Film Comment: Don’t believe the hype! Iron Man 3 is overlong, sexist and rather offensive


Let’s start with how misleading the trailer is. Dark, gritty, and compellingly cut, this trailer promised an Iron Man movie with a serious edge. This is not it. It’s more of a comedy than the last two. The (allegedly) witty one-liners no longer pepper the script, they stain the DNA of the film. This is like a 130 minute sitcom with a few explosions and good production values. And it isn’t very funny.

Robert Downey Jr. slips effortlessly back into the role of Tony Stark, the narcissist billionaire who effectively ‘privitised world peace’ back in the first movie and now spends his days having panic attacks. He’s a bit shaken up after his ordeal in Avengers Assemble (or rather Iron Man 2.5, since he stole the limelight for the majority of that rather weak film). He is forced to get his game together when a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsly) starts to wreak terror on America.

Predictably, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Pepper Potts is sidelined while the men (Stark and Don Cheadle as his military friend Rhodes) do all the work. She has to run for safety then becomes a rather irritating damsel in distress at the hands of a dangerous scientist (an entertaining Guy Pearce). All the other women in the movie are evil, manipulative villains, killers or prostitutes. Curious view of feminism Marvel have going on there.

The plot is paper-thin and relies on some half-hearted diversions where Stark chats to a young boy in a fatherly kind of way (whilst trivialising dangerous weapons). But still, I hear the defenders cry, this is Iron Man! It’s not real. The weapons aren’t real. It’s a comic book movie! Then why do writers Drew Pearce and Shane Black feel the need to bring in references to atrocities committed by Gaddafi and Osama Bin Laden? Either this is grim reality or cartoony fantasy? In the end, it becomes make-believe comic book terrorism crudely married to real-life horror. It’s kind of offensive, when you think about it.

Thinly plotted, low on laughs (though guilty of trying so hard it’s painful), and far too long, this is an Iron Man adventure that isn’t worth remembering. Let’s hope Thor 2 isn’t quite so tiresome.

Iron Man 3 (2013), directed by Shane Black, is released in the UK by Walt Disney Studios, Certificate 12A. 


About Author

Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.


  1. Priviliged white male. on

    You’re absolutely, unfathomably insane.
    I can only hope that you have some kind of submission-fetish, as it would make me lose all faith in humanity if today’s men actually share your views.

    • Cally Beckley on

      Hi Priviliged white male,

      Instead of offending the writer of this piece maybe it would be more constructive to offer up your views on why you disagree?

      Also, if you want to be anonymous at least spell your name right. It’s privileged, not priviliged.


  2. Thank-you for your response to the original message Cally.

    I find it fascinating that when I give a negative review to a comic book movie, I often get abusive, offensive and unsupported comments as a result. I’m not going to make any generalisations about the comic movie genre as a whole, but it is interesting that any word against the films that belong to this genre seems to immediately trigger the very worst in some people. Maybe someone should write a dissertation on this phenomena in order to examine this pattern further!

    Thanks for reading,

  3. I agree that comic book movie fans have a tendency to become pretty vitriolic when someone doesn’t like the film, and it’s pretty depressing. That said, I think some of your particular views on Iron Man 3 are downright baffling. Warning, potential spoilers ahead. ..

    Saying that a movie is sexist for having female villains seems in itself like quite a sexist comment. Isn’t it more sexist to have ONLY male villains?
    And whilst I’ll agree that Pepper was sidelined for a lot of the movie, I’d argue that the film’s climax made up for it. The use of prostitutes is minimal at best and hardly exploitative. They’re in the film for 30 seconds and their presence is to help emphasise the Trevor Slattery joke, not for objectification.

    I can’t fathom how anybody could possibly take issue with the bin Laden references but yours frankly boggle the mind. The film is set on Earth, not Tattooine or Vulcan. Why shouldn’t it reference real life? Shouldn’t the fact that it’s set at Christmas be cause for concern too? After all, people might begin to associate terrorism with Christmas if this kind of thing carries on!
    The references to real life terrorism drives home a very chilling and intelligent point the movie makes about the frenzy that the global media stirs up around terrorists who represent the symbol of the threat – like the Mandarin or bin Laden. Getting a message like that in a lighthearted popcorn flick is surely a good thing?

    Finally, while you’re perfectly entitled to your opinion, I have to respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree with you – the movie was hilarious. I’ve seen it twice now and both times both myself and the audience were in hysterics the whole time.

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