Obadiah Stane is pissed off.
He bursts into Sector 16 in a huff, presumably because he knows that all of his illegal and potentially treasonous activities are now known by the US government. A bad day to be sure. Sector 16 appears to simply be the Arc Reactor facility from earlier, now with several lab coat wearing scientists clustered on one of the gangways. Head scientist, having a stressful phone call, suddenly has to snap to attention as Stane marches up to him, and all of the other scientists scatter.
Head scientist (named “William”), a very nervous looking guy, starts babbling on to a very tetchy looking Stane.
Mr Stane? Sir, we’ve explored what you’ve asked us, and it seems as though there’s a little hiccup. Actually…
Yes, to power the suit, Sir, the technology actually doesn’t exist. So it’s…
This is not what Stane wants to hear right now, from his aggressive and fidgety body language, but he has some restraint for the moment. He puts his arm around William, faux-closeness, which belies the terrifying reality of Stane’s imposing presence.
Wait, wait, wait. The technology? William, here is the technology. I’ve asked you to simply make it smaller.
So, Stane wants to same kind of Arc reactor that Tiny is able to lodge in his chest, presumably for the Mark I copy he’s making. We’ll recall that Stane has been trying to get his hands on one of Tony’s for a while now, openly asking him for it back in the mansion a while ago. But William doesn’t really seem to be the man for the job.
Okay, Sir, and that’s what we’re trying to do, but honestly, it’s impossible.
Stane turns away and then delivers one of Iron Man’s more famous moments.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!
He’s screaming, utterly furious, a finger jabbing at William, who’s pressed back against a guardrail. Aside from pointing out an aforementioned plot hole, Stane is just releasing some of his own frustrations, at how Tony Stark has apparently been able to pull off an impossible task in impossible circumstances, and now Stane’s failure to do the same is stalling his own plans. Bridges delivery here is great, the first time the film’s primary antagonist has lost his temper, but it does indicate some stupider stuff to come. William, for his part, can only tell the truth:
Well, I’m sorry. I’m not Tony Stark.
No, he is not, but this line of dialogue points the way for the next scene. If Stane wants a miniaturised Arc reactor, there is only one place he is going to be able to find one in a hurry.
But, then again, why is Stane looking for this thing? Shouldn’t he be more worried about the incoming treason charges?
Back in the Malibu mansion, its’ night-time, and Tony investigates a ringing phone somewhere in his, still amazingly spacious, living room.
Tony finds the hone underneath a cushion (for some reason) and sees that its Pepper calling. For whatever reason, he doesn’t seem happy or excited to be getting this call, just sort of bored. Hmm. He answers it.
Then there’s that high pitched noise, the blue lines on the face, and instant paralysis, all while Pepper talks down the phone.
Tony? Tony, are you there? Hello?
Tony’s not here anymore Pepper.
Of course it’s Stane. And in this scene, we’re going to see Stane go off the deep end entirely, starting as he creepily lays Tony back against the couch and starts monologing.
Breathe. Easy, easy. [he shows Tony the device] You remember this one, right? It’s a shame the government didn’t approve it. There’s so many applications for causing short-term paralysis.
Since Tony is unable to talk, Downy Jr has to make his face do the acting, and he sells it well here, the horror and the panic on those wide open eyes.
Stane, no longer in the jacket, moves around to the front of the couch. Wait, did he sneak into the house, hear the phone going off, hide it, and then hide behind the couch? That’s seems so…cartoonish to me for some reason. Hmm.
Stane grabs Tony’s head and moves it so they can look at each other face to face. Time for some villain exposition! Yes, this is one of Iron Man’s weaker scenes, but I guess Favreau really wanted this sort of pre-finale showdown between the two.
When I ordered the hit on you, I worried that I was killing the golden goose. But, you see, it was just fate that you survived. You had one last golden egg to give.
More echoing tones for this section (OST: “Golden Egg“), as Tony stares, stunned at this confirmation of Stane’s hostility, even as Stane suddenly pulls out a horrific little tool, a short cylinder with weird sticky out bits.
But, you see, it was just fate that you survived. (Takes Arc reactor out of Tony’s chest) You had one last golden egg to give.
The look on Stane’s face as he shows Tony the reactor is intensely creepy, the look of a man who has lost his mind and doesn’t care who knows it. This is Stane finally telling Stark what he really thinks of him. No more pretending, no more living in the shadows. And he’s enjoying it, illustrating a sudden pure kind of villainy.
