Iron Man 3 is a 2013 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Iron Man, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010), and the seventh film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Shane Black from a screenplay he co-wrote with Drew Pearce, and stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stéphanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, and Ben Kingsley. In the film, Tony Stark wrestles with the ramifications of the events of The Avengers during a national terrorism campaign on the United States led by the mysterious Mandarin.
After the release of Iron Man 2 in May 2010, director Favreau chose not to return for a third film. Black was hired to write and direct the sequel in February 2011, working with Pearce to make the script more character-centric, focus on thriller elements, and use concepts from Warren Ellis's "Extremis" comic book story arc. The film's supporting cast, including Kingsley, Pearce, and Hall, were brought on throughout April and May 2012. Filming took place from May 23 to December 17, 2012, primarily at EUE/Screen GemsStudios in Wilmington, North Carolina. Additional filming took place around North Carolina as well as in Florida, Los Angeles, and China; an extended version of the film specifically for Chinese audiences was created. Seventeen companies provided the film's visual effects.
Iron Man 3 premiered at the Grand Rex in Paris on April 14, 2013, and released in the United States on May 3, as the first film in Phase Two of the MCU. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise for its action sequences and Downey's performance. The film was a box office success, grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide making it the second highest-grossing film of 2013 and the sixteenth film to gross over $1 billion. At the time it also became the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time while its opening weekend became the sixth-highest of all time. The film received Best Visual Effects nominations at the Academy Awards and the BAFTA Awards.
At a New Year's Eve party in 1999, Tony Stark meets scientist Maya Hansen, the inventor of an experimental regenerative treatment named Extremis that allows recovery from crippling injuries. Disabled scientist Aldrich Killian offers them a place in his company Advanced Idea Mechanics, but Stark rejects him. In December 2012, seven months after the battle of New York, Stark is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is having frequent panic and anxiety attacks due to his experiences during the alien invasion and subsequent battle. Restless, he has built dozens of new Iron Man suits to cope with his insomnia, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts.
A string of bombings claimed by a terrorist known as the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies bewildered by a lack of forensic evidence. Stark's security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in one such attack at the TCL Chinese Theatre and is put into a coma, prompting Stark to boldly issue a televised threat to the Mandarin, revealing his home address in the process. The Mandarin sends gunship helicopters to destroy Stark's home. Hansen, who came to warn Stark, survives the attack with Potts. Stark escapes in an experimental new Iron Man suit, which his artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. pilots to rural Tennessee, following a flight plan from Stark's investigation into the Mandarin. Stark's new armor is not fully functional and lacks sufficient power to return to California, leaving the world to believe him dead.
Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the "bombings" were triggered by soldiers subjected to Extremis whose bodies explosively rejected the treatment. These explosions were falsely attributed to a terrorist plot in order to cover up Extremis's flaws. Stark witnesses Extremis first hand when Mandarin agents Savin and Brandt attack him: Stark kills Brandt and incapacitates Savin. Meanwhile, Killian resurfaces and kidnaps Potts with assistance from Hansen. American intelligence agencies continue to search for the Mandarin's location, with James Rhodes—the former War Machine, now re-branded as the Iron Patriot—lured into a trap to steal his Iron-Man-like armor.
Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons. Inside, he discovers the Mandarin is actually an English actor named Trevor Slattery, who is oblivious to the actions carried out in his image. Killian, who appropriated Hansen's Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans, reveals he is the real Mandarin behind Slattery's cover. After capturing Stark, Killian reveals he has subjected Potts to Extremis in the hope Stark will help fix Extremis's flaws while trying to save her. When Hansen betrays Killian by threatening to jeopardize his operations, Killian kills her.
Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One, using the Iron Patriot armor, controlled by Savin. Stark kills Savin, saving the passengers and crew, but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis and destroying Air Force One. They trace Killian to an impounded damaged oil tanker where Killian intends to kill Ellis on live television. The Vice President will become a puppet leader, following Killian's orders, in exchange for Extremis to cure his young daughter's disability. On the platform, Stark works to save Potts, as Rhodes goes after the President. Stark summons his remaining Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by J.A.R.V.I.S., to provide air support. Rhodes secures the President and takes him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure; before he can save her, a rig collapses around them and she falls to the platform below, causing Stark to believe her dead. Stark fights Killian, but finds himself cornered. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian to save Stark.
