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April 4, 2014
 

My Thoughts on Iron Man 3

So, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire passed Iron Man 3 for the most successful 2013 release at the domestic box office.

The arrow is mightier than the hammer, adamantium, steel and iron, defies Gravity and put Star Trek in the darkness of its shadow while cooling Heat and thawing Frozen as it flies above the rainbow, takes the White House Down and gave The Millers, the Butler and the Anchorman Hangovers.

I could make more Despicable puns but the purpose of this post is to reveal my disappointments regarding Iron Man 3.

Ben Kingsley is a classy actor who ranks among the best of our day. An Englishman who can convincingly play many nationalities was capable of playing the Mandarin just as the comics presented him, and having film credits like Gandhi early in his career and the Mandarin late in his career will keep him a legend forever.

Perhaps that was the problem.

Robert Downey Jr. is an able actor and the way he straightened out his life is impressive. I didn’t like him for several years but I’m more comfortable now.

Gwyneth Paltrow has been growing on me with each appearance, so I’ve forgiven them for making Pepper Potts smart (though she was great dumb in the comics).

While those two can act, they pale in comparison with Ben Kingsley and I fear the decision not to give the two men long scenes together may have been more political than the real international politics that presented an obstacle.

In the comics, Tony Stark became Iron Man in Vietnam before we called it a war. I think the magazine that introduced him might have been on the shelves the very day the first US soldier was killed there (November 1962). The movies put him in Afghanistan and that was proper.

In the comics, Stark continued to develop weapons as always. In the movies, the business changed, leading to the climax of Iron Man 1.

Iron Man’s other early enemies included Soviet Russians, notably the Black Widow (in Tales of Suspense 52, 53 and 57-recruiting Hawkeye in 57) and the Crimson Dynamo (in issues 46 and 52). I believe it was issue 46 in which the Crimson Dynamo asked Iron Man what he was about to do and Iron Man said “Does Kennedy tell Khrushev?” (I think that issue was on the shelves when Kennedy got shot).

Those stories don’t fit now, but I still hope the Black Widow eventually tells a sad story about her childhood that might fit the situation. (She had a husband who was presumed dead but was actually being transformed into a villain called the Red Commando, I think).

The Mandarin first appeared in issue 54 and was truly Chinese. He had a magnetic ray that was stealing Stark’s missiles out of the sky and taking them to his castle in the Tibetan mountains. The US government could tell they were landing undetonated in China and feared the Chinese (then still under Mao Tse-Tung himself) were stealing them.

Obviously, the government couldn’t even ask Ambassador Chou En-Lai if that was so. Only Iron Man could get into China undetected. He found the Mandarin and the castle full of booby-traps. Issue 55 began with him strapped to a round metal plate while the Mandarin (in a scarlet and green tunic) told him he hates Mao and the US equally and wants to use his weapons to defeat both superpowers. Iron Man escapes with great difficulty and disposes of the missile as it approaches a Chinese military base, wearing himself out in the process so he has to find a US-bound cargo plane to get home at the end.

The Mandarin next appeared in issues 63 and 64. I never read 63, but 64 begins with the Mandarin zapping Tony Stark in the chest with a ray from one of his 10 magic rings. It would have killed him except Stark had his Iron Man breastplate on at all times under his suit. The properties of the 10 rings were never revealed, but no one died from them. In that issue the Mandarin told his sad biography and became more sympathetic.

My uncles bought those comics. When I started reading I didn’t really like Iron Man, so the last time I saw the Mandarin was in Avengers 19, in which he attached the powers of his rings to the sword of a villain called the Swordsman as he joined the Avengers in a plot to kill them.

The Swordsman it turns out had not only been Hawkeye’s mentor but a crook. In Avengers 29 he joined the Black Widow and the original Power Man (a NAZI) and fought the Avengers. They escaped because Hawkeye couldn’t fire an arrow at the Black Widow.

Apparently Swordsman reformed and joined the Avengers, getting killed in battle around issue 130.

In any case, the present situation with China is even more acute. They’re still technically Communist, do terrible things to their people and most countries owe them money. If a non-governmental set of Chinese criminals started doing things like that, no country could accuse China and only a secret mission by someone like Iron Man might solve the problem.

Obviously the story was too delicate to even address in the most absurd of escapist fiction. I went to the theater hoping for that, hoping for Ben Kingsley’s second greatest performance ever, hoping for a great story that would have historical significance like the early comics did, and got a fun story about pyrotechnics with Kingsley wasted and not even Chinese.

The story was ok but they wasted the name Mandarin and that’s a shame.



About the Author

Phillip Cole




 
 

 

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