Making the Grades
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is back. Still arrogant. Still snappish. Still driven to invent. But this time he’s haunted by memories of New York (see The Avengers) that keep him awake for days on end, throw him into panic attacks and plunge a wedge between him and his live-in lover Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Sequestered in his underground lab, he resurfaces only after he sees televised coverage of terrorist attacks by a new enemy known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
Hijacking the airwaves, The Mandarin spews out threats against the American people and their president (William Sadler). Blowing up landmarks and killing innocent civilians, he vows to mete out retribution for past grievances. (The accompanying film footage resembles actual news coverage of current events. With the film releasing only weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing and in the midst of the Syrian and North Korean crises, this disturbing plotline involving terrorist activity blurs the line between news and entertainment in unsettling ways.)
An army of genetically-modified humans, who tend to get a little hot under the collar, are also on the loose. Their fantastical nature makes them look more in keeping with the kind of bad guys audiences expect to see in a comic book franchise that includes flying suits and futuristic high tech computer simulations. These modified beings are unable to regulate their internal thermometers, so they burst into flames, incinerating themselves and anyone within a several yard radius. The challenge of self-control being what it is, results in numerous flare-ups along with other fiery explosions.
Unfortunately, along with these depictions there are frequent gunfire, a kidnapping and other explicit violence, meaning less time for developing a storyline—especially the romance between Tony and Pepper. At one point Tony tells Pepper she is the one thing he can’t live without. Yet the two of them have been acting like the stereotypical “married” couple, both too consumed with work and other aspects of their lives to have any time for one another. The lack of chemistry in their relationship makes it hard to buy into Tony’s profession of love. But then who has time for romance when the world is blowing up around you.
Keeping the audiences’ attention, the film paces through the violence, some moments of sexual innuendo and a couple of subplots meant to lighten the conflict. One of these sidelines involves a young boy. After crash landing in a snow-covered field in Tennessee, Tony meets Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), the son of a single mother. Their connection is hardly a healthy surrogate father/son relationship. Still it may be the best Tony can do considering his self-absorbed nature. Tony also resorts to snarky jokes and drops humorous quips even in the middle of intense action scenes where the fate of the nation rests in his iron clad hands.
Grossing nearly $200 million overseas before opening for North American audiences, Iron Man 3 is already well on its way to reviving a sluggish 2013 box office. But blasting the current slump in theaters doesn’t mean the Marvel Comic superhero is worthy of family movie funds. Although the explosions in this film are excessive, brutal point-blank shootings and graphic portrayals of bloody and burned bodies may be even more disturbing.
While super villains call for superheroes, being a superhero means more than putting on a shiny suit. It calls for a role model worthy of emulation.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Iron Man 3.
How are adult/child relationships portrayed in this film? Why is Harley so anxious to have a father figure in his life? Do superheroes, sports figures or other celebrities sometimes substitute for fathers in a child’s life? What important roles do dads play in their children’s social, physical, mental and emotional development?
Does Tony learn anything that makes him less arrogant by the end of the film? Does his character grow? If so, how?
How is science portrayed in this film? How do the scientists choose to use new avenues of genetic modification that they are developing? While scientists are already modifying seeds and animals, what other changes are they implementing?