As a sign of his devotion to Potts, Stark orders J.A.R.V.I.S. to remotely destroy all the Iron Man suits. The Vice President and Slattery are arrested, and Happy awakens from his coma. With Stark's help, Potts's Extremis effects are stabilized; and Stark promises to scale back his life as Iron Man, undergoing surgery to remove the shrapnel near his heart and throwing his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea. He muses that, even without the technology, he will always be Iron Man.
In a present day post-credits scene, Stark wakes up Dr. Bruce Banner, who fell asleep listening to Stark's story.
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, an Avenger and a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist with mechanical suits of armor of his own invention. Stark now struggles to come to terms with his near-death experience in The Avengers, suffering from anxiety attacks.
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Stark's girlfriend, longtime associate, and the current CEO of Stark Industries.
- Don Cheadle as James "Rhodey" Rhodes / Iron Patriot, Stark's best friend and the liaison between Stark Industries and the U.S. Air Force in the department of acquisitions. In the film, the president asks Rhodey to take up the moniker "Iron Patriot," and don the red, white, and blue suit, in order to be the government's "American hero" in response to the events in The Avengers.
- Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, creator of the Extremis virus and the founder and owner of the science and development organization Advanced Idea Mechanics who adopts the mantle of the Mandarin as his own. Killian develops Extremis to cure his own debilitating disability; in addition to his regenerative healing qualities, he has superhuman strength and the ability to generate extreme heat. Prolonged exposure to Extremis also grants him the ability to breathe fire.
- Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen, a geneticist whose work helped Killian create Extremis.
- Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener, a child who lives in Rose Hill, Tennessee. He assists Tony Stark when the latter breaks into his garage in order to repair his suit. He later helps Stark investigate various incidents associated with the Extremis project, and afterwards he is rewarded by Stark with a garage-full of modern engineering tools and equipment.
- Stéphanie Szostak as Ellen Brandt, a war veteran who becomes an assassin after her exposure to Extremis.
- James Badge Dale as Eric Savin, Killian's Extremis-powered henchman.
- Jon Favreau as Harold "Happy" Hogan, Tony Stark's former bodyguard and chauffeur who now serves as Stark Industries' head of security department.
- Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, a British actor whom Killian hired to portray the Mandarin, a terrorist persona in jammed television broadcasts in which he is depicted as the leader of the international terrorist organization the Ten Rings.
Paul Bettany reprises his role from previous films as J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark's A.I. system. Ashley Hamilton portrays Taggart, one of the Extremis soldiers. William Sadler plays President Ellis, (named after Warren Ellis, who wrote the "Extremis" comics arc that primarily influenced the film's story) and Miguel Ferrer plays Vice President Rodriguez. Adam Pally plays Gary, a cameraman who helps Stark. Shaun Toub reprises his role as Ho Yinsen from the first Iron Man film in a brief cameo, and Stan Leemakes a cameo appearance as a beauty pageant judge. Dale Dickey plays Mrs. Davis, mother of an Extremis subject that is framed as a terrorist. Wang Xueqi briefly plays Dr. Wu in the general release version of the film. A cut of the film produced for release exclusively in China includes additional scenes featuring Wang and an appearance by Fan Bingbing as one of his assistants. Mark Ruffalo makes an uncredited cameo appearance, reprising his role as Bruce Banner from The Avengers, in a post-credits scene. Comedians Bill Maher and Joan Rivers, and Fashion Police co-host George Kotsiopoulos have cameo appearances as themselves on their respective real-world television programs, as do newscasters Josh Elliott, Megan Henderson, Pat Kiernan, and Thomas Roberts.
Iron Man 3 grossed $409 million in North America and $805.8 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $1.215 billion, outgrossing both of its predecessors combined. Worldwide, it became the fifth-highest-grossing film, the second-highest-grossing film of 2013, the second-highest-grossing film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (behind The Avengers), and the highest-grossing film of the Iron Man film series, as well as the fourth-highest-grossing comic-book and superhero film overall. It achieved the sixth-largest worldwide opening weekend with $372.5 million. On the weekend of May 3–5, 2013, the film set a record for the largest worldwide weekend in IMAX with $28.6 million. On its 23rd day in theaters, Iron Man 3 became the sixth Disney film and the 16th film overall to reach $1 billion. It is the first Iron Man film to gross over $1 billion, became the second Marvel film to do so after The Avengers, and was the fourth-fastest film to reach the milestone. As part of the earlier distribution agreement made with Disney in 2010, Paramount Pictures received 9% of the box office gross generated by Iron Man 3. Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit of the film to be $391.8 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues for the film.
