Extremis-t: My thoughts on Iron Man 3 (spoilers)

WARNING: Spoilers & Intelligent arguments, so if those aren’t exactly your cup of tea, now’s the time to jump ship!

I liked Iron Man 3, I thoroughly enjoyed it. That being said, I have some issues with it. Let me explain.

When I first read that the plot involved The Mandarin and Extremis, I was stoked. I’m a hard-core Iron Man fan, and the Extremis storyline is in my Top 10, as is The Mandarin on my villain list. I wasn’t entirely convinced on the idea of mixing the story arc with that villain, but I was willing to give it a shot.

I abstained from watching any trailer, as I didn’t want to get my hopes or expectations through the roof. I only saw the first, the reveal trailer and I like what I saw. The Mandarin appeared almost in darkness and you couldn’t make out his features, not precisely, so as far as I knew, he could be the Chinese guy I remembered.

What I saw tonight was both awesome and not so much.

Let’s start with the bad.

The Mandarin’s not The Mandarin. I would’ve preferred they used another name for the character because they have now officially “burned” him. Reintroducing another as the real Mandarin is now extremely difficult, nigh impossible actually. Instead, Ben Kingsley masterfully portrays an actor playing the role of The Mandarin, a decoy for AIM’s field tests.

They could’ve had another movie just for the Mandarin, involving the guy’s backstory, the rings and fuck it, even Fing Fang Foom. I’ll take Puff the Magic the Dragon if it means a Mandarin vs Tony showdown.

No Extremis Tony Stark, something I hoped would happen until it was obvious it wouldn’t. I hoped to see the integrated-body-suit in the hollow of Tony’s bones. We did get something halfway there, with sub-dermal chip implants to mentally command the armor, which is exactly how Tony suits up after going through the extremis process. The movie version also works quite well and is quite believable, and it’s a direct upgrade from the bracelet model seen in Avengers.

No AC/DC, I know, not really important, but with the AC/DC heavy Iron Man 1 & 2, I would’ve loved Thunderstruck, Back in Black or even Iron Man during the “House Party Special” where all the armors show up. In fact, back to back AC/DC would’ve worked wonders there.

AIM, Advanced Idea Mechanics is not a part of the Extremis storyline, and really, AIM without the yellow jumpsuits and M.O.D.O.K. is just plain wrong. In fact, with how amazing they made Killian as the villain, they didn’t need to make him part/founder of AIM. They could’ve called it anything else, even more so when the only members of the “think tank” seem to be him and Maya Hansen. The rest are goons and mooks, so any organization would’ve worked.

Then again, AIM could be Killian’s baby in the movie-verse, but we may see it in the future with M.O.D.O.K. included.

Feels like the end, even with the “Tony Stark will return” message after the credits, this movie feels way too much like a wrap-up, the end of a trilogy. There’s going to be a 4th movie, maybe even a 5th, so it seems extremely odd to have this movie end with such a “FINAL” tone. I’m guessing it was because Downey’s contract ends with the next Avengers, and they wanted to have a send-off in case he didn’t come back for the rest, but again, the final episode tone of it all is disconcerting.

The good now.

The Mandarin, let me explain. Yeah, I would’ve loved a Mandarin-only Iron Man, him against the guy with the Power Rings, but the concept of IM3’s Mandarin is FUCKING BRILLIANT. It needs to be said. Think about it, your product has the potential of turning your subjects into living bombs so you need a way to clean up the mess and divert attention from you, so what do you do? You use your country’s state of fear and the Middle Eastern Extremis Boogiemen (sadly one of the Icons of Modern Violence, Cruelty and Fear) image and shift all the blame their way. But that’s not enough, right? No, you construct a villain, your own Osama Bin Laden, a living, breathing, thinking and talking TARGET and make sure every transmission appears to come from Pakistan, and not from Miami where the doped up actor is. The result is the authorities waste time and resources looking for a threat that exists but isn’t what they think it is, leaving you to continue your experiments unhindered.

