“Iron Man 3” marks the last Marvel Studios production before the inaugural “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode. Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) third entry relies heavily upon the preceding events in “The Avengers.” Much goofier and campier than even the first two “Iron Man” flicks, it’s an entertaining romp with Stark as well as a significant contributor to the main storyarc in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Picking up after the battle for New York in “The Avengers,” Tony Stark is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Apparently, flying through a wormhole with a nuke addled his brain a bit. No worries Tony, it happens to the best of us. A shady villain, known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), claims responsibility for a string of bombings. Through a series of flashbacks, Stark is shown meeting scientists Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Killian, previously disabled, resurfaces when he requests a grant from Stark Industries.
Initially, Stark doesn’t give the Mandarin much thought until loyal bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is rendered comatose in an attack linked to the Mandarin. Tony fittingly threatens the formidable foe through a press-issued statement. After an attack on his home, Tony is sent on the run while his squeeze and business partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) escapes, only to be captured by Killian. At the core of the intrigue lies the Extremis project, a serum intended to support cellular regrowth. It also affords injected subjects enhanced abilities. It bears similarities to the super soldier serum from “Captain America,” yet yields dangerously unpredictable results.
“Iron Man 3” relates to the S.H.I.E.L.D. narrative by heavily relying on previous events, as well as setting up the forthcoming “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” television series. Throughout “Iron Man 3,” Tony Stark suffers from PTSD after flying through the wormhole in New York. While earlier Marvel films referenced past lore, “Iron Man 3” assumes viewer familiarity with “The Avengers.” More importantly, the pilot from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” actually uses Extremis technology. What “Iron Man 3” introduced, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” would expound upon. The notion of super soldiers, a recurring theme throughout the Marvel universe, ties into Extremis, and the adversaries behind the project morph into the primary antagonists on “S.H.I.E.L.D.”
The third installment in the Tony Stark saga distinguishes itself by significant references to the preceding “The Avengers.” More than any other movie in the Marvel canon, “Iron Man 3” recalls the events in the massive super hero amalgamation flick. Additionally, the first two “Iron Man” movies were humorous, as is the Marvel precedent, but ‘Iron Man 3” really hams up the series. At times, the final act of the trilogy can be downright goofy. The true significance of “Iron Man 3,” however, wasn’t quite made clear until the beginning of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) has the Extremis serum running through his veins.
Over the course of the first season, Project Centipede is revealed as the source of Peterson’s injection. Centipede created a concoction using Extremis, as well as various elements from the Avengers: gamma radiation, alien technology, Extremis, and a super soldier serum. Seeing the convergence as “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” inaugural season unfurled was a glorious sight, particularly the excitement at recognizing formerly introduced components. In a way, each film in the Marvel canon can be seen as an origin story. There’s a constant process of introducing new lore, and even the most seemingly miniscule of details may return as important plot details.