Skip to main content

BLOG Iron Man 3: Choose Your Own Adventure

(opens in new tab)

So, Iron Man 3 .

I liked it. Yes, it had its flaws, and heaven knows that the whole thing with The Mandarin was, well, just plain odd, but overall I liked the film. I took it for what it was and just let myself like it. Frankly, for me, Pepper in the suit was worth the price of admission alone. I managed not to see a single preview for the movie and I had no idea that happened. As a pretty big fan of Pepper as Rescue, I loved every second of that too brief scene. I also enjoyed Tony’s PTSD and the fact that the kid wasn’t too sugary sweet but more of a real life child. I could go on about other things I enjoyed and list out stuff that bothered me, too, but suffice to say I liked the film in general.

(opens in new tab)

But I have one serious issue with it. One thing just keeps niggling at me. I thought time would make it go away, but after talking with a neophyte Iron Man fan the other night at work, I was yet again reminded of this problem, and I just have to get it off my chest, so here we are.

What’s with the end?

I completely understand the “clean slate protocol” and I’m fine with the 100% non-canon happy ending for Pepper and Tony (because the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not the comics, and that’s completely fine with me – I like both universes, and frankly I often like the MCU more, so there), but the removal of the arc reactor just baffles me.

Not because I don’t understand it. I do. In my mind, it was clear as day why Tony could remove the shrapnel from his chest and then remove the RT: he has Extremis now. He stabilised it in Pepper and then used it on himself. So now he’s better than before, and he’s not done being Iron Man. I know this because I know the comics and I know about Extremis and Tony. But it seems to me that anyone who has not read the comics would be completely confused by the end of the movie.

It didn’t even occur to me to be confused, because everything was clear to me as an Extremis fan. But when friends started asking me things like, “Why didn’t Tony die when they took out the reactor? Didn’t that keep him alive?” and, “If he could just have surgery to get it taken out, why didn’t he do it before?” I kept blinking at them in confusion. My brain immediately provided the one word answer of, “Extremis,” but then I realised the movie and my brain are two very different things and the movie didn’t give these fans an answer. Granted, my brain could be completely wrong and the MCU might go somewhere else entirely later, but that’s not the point. The point is that the movie just left many people baffled as to what exactly happened at the end.

And that’s when I realised that this movie is like a Choose Your Own Adventure story, and it has two very distinct endings. People who have read the comics drew one conclusion from it (that Tony has Extremis now and is still Iron Man), and those who haven’t drew a completely different one (that Tony is retired now and somehow managed to get around that pesky RT keeping him alive thing).

At least that’s how I see it. I’m curious to see which group is proven right (or if they do something in between) when Avengers 2 comes out, but for now I just want to know one thing. Am I right, non-comic-readers out there? Were you as confused as some of my friends or should I tease them mercilessly about this for eternity? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

And Joss Whedon, if you somehow see this, give us some Extremis in Avengers 2 , okay? Thanks!

Laura McConnell