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In-depth trailer analysis: Why Iron Man 3 could be Marvel's answer to The Dark Knight Rises


Well, they're both the angsty adventures of genius billionaire playboy philanthropists, for a start...

In-depth trailer analysis: Why 'Iron Man 3' (2013) could be Marvel's answer to 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012)

The trailer for writer-director Shane Black's Iron Man 3 pulls off the rare feat of being downbeat, yet in an awesome way (underscored by great sound design). Iron Man 2 attempted this (for the film itself), and had only limited success. It was still a good film, largely due to the action sequences, but the attempt to give it gravitas didn’t resonate as much as the more straightforward sense of fun that the first instalment had. One might even have concluded that the tone of the Iron Man franchise ought to stick with something along the lines of ‘fun action adventure’ (like the first Iron Man), as opposing to ‘dark and brooding action adventure’ (like Christopher Nolan’s Batman films). However, judging by this trailer, Iron Man 3 looks set to prove the counter-example to that.

Given the obvious tonal and thematic similarities, Iron Man 3 and The Dark Knight Rises have been compared before. However, this is a more in-depth, thematic look at it than some others.

Iron Man 3 is probably going to be more standalone than The Dark Knight Rises, but if you look at the structure of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, each film is essentially its own separate story in the life of Bruce Wayne/Batman, with one overarching character arc spanning them. While it’s yet to be seen whether the Iron Man trilogy (if you can call it that) will hang together as well as a trilogy as the Dark Knight trilogy (and Nolan’s set an extremely high standard in that respect and others), the Iron Man films (in conjunction with The Avengers) similarly tell separate stories yet chart the growth of Tony Stark/Iron Man as a character and in terms of his relationship to his superheroic alter ego. (Okay, they don't literally have superpowers, but for the purposes of the genre, they're generally considered superheroes. Or potentially superantiheroes, given the dark, self-reflective take on the characters in these two instances.)

[The next paragraph contains spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises]

The Dark Knight Rises (spoilers) both affirmed the Batman as a symbol, and showed Bruce Wayne letting go of using it as a way to ultimately heal his pain, which it can never do. Iron Man 3 looks to do a similar thing, though perhaps more specifically in terms of tearing down Tony Stark’s arrogance. It seems that he might come to realise that he can’t rely on the suit as his identity (perhaps in part due to his own character flaws as Tony Stark, which compromise his status as a true hero (“Got a lot of things to apologise for.”)), and that his wealth, genius, and even status as a hero aren’t enough. They can all come crumbling down (as his mansion literally does), especially in the face of impending mortality.

The Iron Man 3 trailer features a great moment where Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, sounding like Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy, declares, “Lesson number one: Heroes…there is no such thing.” Before unleashing missiles on Tony Stark's mansion from a helicopter.

(Incidentally, Hugo Weaving also played a memorable supervillain in a Marvel movie; Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, but that’s by the by.)

By establishing the deconstruction of the superhero genre (and heroes in general) upfront, the film can eventually reconstruct the genre, and the idea of heroes, similarly to what Christopher Nolan has done. (Well, hopefully.)

The Iron Man 3 trailer is full of imagery that suggests the main character’s world crumbling (as with Gotham in the posters and trailers for The Dark Knight Rises). Again and again, the Iron Man suit is shown damaged or destroyed (with one scene showing the array of suits in Tony’s lab exploding one by one). Also, Tony admits that he’s having trouble sleeping and that when he does sleep he has nightmares, Tony’s mansion explodes and crumbles into the sea, and Pepper appears to be in danger.

At the end of the trailer, the light from the arc reactor behind the Iron Man 3 logo flickers out, and then Tony Stark is seen dragging the Iron Man suit across the snowy landscape. (Even the logo is deteriorating; though, interestingly, the first thing we see of this scene is the glowing circle that is the arc reactor, and then it becomes clear that while it’s still in Tony’s chest, he isn’t wearing the rest of the suit. Rather, he’s dragging it, as if being a hero has become a burden. Or perhaps it’s making the suit his identity which has become a burden. But at the very end of the trailer, the release date appears (in the same font as the logo), with the arc reactor behind it jumping back to life. Perhaps he figures out a healthier, more selfless / less selfish (and thus, more truly heroic) way to become a hero.)

