Other Media Review

Iron Man 3: A Review and Romance Analysis by Carrie S


Title: Iron Man 3
Written By: Screenplay: Drew Pearce and Shane Black
Publication Info: Paramount/Disney 2013
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Poster for iron man 3 Gwyneth Paltrow holding Iron Man's head - only a little creepyI haven't been reviewing any Marvel movies because generally they aren't very romance-y.  Certainly they can't wrap everything up into a nice HEA, because then there would be no franchise. 

But Iron Man 3 intrigued me because it seemed to promise a lot of Tony Stark/Pepper Potts stuff, so I checked it out for you, dear readers (oh, please, like I totally wasn't going to see it anyway).

Iron Man I I have tons to say about the movie but I'm going to focus on the romance stuff here.  For those of who you don't follow this sort of thing, Pepper Potts was Tony Stark's assistant in Iron Man.  During the first part of the first movie he is hopelessly self-absorbed, and yet it's clear that he admires Ms. Potts' business acumen, and witty banter.  All their conversations are reminiscent of the Thin Man movies from the 1930's – fast, snappy, sharp dialogue. 

Anyway, over the course of the next two movies, they flirt, they fight, Pepper saves Tony, Tony saves Pepper, and Tony saves Pepper some more.  Tony become less of a narcissistic asshat and more adept at functioning as part of a team and generally behaving like a decent human being.  Pepper keeps getting more and more powerful as a businesswoman and basically cool person.  Two things are abundantly clear:

1.  Pepper is the only thing that grounds Tony at all.  Whether they are romantically involved or not, he needs her in order to function.  As she points out in the first movie, he doesn't even know his own social security number.  But beyond helping him function in mundane terms, she is the only person who reminds him of basic human emotions and needs, and she is one of the few people whom he unreservedly admires.

2.  Pepper adores Tony for his genius and his charm, but she is also fairly adept at recognizing his limitations and not taking his crap.  I admire Pepper because she's smart, because she uses her brains to navigate a world in which she is physically hopelessly overpowered, and because she remains a decent human being even when she's in stressful situations. 

But my admiration of Pepper is ambivalent, because she keeps staying with Tony in either a professional or romantic relationship (or both).  It's true that Tony is gorgeous and funny and sexy and brilliant, but he's also manipulative and self-centered.  In one way, Pepper is an admirable non-super powered character who keeps not only Tony but also the whole franchise grounded in a reality where there is dry-cleaning and board meetings to deal with, but on the other hand she's a huge codependent.

Iron Man 3 is the first movie (aside from a delightful scene in Avengers) where Pepper and Tony are solidly together as a romantic couple, and although I thought the movie as a whole was great, I thought the Tony/Pepper stuff was a little disappointing.  Tony can't sleep or stop compulsively modifying his armor because he is traumatized from the events of Avengers.  When he reveals this to Pepper, her response is to hug him and offer him sex and then they go to sleep and for complicated reasons she ends up on the couch.  Now, I realize that this conversation happens after Tony pulls a total douchebag move on her and she's fed up.  But Pepper is used to fixing things, just as much as Tony is.  So you'd think that she'd respond with a little more concern and constructive help, like, say, the number of a good therapist (admittedly, one suspects that that Tony has laughed in the face of therapy many times before).

It seems that Pepper is still ambivalent about being in a relationship with an asshat, and who can blame her.  Tony, however, is devoted to Pepper – just not enough to let go of his obsession with building more Iron Men.  Even that obsession has a lot to do with the fact that he wants to protect Pepper, and yet he also keeps putting her in danger by opening his big mouth to his enemies and then refusing to take security precautions, like, say, refraining from giving terrorists his home address.  Hearing Tony tell Pepper that he loves her and that she is the one thing he can't lose is undeniably a rush, but it's like he just doesn't know how to be a boyfriend and instead he substitutes this maniacal behavior that both neglects and endangers her.

It's no secret that both Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. campaigned heavily for Pepper to be more physically bad-ass in this movie.  She is, but in a problematic way.  I debated about whether to address this in detail in white-out spoiler form, but I feel like it's just too soon.  I'm pretty addicted to spoilers but this is really a movie that you do NOT want to be spoiled for.

