The Art of Misdirection: Iron Man 3 (2013)

I have a hard time understanding superhero movies where the alter ego gets more screen time than the hero. Fifteen – twenty minutes out of an hour and a half runtime is a terrible ratio. I don’t know the exact amount of time Stark was in the suit, but it wasn’t enough to feel satisfying.

I enjoyed Iron Man 3. It hit all the right buttons. No one can play Stark like Robert Downy Jr. The special effects were brilliant. Best of all, Shane Black’s buddy-cop humor was as sharp as Wolverine’s adamantium claws. I left the film feeling like a child who wanted McDonalds but got a Mom burger.

And just like a Mom burger, with time I came to realize how much better Iron Man 3 was than a McDonalds burger.

It all came together for me during a conversation with a friend a few days after watching Iron Man 3. We’re both the kind of viewer who likes to stay through the credits, even before they had the special stinger scene at the very end. While I can’t say I read all of the credits, I do scan them. Sometimes there’s interesting information in there. Somehow I missed an important line in Iron Man 3‘s credits: “Tony Stark will be back.”

Hmmm, I thought when my friend told me about this. The cogs started turning. The movie had made a point of having Stark say, “I’m still Iron Man” (without the suit). It clicked when my friend pointed out that there were quite a few scenes where Iron Man, i.e. the suit, wasn’t being piloted by Stark.

Ah ha!

After Loki’s attack in NYC, Stark had lost himself in trying to make plans, and suits, for all contingencies. As a result the suits became a crutch that was holding him back. More precisely, it gave him the hubris to think that with all his suits he was invincible. He lost sight of the fundamental fact that even without the suit he is Iron Man.

So while it might seem like Black had missed the point in making a super hero movie without the superhero, Stark needed to get away from the suit. To that end there’s something much bigger going on behind the scenes in the Marvel movie universe. And while the after credit scene was interesting, the real reveal was “Tony Stark will be back.”

Well played Black. Well played Marvel.

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