May 3 2013 12:00pm

Iron Man 3: Or, Appreciating Pepperony

Does that make here the Iron Lady? Be careful, this post mostly discusses Tony and Pepper's relationship in Iron Man 3, however it IS a review of the movie. While it is not intended to contain spoilers, if you have not seen the movie yet you may not want to read this review before seeing it.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD! Read with caution!

No one ever said being a superhero’s girlfriend was easy.

Even Lois Lane, laboring under the mystifying delusion that her alien crush and her identical-except-for-corrective-lenses, never-seen-in-the-same-room colleague were actually separate people, must have realized that dating Superman would be a tougher gig than dating regular ol’ Clark Kent. The constant cries for help always interrupting dinner, the supervillains with their axes (and, indeed, death rays) to grind, the secrecy, the power disparity, the thinking he’s dead on a regular basis, the always coming in second to the Greater Good. Ugh.

But in Iron Man 3, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has even more to deal with. Not only is her man traumatized following the harrowing events in New York (see: The Avengers), but he’s also, well, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), former playboy of the Western World and unapologetically arrogant erratic genius. That would be difficult to deal with even without the fact that he just played a significant role in saving the planet from space aliens eager to destroy us all.

Well, “unapologetic,” except here – in what will be many a shipper’s favorite scene in the film – Tony sets aside his trademark snark to tell Pepper in heartfelt tones just what she means to him, how only she has kept him from falling apart following the complete shift to his paradigm that the aforementioned space aliens brought about, and we get to see how the two of them have developed a functioning, adult relationship in a truly dysfunctional setting.

Not exactly a traditional Knight in Shining Armor story. Alone of many superhero sequels, or indeed of any sequels I can think of at this instant, what Iron Man 3 is truly about is what happens next; it’s about the next stage in a fully-fledged romance. Oh, sure, it’s also about explosions and kickass action sequences (Barrel of Monkeys! Definitely a highlight) and defeating ultimate evil and (cleverly) the War on Terror – plus, it’s very funny and features one hell of a cute kid – but Tony and Pepper are at this movie’s heart as much as the arc reactor is at Tony’s, and it’s terrific to see the human element playing such a big role in what is definitely a superhuman story.

In the first movie of this franchise, the Tony/Pepper possibility was suggested (in contravention to all known comic book canon). In the second, it was made manifest. In The Avengers, it was rather adorably continued, and here we have them cohabiting and bickering like any other committed, loving couple—though admittedly a committed, loving couple who are also the target of some seriously souped-up terrorists. There is no uncertainty here as to what they feel for each other, no question as to whether each fight might be their last – they are no Peter Parker and Mary Jane, neither ever quite sure that the other is in this for the long haul. Of course, there is romantic tension, because what would a movie be without it?

But even when Pepper is at her most frustrated with her self-centered superhero’s peccadilloes it never seems like she might just walk away; even when she undergoes frightening changes by film’s end, it never seems for a moment that he thinks her less than perfect. (Another moment destined to send the shippers into alt.) There is a solidity to them that makes their fractious liaison more than merely tacked on to keep the chicks happy, as in too many forgettable action flicks to name. They love each other. It is who they are.        

A lot of this is down to the flawless performances of both Downey Jr. and Paltrow, who are simply riveting in this film. If Iron Man 2 humanized Tony, giving him a drinking problem (ripped straight from the comics) and a troubled conscience, then Iron Man 3 goes even further: we see here a freaked-out Tony only barely holding on to his already-questionable sanity, and Downey Jr. plays it perfectly, always hovering somewhere between the sardonic wit we’ve come to love and a fragile vulnerability we can’t help but understand. Paltrow has been in the press a lot lately, and not much of it has been complimentary, but say what you will about her cookbooks or her presumptuous advice or her bizarre self-aggrandizement, man, the woman can emote – and has killer abs.

Did someone say Indeed, the trainers on this film are to be highly commended; both the seemingly ageless RDJ and his almost-undetectable stunt double move with a lithe grace , and Tony’s agility even out of the suit makes him almost worthy of entrance into the Xavier Institute. Guy Pearce, as our villain (not a spoiler; you pretty much know that from his first moment on screen), is looking none too shabby here, either, and Don Cheadle is handsome as ever. Basically, this movie is a beautiful person bonanza, coupled delightfully with a bunch of couple stuff and some utterly exhilarating calamitous craziness.

If you’re a comic movie fan, Iron Man 3 won’t disappoint. If you’re only in it for the ship, you’ll also be pretty happy. If you’re not into either of those things, I have no idea why you’re even reading this, but take my advice and see the movie anyway. I mean, Barrel of Monkeys! I can’t remember the last time I was so breathless in a theater – no, not even in The Avengers.

Just make sure you stay for the after-credit’s sequence. At last, a voiceover conceit that actually makes sense! (Sorry for the cryptic, but I’d hate to spoil the surprise.)


Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.