In a sense, I think what we have here is an old-school romance that's dressed up as a new-school romance.  For all Pepper's smarts and economic power, she's still constantly living at and by the whim of Tony.  But the romance resolves when Tony makes huge changes in his life, gradually, and with a lot of backsliding, but culminating in what seems to be a life that Pepper wants.  She is the good girl who reforms the bad boy, but not too much, because we sort of love it when Tony is a little bad.

So, what do you guys think?  Thor 2 comes out this summer.  Are you longing to hear my thoughts regarding Thor and Jane Foster?  Or is that just too off-topic for the Bitchery?  (SB Sarah: “I have absolutely every interest in hearing Carrie take on Thor.”)

I do hear that Thor 2 is pretty romance heavy.  Obviously, there's a pretty intense romance between Loki and I, but that goes without saying.  Anyway, if you want to know all about Jane and Thor this summer, give me a heads up, and in the meantime enjoy Iron Man 3.  Pepper Potts FTW!

Iron Man 3 is in theatres and you can find local tickes (in the US) at Movietickets and Fandango.

Please note: We totally want to hear what you think! But please try to avoid major spoilers, since the movie just came out. If you see one, please email me and I can white it out. Thank you! 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Lyssa says:

    Please do keep up these reviews…((Okay I admit it, I am a geek/nerd, I used to read comics as a teen because of the romances. Alpha males and their love lives were all there…you just had to look hard enough. So In my Humble Opinion…this is long over due!))

  2. 2

    I saw IM3 on Saturday and I liked it. I was surprised at the ending and it makes me wonder about Tony in Avengers 2, but overall, I did like it.

    I loved how Pepper developed in this and stands to become her own superhero. I’m not familiar with the comic books at all, but I read that in the Marvel universe, Pepper does ultimately get her own suit (which would be awesome).

    I liked the bunny. Very Tony-esque. ‘Nuff said about that. Hehe.

    And, fwiw, I got all melty when Tony was admitting Pepper was his whole world and he’d do anything to protect her. I didn’t see it as necessarily contradictory that he gave the Mandarin his address though. He ‘is’ an ego-maniac and that was typical. I think it would have been far less Tony (even if he’s in a relationship with Pepper) to NOT give his address out. But he probably should have taken a few security precautions.

  3. 3

    I have a date to Iron Man 3 tonight with Hubby. I know, I know Mondays? But hey we could get a babysitter. So excited to see this. And yes I want your review of Thor/Jane Foster and any details you could give us about Loki. How does evil look first thing in the morning?

  4. 4
    Sel says:

    I’d disagree with your estimation that Pepper reforms Tony. Through the IM movies (and the Avengers movie), Tony redeems himself. Not for Pepper so much (although there is that element in IM3) but for himself – in the first movie to really see the world that he’s created and armed with weapons that can be turned against the people he made them to protect, and in the second to understand that he doesn’t have to do this all alone – he can lean on Pepper and Rhodey and trust them with who and what he is.

    The Avengers movie is Tony’s understanding that he can Play With Others, Too – both in the lab on the helicarrier and in the Battle of New York.

    (I’d argue that his friendship and trust with Rhodey is an equally integral part of Tony’s anchor through the IM movies – that Rhodey, Pepper, and the IM suit form the three fundamentals which anchor Tony outside his head.)

    IM2 dealt with Tony’s relationships with Rhodey and Pepper, and IM3 deals with his dependence on the IM suit. (And the Other Things That Happen In The Movie are thematic reiterations of the overarching theme of Tony’s dependence on external technologies/fixes that’s integral to the structure of the IM series.)

    Slight diversion there. Sorry.

    Anyway, I think the compulsion Tony feels to change is his own drive, not Pepper pushing him. My take on Pepper is that she recognises that he’s changing of his own accord and for reasons which have nothing to do with her, which is why she can be in a relationship with him.

  5. 5
    June says:

    I really didn’t buy the romance in the first Thor movie at all, so I’ll definitely be interested in hearing your take on Thor 2!

  6. 6
    MissB2U says:

    I haven’t seen any but the first Iron Man movie nor have I seen Thor but I think the reviews here are a great idea!  And let’s face it – I could just look at Robert Downer, Jr. all day long.  The man is gorgeous and can act his ass off.  Not that we’d want to see less of his ass.  No siree Bob.