Do you really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you? Your father, he helped give us the atomic bomb. Now, what kind of world would it be today if he was as selfish as you?
Stane now seems to have the need to justify himself and his actions, to make Tony out to be the bad guy somehow. The namedropping of Tony’s father is a low blow, with Obadiah digging at an open wound, and seemingly indicating that Howard Stark was closer to Stane’s line of thinking than Tony’s.
Stane yanks the reactor out of Tony’s chest completely, an act powerful enough to cause Stark to give out a gasp of pain, his breath becoming increasingly laboured. Obadiah stares in wonder at his new toy, and then gets in nice and close with Tony:
Oh, it’s beautiful. Tony, this is your Ninth Symphony. What a masterpiece. Look at that. This is your legacy. A new generation of weapons with this at its heart. Weapons that will help steer the world back on course, put the balance of power in our hands. The right hands.
Stane isn’t even talking to Tony by the end of this ramble, just staring intently at the reactor in his hands. His mantra is insidious and everything Tony is fighting against: Yes, the Iron Man suit is a weapon, but a weapon built for the singular purpose of fighting back against the kind of weapon selling system Tony was previously happy to create. Obadiah, with his talk of the “right hands” and “a new generation of weapons”, has moved so far away from Tony’s current line of thinking that it is hard to believe they were ever on the same page really. Stane starts packing up, the fireplace in the background giving him a demonic aura as we continue through the scene.
I wish you could see my prototype. It’s not as…well, not as conservative as yours.
Ouch. Whatever Stane is building, it’s a device that is designed to be a proper military machine, and that idea gives the still paralyzed Tony’s seem additional palpitations.
Offscreen, Obadiah adds just a little bit more, that isn’t really necessary:
Too bad you had to involve Pepper in this. I would have preferred that she lived.
I always found this line, which I suspect was added in post, a little stupid. Stane’s already the bad guy, so this additional bit of evil is superfluous. And it just doesn’t seem like something he would say at that moment. Its villain monologing from the dark ages, and it would only really work if it had been properly established that Stane had, Norman Osbourne-like, gone totally crazy. Anyway, with Tony looking at an imminent death, Stane calmly stalks away, leaving his former protégé/boss to his fate.
A quick establishing shot of the city at night from above, and we’re in a car with Rhodes, now in “civvies” and on the phone to Pepper.
What do you mean, he paid to have Tony killed? Pepper, slow down. Why would Obadiah…
Ugh, I do hate these kind of quasi-exposition lines. On the other side of the call, Pepper walks through a parking lot with Coulson and a few other suits, apparently in the S.H.I.E.L.D HQ or something.
I don’t know. He’s not answering his phone. Please go over there and make sure everything’s okay. Thank you, Rhodey.
Well, someone has to go and save Tony. Pepper hops in a car with Coulson, though it isn’t immediately clear where they are going. Rhodes spins his jeep around in the middle of traffic – man, he really hasn’t gotten much action in this film – and away he goes.
The real drama is happening back in the mansion, where a sickly and sweaty looking Tony Stark has regained some use of his body, crashing into an elevator and heading downward, looking for all the world like a man living on borrowed time. To the background noise of a declining heartbeat, Tony stumbles out into the garage, looking across at salvation: the original reactor, encased in a glass gift box.
Tony has to literally crawl across the floor to get to the thing. Pushing bric-a-brack out of his way and losing energy all the time. This is a low, low moment, as low as Tony was back in the cave, only there is wasn’t minutes away from death (at least not all the time). Stark looks a far cry from the Iron Man he was just a short while ago.
He struggles up to try and reach the table, but collapses, laying prostrate on the floor, utterly helpless, and sapped of all drive. Is this the end for Tony Stark? Not quite.
Hey “Dummy”. Yeah, it had one last joke to make, dangling the reactor in front of Tony like a dog bringing its master a news paper. Favreau even gives the machine a shot that makes it look like an animal.
He smashes the glass open. Salvation is at hand.
In Sector 16, a jumpsuit wearing Obadiah Stane is framed facing his monstrosity, a gigantic suit of army that already looks like the Mark I on steroids. The environment, like the music, is dark and full of foreboding. We hear dripping from somewhere off camera, and flickering lights and reflected water illuminate the walls. It’s like a dungeon. But wait…
What is Obadiah Stane doing? Why isn’t he already heading out of the country with the reactor? What is he possibly hoping to achieve by staying where he is? This gigantic plot hole in Iron Man’s third act, explainable only if Stane has suddenly gone insane, is a serious black mark against the film.