Again, I say, FUCKING BRILLIANT! That is one fantastic plan and it makes IM3’s Killian into a world class Mastermind, expanding his role considerably from a guy that blows his brains out 1 page into the first issue of the story arc.

Also, the symbol on screen for the broadcasts is the one for the Ten Rings terrorist group, the same that captured Tony during Iron Man 1, which is awesome! Though I would’ve loved to hear The Mandarin mention the organization’s name. The prelude digital comic for the movie does include the Ten Rings guys and their leader, the “real” Mandarin, Killian, but a mention, even by Tony on seeing the banner, would’ve helped form that link between the first and third movies.

Extremis, the Extremis process works quite similar to its comic counterpart, with many of the same powers (except the Force Lightning-esque powers). In fact, it’s shown with a greater degree of depth in the movie, with the healing factor re-growing limbs even. The IM3 Extremis Subjects are extremely hardy and almost impossible to kill, which is AWESOME. It makes them very tough and intimidating enemies. Also, in the comic story arc, it’s just one guy. In the film there are plenty of them.

The Extremis process looks pretty good in the movie, a surge of heat instead of a scab cocoon. It’s just as visual and shocking without being disgusting, and in the movie version you pick up pretty quickly when things haven’t gone according to plan.

Beyond the Extremis story arc, in another one, it’s stated that Extremis works well with a very limited percentage of the population because of a specific genetic profile, and yeah, Iron Man has it. If you don’t have it you die, simple as that. In the movie, there’s a chance you’ll die if your body doesn’t metabolize Extremis correctly. Again, a more grounded approach. I also loved they never went into detail on what the Extremis Dose actually is. No nanobots, no virus, nothing, just a compound, a Dose that can kill you or make you better.

I also enjoyed the heat effect every time the Extremis did its job, or the subjects activated it.

Anxious Tony, maybe the best thing about the movie and kudos to Downey Jr. for his performance. During 99% of the film, Tony’s suffering from the Superhero PTSD, with anxiety attacks, trouble sleeping and even nightmares. This is the Avengers aftermath and Tony has just been through war, something quite new to him. He’s fought individuals, but he’s never been in an actual war, and the trauma is palpable. Memories of the Wormhole torment him as does any mention of the subject. It grounds the character and makes him seem much more real, solid.

Bourne Stark, During IM3 Stark kicks ass, often without the armor, using his brain as well as his brawn. Again, he’s been through war and he’s fought with and alongside a super-soldier and a God, so it’s not crazy he’d train in martial arts. In fact, we see it during the first few scenes, with the weight lifting and the Wooden Training Dummy. Foreshadowing in effect.

It works wonderfully because Iron Man 3 is much more about Tony Stark than it is about Iron Man, less about the super hero and more about the man inside the tin can. Showing Tony capable of defending himself not only shows how much the war affected him but also how determined he is about keeping those close to him safe.

In general I really enjoyed Iron Man 3, it has its flaws, and the Adaptation Nut in me that complains when things aren’t adapted faithfully is furious at the movie, but seeing past that contention point, there are brilliant ideas in Iron Man, most of them extremely well executed.

The Mandarin wasn’t what I expected, or what most will expect. He’s not the true villain, and he’s not even The Mandarin, but if you see past it, you’ll see how well this version works for the movie’s plot.

The Extremis was very well adapted, with some slight, mostly visual alterations and, in a case of less-is-more, no fully detailed explanations are given, we are just asked to believe it works, and it does.

The story centers more on Tony Stark as a person than Iron Man the superhero and that is fantastic, even more so being the first movie since Avengers. We needed to see the aftermath, how the characters are coping. This is a more human film, about the people involved in this crazy lifestyle and how they deal with the madness around them.

If you’ve seen the film and didn’t like it because of Adaptation issues, and The Mandarin, I implore you to give it another shot with a more open mind, focus less on what wasn’t fully adapted or what isn’t there and just look at what is, and you’ll most likely come to realize this is a very good movie.

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