  7. 7
    hapax says:


    I really didn’t buy the romance in the first Thor movie at all

    What, you’re not shipping Thor/Loki4Evah?


  8. 8
    CarrieS says:

    @ Patricia Eimer:  I can’t tell you how Evil looks first thing in the morning (other than my imagination, where the answer is – very, very pretty).  But here’s how he looks in prison in Thor 2, assuming I can manage to attach a pic.  LOOK AT THAT SAD FACE!  He needs chocolate chip cookies!  And lasagna!  And shampoo!  And sex!  All of which I am ready to provide!  Clearly, he just needs to fell loved right?  And also he’s cranky because he’s hungry.  anyone can see that!

    Huh – I can’t figure out how to attach an image after all.  Here’s a link that shows Loki’s prison hair, tumblr responses, and a trailer:


  9. 9
    Crystal says:

    I saw Iron Man 3 on Saturday. Enjoyed the hell out of it. I find the Tony/Pepper dynamic interesting in that he couldn’t function without her, for the most part, and a part of her enjoys that.  When one is involved with a super-genius, you make up the power balance where you can. And I actually like the idea of her taking on some power, because you know that it would look different on her than it does on Tony (or Thor, Banner, Cap, Clint, or Natasha). Her tendency is to help keep things running, and that’s how I see her using her power. 

    That said, the best relationship in this film was the one he had with Harley.  If you’re going to add in a cute kid, that’s how you do it. 

  10. 10
    June says:


    Actually the romance between Thor/Loki was MUCH more believable! LOL.

  11. 11
    Crystal says:

    Also, I am fine with a Thor/Jane write up (I don’t think she’s a long-termer, for my part), as long as there are various gratuitous images of Loki. I don’t care how you shoehorn those in, it must be done.

  12. 12
    Carrie S says:

    @Crystal – I don’t format these things, but I shall provide SB Sarah with many Loki pics.  We all know it’s all about Loki.  Just as long as we’re all clear that he’s MY imaginary dysfunctional evil boyfriend!  MINE!  ALL MINE!

    also I checked the release date, and sadly we have to wait until November for Thor 2.  but don’t worry, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it as soon as it comes out, with Loki pics.

  13. 13
    SB Sarah says:

    I have absolutely no problems with formatting all the Loki pics. All of them. Bring it on.

    After formatting all the Jeremy Renner pics, I’m due for … there is no way for me to talk about the back end of the website in this context. Carry on.

  14. 14
    Lovecow2000 says:

    Yes… Please more superhero movie reviews! Loved this movie!  Agree with you on how problematic Pepper’s badassery was at the end. :)

  15. 15
    Carrie S says:

    Of course, the best Loki pic, and story, is this one:


    Extra credit goes to Chris Evans (Captain America), who was on set that day with his mom, and Chris Evan’s Mom, who appears to be so cool that she should be in all the Avenger movies, as herself.

  16. 16

    Freak yeah I want to hear about Thor and Jane this summer.  Thor is like watching a live action Gena Showalter Lords of the Underworld book come to life!

  17. 17
    Alex Matias says:

    Nice analysis!
    I like the Iron Man movies a lot (Though I have yet to see the first one) but I can see what you mean on some aspects. Tony doesn’t know how to be on a relationship, and to an extent, neither does Pepper (At least not with someone like Tony).
    They do have good chemistry though.

    I so wanna hear more on Thor2 :D

  18. 18
    Darien Gould says:

    I love the emotional journey’s in all of the marvel movies. Though they necessarily take a back seat to the action, I think they’ve done a good job in the entire franchise. So many action flicks have either no emotional story, or it’s all selfish angsty stuff. I would love to see more discussions about these kind of movies that do it right, and give me a reason to really care about the characters. I would love to see discussion about Thor 2 (I hear Jane gets to rag on him about coming to Earth in Avengers and not looking her up), and hopefully at some point poor Captain America will get laid.

  19. 19
    Christina G says:

    Awesome review!  Thanks Carrie!!