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Jennifer Proffitt
1. JenniferProffitt
I just saw this tonight and it was sooooo good! Pepper becomes kick ass in this and there's a nice Science Bros scene at the end of the credits so stick around!
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters

I chose Pepperony over sleep and I have no regrets! (Yet? Kidding. Mostly.) The critics weren't kidding when they said this one was action-packed. I feel like I hardly took a breath. It did get a little exhausting but I still enjoyed every minute of it. Pepper wearing the suit was amazing. I loved it. Loved that Tony was facing consequences from Avengers, too. And that Science Bros scene eeeee! I do have questions, though. How did Tony "sort out" Pepper--will she have modifications or powers still? And did Tony JUST have the shrapnel taken out? Because when he said he IS Iron Man, I mean...I'm thinking there's a reason he doesn't need the suits anymore, yeah? Guessing he totally stabilized extremis?
Jennifer Proffitt
3. JenniferProffitt

I'm guessing he totally stabilized extremis, but I hope to god Pepper still has powers. She was such a badass in this movie, totally renewed my liking her! Loved that Tony was facing some PTSD and anxiety from New York events--notice, he no longer lives in NYC....

I love the new suits that Tony designed--was so cool and such a great final scene. Loved Guy Pearce as the villain.

As for Tony and the shrapnel, I think he had the core thing removed too--remember the final scene when he threw it in the ocean and then drove away? I know RDJ will be retiring after Avengers and this was such a great sendoff to the series!
Heather Waters
4. HeatherWaters


Jenn, don't freak people out! RDJ is renegotiating with Marvel/Disney, which is why he's been playing the "I don't know if I'll do more" card. But you know Disney will pay big money to have him back for Avengers 2 and more. I don't see Downey as Stark going anywhere soon. Joss Whedon played the same game before he accepted the A2 job. They will probably all do it, at least the major players who have a lot of leverage. Except maybe Sam Jackson who recently said he has a 9-picture deal and always seems game for more.

I hope Pepper still has powers too! And yeah, I figured he lost the core, which makes me think he's got Extremis in him now too... I don't know my comics well enough to say for sure but I think that w/ Extremis he won't need the core or anything to power the suit...that's what he means about "I AM Iron Man." But I need Chris to weigh in on this, or someone with more Extremis knowledge. GIVE ME ALL THE KNOWLEDGE / SPECULATION!
Christopher Morgan
5. cmorgan
Eh, He hasn't needed the core for a while now. We can see that in the Iron Legion scene there at the end. You have JARVIS fighting with about 20 independently powered suites. My guess is that he has Extremis now. Extremis for Stark is odd because it gives him a weird tecnopathy skill which allows him to interface with any machine. He also builds a much more slim verison of the suite which reacts at the speed of thought, improving his reaction time. It carried him through The World War Hulk story line but it made Tony too super powered. He wasn't using his brains anymore, he was just another superhuman. If he DOES have Extremis, we won't get to see the school DIY Spy kit that he made in the movie.
Heather Waters
6. HeatherWaters
@cmorgan -- Iiiiiiinteresting. Yeah, that was my interpretation too, that he perfected Extremis and used it on both himself and Pepper.
Christopher Morgan
7. cmorgan
Forgot to mention the super healing and strength he gets from stabalized extremis.

Yeah, I felt the whole Pepper aspect was weird/didn't play out like I expected. In Extremis (comics), you find out that Tony built Pepper a suite called Rescue, but after she wore it she found the whole ordeal too stressful and violent, which made her walk away forever. We kind of saw that at the end. But she still has stable Extremis, can't walk away from that.

I'm curious to see what they do with Stark. I'm very interested. I didn't see the Mandarin play coming. I think it'd be cool if they bring him in as SHIELD director Stark, or just a kind of Oracle type role. That way you don't need RDJ for demanding stuff. Or you can set him up to build Vision and Ultron using JARVIS as a base, which are two things I'D freaking love to see.

And you'd be able to work in Paul Bettany as Vision, which I wouldn't mind at all. Though that is just comepletly wild speculation.
Heather Waters
8. HeatherWaters
@cmorgan -- Any of that would be REALLY interesting, I agree, though I wonder how people'd take it. But then again...taking risks has paid off so far for Marvel, so why stop?
Rachel Hyland
9. RachelHyland
@ cmorgan

They really had to change up the Extremis story from the Ellis-penned comic awesomeness in order to accommodate the in-franchise fact that Tony and Pepper are together, and that she never married Happy even once, let alone twice -- don't you think? Now, don't get me wrong. Warren Ellis is totally my comic-writer boyfriend, and usually I'd take issue with such blatant liberties being taken with his work. But considering they had to factor in the previous two Iron Man movies as well as The Avengers in this plot AND throw in the Mandarin storyline at some point (since he is IM's longest-standing and most iconic nemesis, after all), it really is a pretty impressive accomplishment. For more thoughts, I get a bit less romance-y and rather more comic-y over at Geek Speak.

Paul Bettany as Vision. LOVE!
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