Iron Man 3 looks better than Iron Man 2, by a long shot

All-new Tony Stark, and Pepper Potts’ armour in our Iron Man 3 footage report with spoilers.

Tony Stark hates spoilers and has chosen to look away, will you do the same?
Tony Stark hates spoilers and has chosen to look away, will you do the same?

Last week, 26 March 2013, a selection of the UK press were shown 20 minutes of footage from Iron Man 3, and given a chance to play with the terrifyingly brilliant Becoming Iron Man exhibit that will be touring key cities for the film’s release – it’s a sort of Wii sports type thing, if the sport was summoning Iron Man’s armour with nanites, dancing like a loon, and firing Repulsor blasts at targets. It was pretty humiliating good fun.

We were extremely privileged to see three whole scenes, snippets of which we’ve seen, in trailers. And so expect spoilers. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.

You were warned. Read on at own risk.

Pepper Potts shields Tony from the rubble
Pepper Potts shields Tony from the rubble

Scene #1: Tony Stark’s mansion gets attacked by helicopter gunships.

Who is involved: Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), a slick looking douchebag in a helicopter, a bunch of other douchebags in helicopters.

Geeky analysis: Maya comes to warn Tony to get out of dodge – suggesting she has some sort of prior connection or experience with The Mandarin, he refuses, but Pepper wants to go. Three-way bantergeddon ensues, involving the mocking of the enormous, weirdly proportioned rabbit that has pride of place in the room, and Pepper assuming Maya is an old girlfriend (they only slept together once, she reassures her). Tony clearly isn’t taking the threat hugely seriously, though he is armoured up – sort of like someone sitting on their porch with a shotgun so he can shoo off some bailiffs or Bible salesmen. He steps out of the suit after asking Maya if she’s the Mandarin, not entirely sincerely.

While Tony and Pepper trade barbs, Maya spots an incoming missile on the TV – tuned into the news, where live footage of the Stark mansion is being broadcast. Three helicopters attack, Tony uses his new nano-controlled suit to Iron Man-up Pepper, saving her from the brunt of the explosion – Pepper then positions herself over Tony as rubble falls. At his urging, she gets Maya out with a lumbering lack of grace – she struggles to fire the Repulsors, accidentally blasting the two of them through a plate glass window when they trigger pointed floorwards. Makes you really appreciate drunk Tony’s co-ordination in Iron Man 2, which is the first thing we’ve ever appreciated about Iron Man 2.

Safely out of the building, Tony recalls the suit, pieces fly off Pepper, whipping her around, and reapply themself to him – music swells with pride as he stands all heroic in the dust of his besieged gaff, machinegun fire going off all around.

Respite is temporary, ‘experimental’ suit’s air-to-air rockets jam, Tony releases his grip on the tilting floor to unleash repulsors, flinging a big piece of debris into the first chopper, then manually flinging a rocket at the second and detonating it with a quick blast, just as the floor finally heaves.

Two choppers down he crashes into the water, pinned down by cables the wreckage entombs him – lights dim, head tilts, on the surface Pepper weeps. It’s like Titanic, only with a self-aggrandising robot man.

Suddenly in the inky darkness, the Iron Man reboots. Completely entombed by rubble, his one free hand disassembles and flies off to pull Tony free of the debris. Not quite sure that’s how physics work as the thrust required to dislodge a man who weighs about the same as a truck from beneath a mound of concrete is probably humongous  It’s a little bit Saturday morning cartoon, but then again this isn’t Argo.

As as the surviving chopper speeds away, job done, Tony shoots into the sky, unseen.

Tony has a wee time out in the snow
Tony has a wee time out in the snow

Scene #2: Tony crashes in the snow and meets a little kid

Who is involved: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), a moose, a little kid.

Geeky analysis: Fade from black, perhaps there’s another scene here showing Pepper inspecting the wreckage of the house, and the world reacting to Tony’s apparent death. Cold and alone, Tony suddenly comes to over a very rural landscape at night with Jarvis warning him he’s on five percent power, he crashes over a road, over the top of a passing flatbed truck and a moose, and into a snow covered forest, bashing trees in his descent as he rolls and finally comes to a stop. It’s strangely reminiscent of the arrival of the infant Kal-El in the classic Superman origin story to the point where we expected the passersby to stop, investigate and then adopt him.