  20. 20
    Jen says:

    I’ll follow RD Jr ANYwhere, so I’m glad to read this review. I love him and Pepper together. I think Crystal’s comment above about the power balance is right on. From the very start their relationship was unbalanced on paper, but in reality it was just about equal because Tony depended so much on Pepper, more than he even realized. I haven’t seen IM3 yet, but to me so far it has seemed that Pepper’s extreme efficiency and just plain reality is what gives her an equal footing with Tony. Otherwise there’s no way she could be in a relationship with him—he’s a driven, billionaire genius. For Tony, Pepper is grounding, but what does Pepper get out of the relationship? (Or, similarly, what does Rhodey get out of his friendship with Tony?) Hard to say exactly because at least in the previous movies we haven’t gotten enough of Pepper’s perspective, but I think we’ve seen glimpses suggesting that Tony is just pretty fascinating and thrilling to be around. Exhausting and frustrating, but still thrilling. Can that sustain the relationship? I don’t know but it sounds like IM3 might be exploring that question a little. I love that you’re talking about this on SBTB though, because isn’t this a trope we see come up in romances ALL the time? Hero who is spectacularly amazing in some way but is a giant asshat. How do asshats ever get a romantic interest, or even friends for that matter? We need to believe there is something there that’s worth all the shit those around him have to deal with, or we can’t buy any of it.

  21. 21
    Ruth Madison says:

    I had other issues with Iron Man 3, but I really liked the romance part. I have not seen either of the other Iron Man movies, but it really struck me in this one how deeply Tony loves Pepper. He sometimes sucks at showing her that, but there are so many times when we can really see love radiating from him. My favorite moment of the movie is when he covers her with one of the suits.

  22. 22
    Reese Ryan says:

    Carrie, I love that you covered the romance in Iron Man 3. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan because Tony Stark is pretty much an asshat, even at the end of each movie. I think the movie that redeemed him for me most was The Avengers.  He was still an asshat, but it was the scene with him and Pepper, and his willingness to sacrifice himself in the end, that softened my view of him a bit. I plan to see Iron Man 3 tomorrow.

    Bring on your review of the romance in Thor 2! I didn’t think I’d like the first one, but I watched it on my Amazon Prime account on a whim and really liked it.

  23. 23
    Janice says:

    I’m such a fandom shipper for these Marvel Universe couples: I’d love your take on Thor 2. Pepper’s an amazing character in these movies: super-competent and a much better business person than Tony. I like that he’s not only smart enough to recognize she’s better at this stuff but that he’s lucky to have her around (even if he still makes stupid off-the-cuff remarks about percentage contributions as he did in The Avengers!

  24. 24
    Jo says:

    I loved IM3 but I will say when Tony confesses to Pepper about the not sleeping thing I was a little disappointed by Peppers response. Also would love to see you review Thor 2, I recall seeing around the interwebs that there is a rumour this one has a “love triangle” which I am dearly hoping is not case.

  25. 25
    SisterSadie says:

    Please keep up these reviews. They give me a heads up about movies I’m already planning on seeing, and its nice to know I’m not the only devoted romance reader with a massive nerdy side :)

  26. 26
    AlexaB says:

    Re: Tony and therapy –

    Watch the film all the way past the credits.  ‘Nuff said, as Stan Lee used to say.

  27. 27
    Jessica says:

    Please keep reviewing movies, Carrie!  I can’t wait to see Iron Man 3.  My sisters and I are going to go see it when I fly home in two weeks.  I’m so excited!

  28. 28
    Jewel says:

    @AlexaB – thanks for the tip about staying all the way thru the credits. Hubby & I are going to see it tonight, so now I know to keep him in his seat.

  29. 29
    Marika Weber says:

    I love the Iron Man movies but unfortunately their romance is way different in the actual comic books.  I realize that movies today need that extra bit of romance so that the movie will sell.

    Bring it on the Thor/Jane romance.  We saw the trailer before Iron Man and all I can say is OMG!!!


  30. 30
    LovelloftheWolves says:

    On the Loki/ I mean Thor II movie: I believe that they’re going to fridge Jane, and fridge her HARD. I never really liked her, but thats because her “character” seemed a bit flat to me. And even in Thor (I) they hinted (HEAVILY) that Sif is mad for Thor. So … there’s that. I’m not a fan of fridging, but I don’t doubt they’d do it. Especially if Loki has anything to say about it.

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