By the end of its opening day, Iron Man 3 made $68.9 million (including $15.6 million from late Thursday shows), achieving the seventh-highest-grossing opening day. By the end of its opening weekend, the film earned $174.1 million, making it the second-highest opening weekend of all time (behind The Avengers). Of the opening-weekend audience, 55% was over 25 years old, and 61% were males, while only 45% of the gross originated from 3-D screenings. Opening-weekend earnings from IMAX amounted to $16.5 million. It topped the box office during two consecutive weekends and achieved the fourth-largest second-weekend gross with $72.5 million.
The film earned $13.2 million on its opening day (Wednesday, April 24, 2013) from 12 countries. Through Sunday, April 28, it earned a five-day opening weekend of $198.4 million from 42 countries. The film's opening-weekend gross included $7.1 million from IMAX venues. It set opening-day records in the Philippines (surpassed by Man of Steel), Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Ukraine, Russia and the CIS, both single- and opening-day records in Thailand and South Africa, as well as a single-day record in Hong Kong. It also scored the second-biggest opening day in Argentina (only behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2). The film set opening-weekend records in the Asia Pacific region, in Latin America, and in individual countries including Argentina (first surpassed by Fast & Furious 6, when including weekday previews), Ecuador, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. It also achieved the second-largest opening weekend in Mexico, Brazil, and Russia and the CIS. In India, it had the second-best opening weekend for a Hollywood film after The Amazing Spider-Man. IMAX opening-weekend records were set in Taiwan, the Netherlands, Brazil, and the Philippines. It is the highest-grossing film in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam and the second-highest-grossing film in Singapore and the Philippines (behind The Avengers). It topped the weekend box office outside North America three consecutive times.
In China, where part of the production took place, the film set a midnight-showings record with $2.1 million, as well as single-day and opening-day records with $21.5 million (on its opening day). Through its first Sunday, the film earned an opening-weekend total of $64.1 million, making China's opening the largest for the film, followed by a $23.1 million opening in Russia and the CIS, and a $21.2 million opening in the UK, Ireland and Malta. With total earnings reaching $124 million, it was the highest-grossing American film in China in 2013, and the country is the film's highest-grossing market after North America, followed by South Korea ($64.2 million) and the UK, Ireland, and Malta ($57.1 million).
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 79% approval rating with an average score of 7/10, based on 325 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "With the help of its charismatic lead, some impressive action sequences, and even a few surprises, Iron Man 3 is a witty, entertaining adventure and a strong addition to the Marvel canon." Metacritic gave a weighted average score of 62 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, the same score as both its predecessors.
In March 2013, Black stated that Downey's original contract with Marvel Studios, which expired after the release of Iron Man 3, may be extended in order for the actor to appear in a second Avengers film and at least one more Iron Man film. He said: "There has been a lot of discussion about it: 'Is this the last Iron Man for Robert [Downey, Jr.]?' Something tells me that it will not be the case, and [he] will be seen in a fourth, or fifth." In April 2013, Cheadle stated that Iron Man 3 could be the final film in the series, saying, "The door is always left open in these kinds of movies especially when they do as well as they have done. I know there was talk of making sure we did this one right, and if it worked it could be the last one. There's room for more to be done with these characters. We're getting to a sweet spot with Tony and Rhodey, anyway." In September 2014, in regards to a fourth film, Downey said, "There isn't one in the pipe ... No, there's no plan for a fourth Iron Man." In April 2016, Downey stated that he was open to reprising his role in a potential fourth Iron Man film. After the death of Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame (2019), co-screenwriter Stephen McFeely said, "You would've already had Iron Man 4 if it was any other studio", remarking that it was a bold move by Marvel to kill off the character. In January 2020, when asked if he would reprise the role of Iron Man, Downey noted, "Yeah, anything could happen... As far as I'm concerned, I hung up my guns and I'm good to let it go... It's hard to project."
In February 2014, Marvel released the One-Shot film, All Hail the King, on Thor: The Dark World's home media, featuring Kingsley reprising his role as Trevor Slattery. It continues Slattery's story from the end of the film, revealing that a "real" Mandarin actually exists in the MCU. The Mandarin will debut in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai.
- The film was supposed to be the final appearance of the character in the MCU at least as a protagonist. In fact the post credits card said that Tony Stark would return, not Iron Man.
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