Good to see that the events of New York — and events from Tony’s life before that, as well — had consequences, and that Tony is having to deal with the fallout even months (years) later, and that the eventual end result of that is his choice to destroy the suits and stop depending on the arc reactor to survive. Anyone else notice that the line at the end of the credits was “Tony Stark Will Return”? Not Iron Man. Tony Stark. And no indication of when, or in what film. Interesting. Of course, if Rhodey and Pepper can activate and use the suits without having a personal arc reactor installed, so can Tony — he doesn’t have to stop being Iron Man. But it’s as though Iron Man has become a choice rather than a necessity. It’s a nice bit of character growth, and I hope we get to see more of it.
I also liked that both Pepper and Rhodey got some moments to step up and kick some ass. Pepper was pushed a little bit far into damsel in distress territory a few times, but not so far that it got to be a real problem, especially given that she came to Tony's rescue more than once. Any bets on whether Tony cured Pepper of all the effects of Extremis? Or did he just stabilize her so she wouldn’t explode? If the latter, now she’s the one with the superpower, which could bring some fascinating implications down the line.
I was completely blindsided by the reveal on the Mandarin. In the very best way, to the point where it took me awhile to even believe what I was hearing, to stop expecting Trevor to be an elaborate ruse to lull Tony into submission. This, to me, was one of the very best things about the film. It wasn't just an awesome reveal. The movie took a nasty racist stereotype and flipped it around into an examination of that stereotype: how Killian used it for his own purposes, how quickly everyone bought into it. Here's a really great post on why these changes to the Mandarin from comic book were not only an improvement, but necessary to update the film and keep it from being a racist, orientalist disaster. And also the brilliance of the film's marketing, how it led us to expect one thing, and then the movie gave us something entirely different -- and so much better.
Another neat trope flip (that I didn't notice on my own; credit ouyangdan for this one): Pepper didn't get fridged to cause Tony's manpain and give him an impetus to move against the Mandarin. Instead, it was Happy who was sidelined, injured and at one point, literally put into a refrigerator (when Tony ditches his call by leaving the phone inside the wine cellar). Also everything with Tony and the kid -- at first, their relationship looks like it's going to fall into all the stereotypes of "kid softens up grumpy man and helps him find his capacity to care", but nope. Tony is the same obnoxious, self-involved guy he always is, even if he does accept Harley's help in his own way. Good trope subversion is always a win.
I have a few issues, of course, the main one being that Maya and especially Killian were underdeveloped as villains, in terms of really getting to understand their motivations. I also wish Rhodey had been given just a little bit more to do in the final battle -- surely once the president was flown to safety, he could have come back to help out. And Tony snapping out of his last anxiety attack the way he did seemed just a little too easy to me, although since I have no first hand experience with anxiety, panic disorders, or PTSD, I don't want to speak to that too much. But overall, none of my complaints were enough to get in the way of my enjoyment of the film.
The one thing I was spoiled for (besides Pepper eventually ending up in the suit — not the circumstances, though, and that was pretty sweet) was Mark Ruffalo having a small part in the film, so when he didn’t show up during the movie proper, I pretty much guessed what was coming in the tag scene. Which fortunately did not make the moment any less awesome. :D Proof that Science Bros lasted beyond the credits of the Avengers! One thing about being in the post Avengers MCU era — I start wanting to know where everyone else is. Okay, we can excuse Thor for being out of town, but why isn’t Cap going after the Mandarin? Why isn’t SHIELD all over this Extremis stuff? Maybe we’ll get explanations in the other movies (like how The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man 2 all happened within the space of about one week, movie-canon time), but for now it does leave me wondering.
So anyway, it was fun, and I'm glad I saw it opening weekend. More MCU, hooray! And I'm glad I got to see the trailer for Thor 2 on the big screen. But really, it's all marking time until next April. Is it can be Winter Soldier time, please?
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