Anyway, Stane hooks in the reactor with deliberate patience, and the machine hums to life. Stane looks up into its head, which sort of looks like his own, like he is staring into something he himself created. But of course he didn’t: he’s simply taken two of Stark’s inventions and turned them into his own tools. The music swells. We have our villain, inside and out.
Back in the mansion, Rhodes comes sprinting into the living room, shouting Tony’s name. He heads downstairs, and discovers Stark’s prone and seemingly lifeless body. But of course, he’s not dead: with the old reactor plugged in, Tony is still breathing albeit looking much the worse for wear. He claws at Rhodes’ jacket, and only has one thing on his mind:
There’s a certain sweetness in that, but then again, Stane did just directly threaten her.
She’s fine. She’s with five agents. They’re about to arrest Obadiah.
Tony, looking suddenly determined and angry, must be having a short-term flash back:
I wish you could have seen my prototype. It’s not as, well, conservative as yours…
Tony, somehow realising that Stane isn’t just going to quit the country (how does he know this) realises the truth.
That’s not going to be enough.
Cut to the Arc Reactor facility in Stark Industries, where Pepper and Coulson, conspicuously different in one of Tony’s Audi’s pull up, followed by a few non-descript Fords with the rest. It’s all business as the group head inside, a feeling magnified by the workaday violin chords. The camera lingers on the reactor, which will be important later.
Pepper tries to get access to Section 16, but in an awkward little scene, she fails to get the door to open.
My key’s not working. It’s not opening the door.
There is something a bit off about this scene and Paltrow’s delivery, like it was all shot on the fly. Maybe just to set-up the little joke here, as Coulson attaches a small object to the door.
Oh, wow! What’s that? It’s, like, a little device? It’s, like, a thing that’s going to pick the lock?
You might want to take a few steps back.
They do. Pepper cowers, plugging her ears, but the agents all just stand, stoically, with their arms crossed. The little explosive goes off, and they don’t even flinch. It’s our first proper indication that they are more than just some bland group of government agents.
In Section 16, Stane hears the door getting blown open, and realises what’s coming. He hits a button on a computer, and heads towards his prototype, which we see in the background from the front, for the first time. It’s big, metal coloured, and slightly hulking, like the Mark III but just bigger in all respects.
Back in the mansion, Tony suits up, without the montage and bombastic music of the last time. This time, he has an admirer to voice the audiences opinion.
That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
Not bad, huh?
Rhodes is in awe, but Tony doesn’t really have much time to pander to him. Taking a repulsor blast to one of the previously damaged sports cars (boy does that seem like a long time ago), he clears a path to the hole in the ceiling he made before.
You need me to do anything else?
It doesn’t really seem like Rhodes has done anything actually, other than just be here. The last act is really bad for this character actually, as he plays second fiddle to just about everybody.
Keep the skies clear.
And with that action hero line, off Iron Man goes, soaring out of the mansion and into the night sky.
Rhodes is left behind, cursing his luck. He then has a glance to his right, spying the hooked up Mark II. Some electric notes thrum in the background.
Next time, baby.
For Rhodes, Iron Man is nothing but set-up. He has to be around, but can’t get the time to be fleshed out properly. But it will sort of pay-off in Iron Man 2, when he finally does get to don his own suit of armour and become “War Machine” (and then, the Iron Patriot). For now, this nod to the fanboys is as far as he will really get. Well, he does get to take another of Tony’s Audi, for some reason, squealing out of the garage.
In Section 16, Pepper and the agents move forward, into the dark and straggly lit basement level where we previously saw Stane, the mood of the film suddenly edging back towards horror. Pale lights, rattling chains…wait, rattling chains? Wow, Favreau was really piling it on here. And what’s making them rattle?
The group come across the battered reconstruction of the Mark I, its inclusion here designed to offer a final contrast with what we will see very soon.
Looks like you were right. He was building a suit.
I thought it’d be bigger.
Pepper hears something behind her, and in a move that really is straight out of Horror 101, starts walking very slowly towards it, while everyone else remains blissfully unaware. The wires that we previously saw connected to Stane’s prototype now dangle free.
As the agents start to fan out and look for Stane, Pepper keeps investigating the spooky noises, as Iron Man starts to overplay its hand a little bit with the suspense.
