanted to correct that oversight.

    In hard SF, logical extrapolations of scientific concepts, setting limits, and incorporating those limits into a story’s plot provide as many reasons, or more of them, for admiring what the author’s done as any other element of his style might. The story has intellectual substance and weight.

    Superpowers can be handled as methodically as any SF concept can be, if the writer wants to do the work. If the hero has super strength, then set limits and stick to them. Reasoning that, well, super strength is fantasy and setting hard limits on the strength is difficult, so I’ll have him able to do whatever he needs to do whenever he needs to do it led, for example, to the Hulk routinely getting mad and thereby boosting his strength to whatever level was needed to handle the menace of the moment. Those stories were garbage. All of them.

    Just because something can be shown happening doesn’t necessarily mean that it can happen in any sort of logical world. If what the writer has happen can’t happen, then he’s writing a dream sequence in which things happen randomly, without explanation, even if he thinks that he’s writing something else.


  22. Wow, an article using sarcasm to nitpick a comic book movie? How completely original and thought-provoking.

  23. Conservation of matter/energy is to superheroes, as relativity is to space operas, as ballistics is to westerns, as legal protocol is to courtroom dramas, as psychology is to romantic comedies. For each of these genres to work you need to ignore one fundamental field of human knowledge. Complain about it if you wish, but don’t direct it at one specific instance: criticize the conventions of the genre itself.

  24. Conservation of matter/energy is to superheroes, as relativity is to space operas. . .

    Super science SF is superhero storytelling with logic, without artwork. Marvel has adamantium; Niven has his General Products hull, a single colossal molecule with its bonds strengthened by a power plant. If you calculate the tensile strength requirements. the Ringworld’s scrith is impossibly strong, but given its existence, the Ringworld can be built.

    Showing off reasoning skills and having fun with extrapolation are major reasons for writing SF; they’re also intellectual reasons. Superhero storytelling that ignores logic is storytelling with the intellectual aspects taken out.


  25. SRS – way to suck all the fun out of everything. But while we’re playing the game, didn’t the Hulk movies pretty much establish that for whatever reason, taking on mass from nowhere seems to work in the Marvel Movie Universe? Nobody has explained it yet, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a sci-fi fantasy explanation.

  26. Being here in Mississippi, the lack of accent for the kid from Tennessee did kinda jump out at me. But it didn’t ruin anything.

  27. I’m from Tennessee, and I also noticed the lack of accents. I would have bought it had these scenes been set in Nashville, where most people are from somewhere else and Southern accents are increasingly rare. But in a small, isolated town? As Glenn Simpson said, it didn’t ruin anything. But it was odd.

    Who knows, maybe an accent would have thrown the global audience these movies are made for. It’s no secret that American movies are no longer made for American audiences, now that 70 percent of the box office comes from overseas. Filmmakers have less and less incentive to be accurate about regions within the U.S.

    And I wonder if the decision to make the Mandarin white (instead of Asian) came from a desire not to offend the VERY important Chinese audience. Last year’s “Red Dawn” remake was redubbed to change the Chinese villains to North Koreans, out of the studio’s fear of upsetting Chinese moviegoers — and especially the Chinese government.

  28. “#7: Is Jon Favreau being both “Foggy” and “Happy” the most alarming double superhero movie casting ever? Discuss.”

    Have you ever noticed that in the ’60s, Daredevil and Iron Man were essentially the same series? Both had a hero with a physical handicap (Matt Murdock, blindness/Tony Stark, heart condition), a secretary they were in love with (Karen Page/Pepper Potts) and a comic-relief sidekick (Foggy Nelson/Happy Hogan). So it’s fitting that Favreau has played both Foggy and Happy — they’re basically the same person.

    Gene Colan, who drew both series in the late ’60s, said he didn’t see much difference between DD and IM. And he regarded Karen and Pepper as the same person. He said the only real difference was their hair color.

  29. But while we’re playing the game, didn’t the Hulk movies pretty much establish that for whatever reason, taking on mass from nowhere seems to work in the Marvel Movie Universe?

