Iron Man 3 came out ten years ago, which doesn’t seem that long ago but real life has almost caught up to post-blip MCU time.
Upon release the third was pretty divisive with critics and fans, but how has it aged in retrospect? While it might have ended the Iron Man trilogy itself, it was only about halfway through Tony Stark’s character arc as a whole.
With the hindsight of his entire time in the MCU, Iron Man 3 establishes Tony Stark for who he becomes until the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
Someone grappling with massive revelations about life and existence after a traumatic moment. Not only does it set a standard for Tony taking up proteges, but for how he gets into the mindset audiences see in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
So how does it stand up after all these years and what did it contribute to the MCU as a whole? Looking back at it now, the film has only improved with time and its impact is still being felt a decade on.
Tony Starts Facing His Demons
Tony Stark is without a doubt the most layered character in the MCU, which makes sense given he’s the longest-serving character as well.
Iron Man 3 brings evolution to his character, one who’s realizing the effect his actions have on others. After drifting off into a wormhole with a nuke, it’s not too hard to question where you fall on the scales of existence.
This became an overarching force for Tony in the films to come, one of his first expansions into his desire for protecting those outside his bubble.
Who’s The Real Villain?
The most divisive criticism when the film came out is also one that’s at least aged a little better. The villain swap probably needed a little more expanding on in the movie itself as opposed to a DVD extra and The Mandarin finally being realized in Shang-Chi but does make sense in hindsight if Aldrich Killian wanted to appear threatening without putting in the work.
Killian himself wasn’t a pushover either and was even the first villain to come out of someone Tony personally wronged, most of which Spider-Man ends up fighting.
Not only does it set up villains for Peter Parker down the line, but it also sets an expectation for the Ten Rings that’s broken fantastically in Shang-Chi.
While it confirmed the real Ten Rings had been hiding in the shadows all along, both in the film and for the audience, it also showed a Mandarin who posed a legitimate threat and could have easily taken out an Avenger at the time of Iron Man 3.
A Glimpse Of The Future
Not only is this where Tony starts having his dreams of destruction at Thanos’ hands, but also the first glimpses of Tony as a father figure.
Before there was any idea of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man entering the scene, everyone thought Ty Simpkin’s Harley would be the protege Tony needed. Then Harley never showed up again until Tony’s funeral. All because of that menace, Spider-Man!
Here is where audiences got the human side of Tony, one that learned to care about people and was poised to take the Avengers to new heights.
It makes everything so much worse when it all comes crashing down around him, turning everything he cares about into literal dust.
The Excitement of New Suits
Watching Iron Man 3 for the first time in theaters, and before internet spoilers were nearly as prevalent as today, the most exciting thing to see was the new suits.
The Iron Patriot, Bleeding Edge, Igor?! It was like Multiverse of Iron Man for most fans at the time, and seeing how Tony went more for the Swiss Army Knife approach (along with kind of exploding all of the other suits at the end) in future movies, it’s nice-looking back on the variety offered and care put into the design.
All in all, Iron Man 3 became a solid building block for the Infinity Saga, serving to transition smoothly into Phase 2 and taking a step back from the heavy worldbuilding of Phase 1 to focus on character development more.
Third films in Marvel trilogies have been consistently great for their lead characters, and hopefully, that remains true for the upcoming threequels this year with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Standards might be high, and they may be divisive at first, but we’ve seen with Marvel that some things improve with time.