Benign AI butler Jarvis claims he was told to take him to backwoods Tennessee, as Tony strips out of his battered armour, Jarvis admits there might be something wrong with him, and slightly dejectedly goes to sleep leaving Tony shivering in the snow. Suddenly, there’s a real vulnerability to the invincible Iron Man – dropping a house on him is one thing, but leaving him cold and alone in the snow, clad only in a T-shirt is something else entirely. Superheroes get beat up all the time, but it’s altogether more affecting when they’re as emotionally wrecked as they are physically.

Dragging the doubled over suit behind him like a sledge, Tony yomps through woods, stopping at a gas station to make an apologetic phonecall and steal the poncho from one of those cigar store Native Americans, which might be a clunky visual metaphor – it’s tough to tell out of context.

Approaching a small town, Tony lets himself into someone’s workshop, props Iron Man up comfortably (tilting his head away from him to face forward) on a sofa, and starts trying to pick broken glass from the arm he exposed when he pulled that scientifically dubious rocket glove maneuver,  when a kid bursts in and holds him at gunpoint – spudgun point.

Unimpressed by Tony (he has a newspaper reporting his death that he nonchalantly flops down), the kid’s eyes light up when he sees the suit, and Tony barters a tuna sandwich, use of a laptop and other sundry white goods for a non-lethal deterrent that will deter bullies.All that talk about the metaphorical cave rings true here – broken down, confronted by a situation his money and power can’t by, he’s a man in a suit of armour – like Cap said in Avengers Assemble – but now he gets to prove what kind of man he is – ingenious, determined, undeterred by physical hardship, sympathetic – a hero, and emphasising the achievements of the human as much as the super is what Marvel Comics is all about.

The Mandarin flashes his Captain America tattoo
The Mandarin flashes his Captain America tattoo

Scene #3: The Mandarin arrives at Aldrich Killian’s gaff

Who is involved: The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), loads of flunkies in suits, loads of guerillas.

Geeky analysis: The shortest scene of the three, the slightly smug and shark-like Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is overseeing the set-dressing on the Mandarin’s terrorist lair – in fact in the backroom of his own villa, runners and floor managers adjust the positioning of skulls and bullet-riddled army helmets, and place incense to create a movie-perfect supervillain hideaway. It’s somewhere hot, sweat glistens on Killian’s brow and the villa has a whitewashed Colonial influence, the foliage outside fairly exotic – it could be anywhere from Latin America to South East Asia.

The Mandarin’s convoy arrives, pealing through the gates in guerilla-style technicals (flatbed trucks with machine guns mounted on the back), his miltia all ill-shaven and sweaty in vests and headbands, AK-47s strung about their person. Killian’s stocky, suited security alert their boss to “the master”s arrival, the two villains not directly acknowledging each other but their power and mutual respect conveyed by the influence over their surroundings, and their disciplined armies of flunkies and retainers. The Mandarin takes his place in the throne at the centre of this tableau, pulling his hood down to reveal his top-knot and the Captain America SHIELD at the base of his neck.

It’s almost like he’s the dark side of Agent Coulson, a man inspired by Captain America to serve his country, but instead the morally dubious black ops missions that transformed him into this Colonel Kurtz figure making him the flipside of American intervention to Steve Roger’s morally absolute war on the Axis. Perhaps this is the influence of other Avengers felt in Iron Man 3, and if it is it has the potential to be more meaningful that any mere cameo, bringing to mind Nuke (a villain with a US flag tattooed across his face) lurking in the Vietnam jungle in Ultimate Captain America.

There’s a slightly echo of the relationship between Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer and Micky Rourke’s Ivan ‘Whilash’ Vanko in the Mandarin/Killian team-up – the calculating industrialist and the raw physicality, but tonally this is more balanced, with no evidence of the same misaligned meeting of Rockwell’s peevish Eighties movie mogul and Rourke’s mumbling Ivan Drago.

Iron Man 3 is in cinemas 26 April 2013. You can buy the Iron Man 1 & 2 Blu-ray Double Pack for £21.75 on Amazon.co.uk.