It appears that Iron Man 3 will really test Tony’s assertion in Iron Man 2 that “I am Iron Man. I and the suit are one.”, thus deconstructing the Iron Man suit as a symbol of a hero, and even as (a part of) Tony Stark’s identity. In some ways, this seems thematically similar to Christopher Nolan’s brilliant finale to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, even mirroring the shot of the broken mask (though in this case it seems to be just scarred).

The film neatly deals with the challenge of continuing on from The Avengers with the (mis)adventures of Tony Stark/Iron Man upon being separated from the rest of the team, a task which the other subsequent sequels (Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) will have to handle in their own ways. Iron Man 3, at least, has a smart take on this, by dealing with the intense psychological effects on Tony Stark, not just of that transition, but also all of this other stuff he has to deal with at the same time.

As Stan Lee has said (on the DVD extras for Spider-Man 2), his problem with giving his characters problems was always that he couldn’t give them *enough* problems. He was talking about Spider-Man in that particular case, but it pretty much applies to every Marvel character. A key characteristic of Marvel superheroes is that they not only have to save the world, but also have to deal with all their personal problems at the same time as well, which is what makes them so emotionally resonant (especially Spider-Man, who’s perhaps the quintessential example of this).

[The next paragraph contains spoilers for The Avengers and Iron Man 2]

Tony Stark/Iron Man, being the most immature of the Avengers, is going through a character arc and becoming more mature, and that’s interesting to watch. In The Avengers (spoilers), he learnt (albeit reluctantly) to work as part of a team (following on from the end of Iron Man 2 (spoilers), where he teamed up with Rhodey/War Machine), and even uncharacteristically sacrificed himself for others. (As it turns out, he survived, but it’s interesting (though perhaps coincidental) that the Iron Man 3 trailer opens with him lying flat on his back in the Iron Man suit, seemingly having fallen to Earth, and then flipping open his helmet, much like he rejoins the Avengers (and metaphorically comes back to life) towards the end of The Avengers.) Iron Man 3 deals with the psychological aftermath of this, as he has to leave this newfound team and deal with all of this stuff on his own. Well, except for Rhodey and Pepper Potts.

Tony says, “Honestly, there’s a hundred people who wanna kill me. I hope I can protect the one thing I can’t live without…” And then he motions toward Pepper Potts, in a great piece of dramatic acting from Robert Downey Jr. (So, you know, no pressure, Pepper. Like that time you had to do open-heart surgery on him.)

Maybe the film will be an operatic story of Tony and Pepper struggling to hold onto their relationship as their world crumbles around them. (Like a romantic drama, but with explosions!) That would be awesome. Until Pepper can’t take the pressure anymore and leaves Tony broken-hearted, and then the Mandarin or Guy Pearce or someone kills Tony Stark/Iron Man. And then goes "Mwahahahaha!" (Until The Avengers 2! Of course, even if Robert Downey Jr. leaves the role (which he probably won’t do anytime soon, because he loves the character), then they’ll probably just recast the role, like with James Bond, as Marvel’s Kevin Feige has said. Though whoever else they might cast would have a tough time living up to Robert Downey Jr.)

Check out the following fan-made YouTube trailer mash-up of the sound from the Iron Man 3 trailer with the visuals from The Dark Knight Rises trailer:

Iron Man 3 is released on May 3, 2013 in the US, and April 26, 2013 in the UK, two or three weeks before another highly anticipated darker sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. Which will be better; the one with the guy with the flying metal suit, or the one with the spaceships?


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#1 ST A 2012-11-03 11:30
I don't know which will be better but damn, Star Trek Into Darkness was a long wait!!! I'm more excited about it than Iron Man 3 to be honest.
#2 awkwarddopeness Anthony Stokes 2012-11-04 15:09
There's nothing in the Ironman 3 trailer that reminds me of Dark Knight Rises. The Ironman series has consistently gotten darker as the movie have gone on and Ironman 2 was too hooky so it makes sense it would be like this. The broken mask is a common theme of superhero movies. Look at Spiderman 2 it's basically the same story, with the ripped mask, People need to stop acting like Dark Knight Trilogy is the end all be all of Superhero movies.
#3 Spot on analysis Matthew Killorin 2012-11-05 20:33
Excellent comparison of these two flicks. No doubt, Nolan has influenced Marvel somewhat in the making of IM 3. Especially like your take regarding the damaged IM suit and how it represents the burden of being a hero. Great stuff!

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