    Well, how important should shape-changing be to a writer, really? If it’s that important to his storytelling, he could set his character in a magical realm and have everyone change shape, fly, shoot beams out of their eyes, etc. without any reader expressing a qualm. For that matter, the Hulk could easily be done as magical but unintentional shapeshifting, with Banner the victim of a curse.

    In the case of a single story, internal logic is more important than an explanation of the power source, anyway. Nobody should object to a single power fantasy as a story. It’s when a series can be reduced to an endless sequence of power fantasies, with readers objecting to complaints from others about the absence of logic because structure would detract from the fantasy, that the situation becomes deplorable. Someone with an active imagination doesn’t need to read power fantasies. He can fantasize about how wonderful it would be to fly, have super strength, or shoot force beams out of his eyes while he’s mowing his lawn.


  30. “Regenerating limbs without a source of matter is absolutely impossible. The matter is coming from nowhere.”

    Exactly. So you accept that it’s coming from somewhere and get on with it. Even though there was no explanation to the viewing audience doesn’t indicate that there is no explanation. The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Don’t presume you’re as intelligent as a fictional genius. That way lies madness. For example, if your robot suit is propelled onto your body would you not then be burned badly by the incredibly hot exhaust ports? I’d rather assume that this potential problem was fixed than that there is no fix and I shouldn’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain.

    A film like Gravity is going to be much more your speed.

  31. Yeah…
    I don’t think you’re Peter Dinklage.

    He’s only produced one show in Philly, and I was the stagehand on it.

  32. 1: Ummm, it was pretty easy to figure out what the villains were up to. I just saw the movie tonight. They explained it, as they always do, right before the hero kicks their ass. It’s slightly more nuanced in this movie with all the enjoyable adlibs but yeah, plain as day. I was able to figure that out even with some idiot behind me that brought a newborn to a loud movie theater.
    2: It’s a movie who’s source material until the past 20 some odd years has been aimed at children or all ages. You’re overthinking it. It’s a spectacle laden summer flick. Just sit back and watch things ‘splode on screen.
    Overall I liked it. My only complaints were the cheesy montage end credits which is pretty minor.

  33. Your #4 point is also absolutely ridiculous. Yes, Tony Stark befriends a small boy. He also quickly tells that boy he’s a pussy for bitching about his father running out on the family. How is THAT Disneyfying anything?

    Seriously, comics bloggers, just stay away from reviewing comic book movies. You all come off like nitpicky killjoys who don’t understand that film is a different medium.

  34. Is the same actor as both Happy and Foggy any more of a problem than the same one playing Human Torch and Captain America? lol

  35. Re the Tennessee accents (or lack thereof):

    Just as not all New Yorkers talk with the thick “Noo Yawk” accent popularized by Archie Bunker and the Bowery Boys, most Southerners today don’t talk like Lil Abner and Daisy Mae.

    Over the last 30 years, Tennessee (and the rest of the South) has seen heavy migration from the North — people fleeing “Rust Belt” cities where jobs have dried up, and black people returning to the South a century after Jim Crow forced their ancestors to leave. (Atlanta has surpassed Chicago as the U.S. city with the largest black population.)

    In Tennessee today, it’s common to hear Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern accents. Nashville has the largest Kurdish population in the U.S., while Clarksville is a magnet for Korean immigrants. In short, the South is becoming like the rest of the nation.

    There are still pockets — mainly isolated rural communities — where not much has changed. But for the most part, the old image of the South as a place where everyone is white or black, and they all speak with Southern accents, is fading into history.

  36. George, let’s not forget that originally was also an upper class professional in live with his secretary/nurse but kept apart from her due to his hang-ups about a physical disability.

  37. I saw the movie this afternoon, and was hot and cold about it.

    Far too much time was spent on watching Tony’s suit fly, fall apart, malfunction and so on. And it was dumbed down: “Here’s my address, come attack me”.

    But the casting was brilliant, the concept of SuperSoldiers was fun and well managed.

    I thought it played too much for laughs. That might have been an attempt to get the ‘young vote’.

    Overall a good popcorn movie, missing accents (I have visited Chattanooga, and the residents DO have accents, some subtle, some obvious) and all.

