Let’s let a killing machine on board with the President of the United States – One of the best action beats in the film takes place when Iron Patriot is commandeered by James Badge Dale and decides to go all aggro aboard Air Force One. Brilliant idea. Here’s the deadliest weapon known to mankind — but let’s not take five seconds to check if he’s actual manned by the guy who’s supposed to be in there. I guess when you see a dude in the Iron Patriot suit, you assume it’s YOUR dude in the Iron Patriot suit.
WTF is Killian’s plan anyway? – The way the Mandarin reveal is handled is both masterful and hilarious. There was a moment of geek joy when I realized that everything the movie marketing led me to believe about the primary villain of this film was wrong. It’s mildly exhilarating when a summer tentpole release can still surprise you. (You can read Matt Singer’s excellent piece about this reveal for some more detail about The Mandarin’s role in the comics).
But aside from some quest for power, what the hell was Killian trying to accomplish? He tortured Tony Stark because Stark spurned him back in 1999, sure. He used The Mandarin as a spokesperson because it just made good business sense. He was going to install the VP as his figurehead and he was going force Tony to perfect the Extremis formula, and…what? Why did the guy turn totally nutso and evil? All of the other villains in the Iron Man franchise have had their motivations better conveyed than this guy, and that is not a very high bar to surmount.
That disaster of an ending – I guess we’ve seen Tony Stark discover new elements and invent crazy stuff in the past. But the ending of this film, in which the curing of Pepper Potts is resolved within seconds, felt like a bridge too far. And oh, the arc reactor in his chest? Not necessary. Dude cooked up a quick, glossed over solution to that one too. So I guess everything ended up okay! Forget the fact that Stark has been dealing with the intractable problem of the heart shrapnel for seven hours of screen time. It was a metaphor for his own personal healing process and growth, and obviously could’ve been solved at any time. WHAT?!
My fellow film writers have put forth a few theories about the rushed ending. Perhaps it’s a way to stage a triumphant return as the Avengers square off against Thanos, one of them suggested. But the theory that Russ Fischer put forth (and which feels right to me) is that it’s to set up a future Avengers/Iron Man films in which Tony Stark is no longer Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.’s career has most likely reached his apex, but he probably doesn’t want to don that suit for the rest of his life, and Marvel isn’t going to let a cash cow like Tony Stark rest in the fate of a single actor.
As with some of my complaints above, the business logic of doing this makes sense. But in the context of the film, it just doesn’t satisfy.