“Iron Man 3” graced Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with his third installment, marking the first entry in Marvel’s Phase Two. Additionally, it’s the first Marvel film before the highly successful television continuation of the MCU, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” hit the small screen. There are throwbacks, glances ahead, and Easter eggs aplenty. Let’s have a look what’s in store.
In a flashback, we meet Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub). Yinsen saved Tony’s life in “Iron Man,” while the two were captives in Afghanistan. Also from “Iron Man,” and “Iron Man 2,” the Ten Rings reappear, this time with a central role. It’s a terrorist organization led by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), though the full story is more complicated. The Ten Rings logo is visible in the previous “Iron Man” flicks, a clever bit of foreshadowing. Dragon villain Fin Fang Foom gets a few quick moments in “Iron Man 3.” Careful viewers will recall that Foom was featured on a billboard in “Iron Man 2,” and once again he’s referenced a couple times. In a montage of Ten Rings and Mandarin footage, a green dragon can be seen, which is Foom. Additionally, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) has two tattoos of Fin Fang.
The Mandarin is one of Marvel’s most intriguing villains, and the iteration found in “Iron Man 3” is most spectacular. Remember Raza (Faran Tahir)? Well, Mandarin wears Raza’s prominent ring. Oddly, the back of Mandarin’s neck reveals a tattoo of Captain America’s shield. For a villain, he’s got a peculiar choice of body ink.
Over the course of the movie, Extremis is an important subplot. The supersoldiers continue a theme from “The Incredible Hulk” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” while setting up a plotline for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Interesting, President Ellis (William Sadler) is named after Warren Ellis, the writer of Extremis in the comics. Fans of “A Christmas Story” will fondly remember the scene where Tony tells a kid he resembles Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley). Well, Billingsley produced “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” a funny nod to the actor and his most famous role.
While most of the MCU flicks are reasonably standalone, “Iron Man 3” heavily references the events of “The Avengers.” This serves to tie Phase One and Two together, and show that it’s still all connected. In a hilarious scene, Stark hijacks a television van which is broadcasting a beauty pageant. One of the judges: a very enthusiastic Stan Lee. Aside from Lee’s recognizable appearance, there’s a less noticeable cameo: Bambi Arbogast (Susie Pratt). Bambi was Stark’s assistant in the comics, and though she’s not seen, we do hear her voice. An uncanny post-credits scene, we Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) unsuccessfully counsels Tony. As Banner puts it, he’s not that kind of doctor.
With a few glances ahead, and some behind, “Iron Man 3” kicked off Marvel’s Phase Two. In doing so, the third entry in the Stark saga brought back several briefly referenced bits of lore, like the Ten Rings, and also set up the Extremis program for further exploration.
We return to Asgard next, with “Thor: The Dark World.”