  38. Question #8: Raise your hands if you just happened to notice that most of the Extremis henchmen (EH) were veterans?

    What I thought.

    For my own reasons I’m sensitive to this stuff. It’s well established in the movie that the EH s were military and just happened to be missing limbs. For the non-historians out there, we recently had some very long incidents where soldiers lost their limbs and the first IronMan movie directly referenced at least one of them. Now, none of the EH s were shown, before enhancement, to be criminals, psychos, deranged loners, but were shown to be, well decent guys trying to play a bad hand. Which they only had thanks to service to their country. They weren’t in it for chaos and murder, but most likely because they had no other choice be it the Extremis or well… Try getting a decent job when you’re missing half your limbs and fighting off side effects of depakote prescribed for PTSD. So, can we expect a sympathetic treatment or care by Tony Stark after Killian had been defeated? Maybe do whatever he did to Pepper and them some prosthetic limbs? Considering they probably got blown up by Stark weapons- uh, yeah, we saw terrorists with Stark weapons in IM1.
    Please. Just another chance for an oligarch to use them to test his violent little toys.
    I wouldn’t have commented, but Shane Black isn’t a stranger to demented vets and he’s used the trope before- LETHAL WEAPON come immediately to mind. I just wish he’d been a little more insightful.

  39. In the original Extramis sotryline, the character who I think both Killian and his lead henchman are based upon is a US vet. So while Shane Black could’ve gone anywhere he wanted with that, it was based on the Extremis story, not totally his own idea.

    I would rather that it be just criminals who were these villains, but don’t you need people who are disciplined and trained to be part of your army against Iron Man?

  40. I think regional accents are fading everywhere. Most of the twenty-somethings I work with talk in the same Valley Girl or Surfer Dude accent, regardless of where they grew up. I assume they learned to talk from TV.

  41. People in Tennessee have noticable to strong southern accents. Especially in small towns. Especially little kids.

    This is pretty empirical.

  42. Exactly. So you accept that it’s coming from somewhere and get on with it.

    The important point here is that just assuming that the regenerated limbs come from somewhere, and identifying the somewhere isn’t important, instantly turns the story into junk. There’s no way to structure the story’s plot intelligently if important things happen inexplicably.

    That’s why assuming that some other dimension is the ultimate source of paranormals’ powers, shape-changers’ mass, etc. doesn’t work either as a genre convention or as an explanation. It’s an attempt to avoid providing a workable explanation. Children watching superhero morality plays don’t care much about a story’s plot because they’re children. They couldn’t understand a technical explanation if one was provided. And morality plays won’t entertain many adults anyway. For a story to entertain intelligent, knowledgeable adults, it’s unwise to assume that the integrity of the story’s plot doesn’t matter.


  43. So when Stark was having “Panic” Attacks driving down the road, was that a “Duck Dynasty” ref…” Happy Happy Happy”… Yes!!

    Also he blew up all his suits.. Is he retired? Maybe the kid from Tenn will take his place…. Yep!!

  44. I agree with the whole Tennessee accent and shooting in NC issue. I know it’s commen for big Hollywood films to be shot some where other than where the scene is based in, if not an unwritten rule as it seems this is almost always the case unless your talking about New York of course, but I do think they really messed up with filming in NC. Though I did really enjoy the movie and if I hadn’t known about it being filmed somewhere other than where they were supposed to I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. I live in Paris, TN, which is on the west side, and let me tell you most everyone has the accent unless they have moved here from another state which is really common especially coming from California for some reason. I think they did mess up not having it filmed in TN or another truly southern state but either way if you didn’t film here in TN or get actors from here the accent is still gonna sound different as TN locals have a distinct accent that I really enjoy. Lol The movies good and I really enjoyed it. The negative comments and issues about the movie all really just sound as if you went in with expectations that were way too high to begin with. It’s a comic book movie; Idk of anyone that read or reads comics, rather as a kid or adult, picking up one and being mad cause it just didn’t seem realistic or make sense. That’s the point it needs to have a little fantasy. I’d really hate to see what y’all would say on a topic or post about Thor. Lol Have fun, enjoy, and don’t think about it that much. Just a movie to make ya forget and have fun for 2 hours.

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