Look, Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie. I don’t make the rules, it just is. The movie is set during the holidays, there are gifts exchanged (let’s not even go into how Pepper would be better off picking her own gifts from here to eternity), and the running theme of the movie is one of of repenting for past mistakes and Tony wanting to be a better person – not just for himself, but for the people he loves too.
There’s also sacrifice, and love conquering all – even Extremis! – as well as friends helping each other. So yes, today, in this Fangirlish Countdown to Christmas, we’re reviewing Iron Man 3. And we have to start by saying this: Iron Man 3 doesn’t get the love it deserves.
It’s a good movie. It’s better than Iron Man 2, for sure. It’s also the one MCU movie that actually focuses on the mental health of its protagonist, dealing with Tony Stark’s anxiety and PTSD after the events of The Avengers.
Look, if you actually lived through the Battle of New York, you’d have some scars, real and metaphorical. And though the MCU hasn’t always been the best at consistent characterization, it always did a better job at humanizing Tony Stark than any other character. Perhaps that’s why Tony was so many people’s favorite. Even when Tony Stark was making mistakes, we usually understood where he was coming from.
But Iron Man 3 does one better, because it not only spends time humanizing its hero, it spends time humanizing its heroine, one Pepper Potts. She finally gets to wear a suit of armor in this one – Tony’s Iron Man one, what seemed like a fun nod to her Rescue persona in the comics, but that ended up with her actually donning her on Rescue suit in Avengers: Endgame.
Pepper doesn’t just get to wear a suit, though. She gets to fight her own battles, and Tony’s, she gets to save the day, and she gets the love of her life to put her first – even when the choice seems to be her versus the entire universe.
And sure, this being the MCU, they had to throw all that to the garbage to give us the worst movie in the shared universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron, but as a stand-alone, Iron Man 3 works perfectly fine.
Because of Tony, yes. Because of Pepper, yes. But mostly, because of their relationship.
Show me a more romantic moment in an MCU movie than Tony sending his Iron Man suit to protect Pepper first, as the house they live in is getting blown up. Maybe, if he’d thought about it, he could have gotten in the suit and flown her away. Instead, his first reaction is to send the suit to protect Pepper first, despite the fact that might mean his death.
It doesn’t, because Pepper is Pepper, and she can save him as well as he can save her, but that’s beside the point.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been built on iconic characters, but it hasn’t really been built on iconic ships. No, it’s basically just been Pepper and Tony carrying the torch of healthy, loving relationships, and nothing else. And though we followed them on a long journey, we’ve seen them at their worst; we appreciate this movie because it might just be their best.
So two amazing characters, a loving relationship ….what else do we need to make this a Christmas movie? Oh yes, a message of repenting for past mistakes, a kid, friends helping each other and a small town? Check, check, check and check!
Because Iron Man 3 introduces us to Harley Keener, allows Rhodey and Tony to bond and actually, you know, work together, and oh yes, Tony gets some big character growth. Character growth they then decide to throw in the trash for the sake of stupid Civil War, but we’re going to ignore that for now because it’s the Christmas season and I just want to say good things.
Like Tony Stark is one of my favorite characters and Pepper Potts is another of my favorites, and their relationship was, at times, one of the things that kept bringing me back to the MCU, and also this movie makes me smile and it ends happily and there’s Christmas songs, so yes, watch it and forget about the mess they made of their story later, specially forget about the end (go read a fix it fic or ten).
Merry Christmas, everyone. May Iron Man be with you.
Iron Man 3 is streaming on Disney+.