If you've read our Iron Man 3 review or listend to the IM3 episode of our SR Underground podcast, you know that - while it was a fun opening to summer 2013 - Tony Stark's third solo film was not without its share of problems.
One of the biggest criticisms shared by hardcore fanboys and casual moviegoers alike was the absence of any characters from the Avengers shared universe in Iron Man 3. While most people accepted that Tony Stark wouldn't be able (or willing) to call on his powerful allies for help against the Mandarin, it was much harder to accept that S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn't at all involved in combating the villain's super-powered campaign of terrorism against America.
It was a point of definite nagging question why a global peacekeeping force that specializes in metahuman activity wouldn't be on hand to investigate something like Extremis, which had former U.S. military personnel exploding in populated areas, or committing small acts of aggression like kidnapping the U.S. president. S.H.I.E.L.D. was all over every aspect of Marvel Phase 1 (Iron Man and Hulk's respective debuts; Thor and Cap's arrival in modern day) - so what, did they take a vacation after the Chitauri attack on NYC in Avengers?
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is out doing further promotion, assuring fans that even though Iron Man 3's standalone story left a lot of the shared universe unmentioned, future Marvel projects will fill in the blanks. Feige recently took to Twitter to engage with fans, touching upon S.H.I.E.L.D.'s absence in IM3, amongst other things:
— Tony Stark (@Iron_Man) May 10, 2013
It's hard to tell from that tweet whether there was a plan from the start for this 'revelation' about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s absence, or whether Feige and Co. are now doing damage control to appease the many fans who were none too pleased about the narrative island IM3 seemed to be living on. Given the amount of misleading info that Feige himself dropped while promoting the film (things like Ben Kingsley's 'chilling' performance as The Mandarin), it may not be all that wise to tow the old "In Marvel We Trust" company line.
Even now, the filmmaking architects could very well be scrambling to retrofit other projects like the S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show with Iron Man 3 tie-ins, which would make the agency's absence seem totally logical (in hindsight, of course). But no matter what "fix" they put in place, as far as IM3 goes (you know, as a "standalone" piece) the misstep is still a glaring one. Because really, there's no explanation for why Tony or Pepper didn't even think to mention S.H.I.E.L.D...
Return of Extremis
Moving on, though: Hardcore fans were also less than enthused by Iron Man 3's use of the Extremis virus (in the comics, it's more impressive than glowing hands and fire-breathing). Our Iron Man 3 spoilers discussion has revealed that fans' speculation regarding Extremis didn't end with the movie: they believe that the technology could end up playing a much bigger role in the Marvel Movie Universe - and one fan went so far as to ask Feige about it directly. His response?
— Tony Stark (@Iron_Man) May 10, 2013
The entire idea of taking a normal human being (like Pepper Potts) and transforming them into something greater than human has been a motif of these Marvel movies from day 1 (Super Soldier Serum research that created Captain America, Hulk and Abomination, for example), and Extremis is the natural evolution of that process (human augmentation mixed with technology). There are any number of heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe whose origin could be explained in that matter - hopefully Feige and company have better things in mind than what we saw in Iron Man 3.
Despite my own (clear) bias towards the film, even I am open to the idea that Iron Man 3 could - by the end of Phase 2 or beyond - turn out to be the basis for much more than it initially seemed. Then again: I won't believe it until I actually see it happen.
Iron Man 3 is now playing in theaters, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.
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