And then it breaks. Two glaring lights appear in the darkness, a whirring of something powering up, and then the familiar FPS view from inside a helmet. Only this time the target is over Pepper’s face, and everything is in red. Pepper screams and runs.
Pepper dashes around a corner, and behind her comes the Ironmonger suit, which we can now see, in full glory and operational, a heaving hulk of metal destruction. The first agent in its path tries to stop Stane in his tracks with a few pistol shots, but is gruesomely swatted out of the way. The shot stays with the fleeing Pepper, even as the eye is drawn on the Ironmonger’s wrecking of destruction as more agents get flattened.
Then Stane looks up and see’s Potts, and dashes towards her with unnatural speed, smashing through metal and stone, and only just missing her when a doorway gets in his path. The initial glimpse of the Ironmonger in action has set it up nicely as a terrible threat, dealing with any human attacks with ease and smashing through everything around it.
In the skies, Tony streaks towards Stark Industries in the Mark III, but there is a problem:
How do you think the Mark I chest piece is going to hold up?
The suit’s at 48% power and falling, sir. That chest piece was never designed for sustained flight.
Keep me posted.
Hmm. This was the very first reactor, with half of its power drained in Tony’s escape from the cave. I guess the Mark I wasn’t very energy efficient. Tony’s upcoming fight with Obadiah is going to have a time limit.
Outside the reactor facility, a panicked Pepper emerges, getting a phone call from Tony.
Tony! Tony, are you okay?
I’m fine. How are…
Obadiah, he’s gone insane!
He better have, it’s the only logical option.
I know. Listen, you’d better get out of there.
He built a suit.
Get out of there right now!
I’m afraid it’s too late for that though. In a great emergence shot, the Ironmonger breaks through the road outside the arc facility, rising like a demon out of hell, casting tarmacadem and stone all around him.
The suit is immense, with its supports, overly-large helmet section and piles of guns attached to its arms.
Where do you think you’re going?
Stane’s voice, a little gruffer, emerges from the suit. He has a bone to pick with Pepper, and has since the last sequence. A fist gets flexed and balled, an attached minIgun on the Ironmonger’s right arm starts spinning, the barrels aimed squarely at Pepper, who can only stutter backwards and gasp.
Your services are no longer required.
Yeah, he’s lost it. And from afar, a streak of light blazes towards the reactor facility.
Here we go. Finale time.
For The Film
This sequence is really a bit all over the place, the moments where Iron Man starts to show some cracks. Favreau seemingly needed to cram a lot into these few minutes: Obadiah finishing his suit, the final sundering between him and Tony, Pepper and the agents getting together, some bits for Rhodes, etc. And the end product seems a little hodge podge and rushed, as if the production team realised they were running out of time and needed to hurry things along. We see Stane transform into a very different villain in the course of a scene or two, and Tony survive another potentially fatal low point, while Pepper maintains her firm involvement, a female character who retains some agency. The scene has been set for the finale, though it all could have been a bit better.
He’s lost it. Before, Stane seemed smart, confident and sure of what he was doing. But now, the only thing that makes any sense in explaining his behaviour is that he has actually gone crazy. He finishes his suit and gleefully takes down Tony, releasing some pent up frustrations in the process, but then decides to stick and around and fight his way out of the upcoming charges. There’s no redemption possible for Stane, and we know the next fight is likely to be to the death.
He knew that Stane was working against him, but Tony finally learns to what extent here, and that revelation is still a shocking thing for him. His thoughts immediately settle on the thing that is more important to him though: Pepper. With that in mind, he manages to survive the latest assassination attempt, and heads into a final battle with Stane, knowing that there is a lot more on the line than just his life.
Leaving it too late to inform Tony for whatever reason, Pepper takes command of the anti-Stane effort herself, hooking up with Coulson’s agents and going after Obadiah herself. It’s a dangerous move, and by the end of this sequence she’s caught in the middle of a deadly battle about to commence.
Rhodes dashes to the mansion to check on Tony, but gets there too late to be really helpful. He’s defined as a minor support at this point, and Iron Man is doing well to give just a brief tease that he might become something more in the future.
Teaming up with Potts, Coulson starts showing himself as more than just a suited government man, using gadgets and guns in his pursuit of Stane. Whether that will be enough to take Stane down remains to be seen.
Still there, and still helping Tony out, his role in the coming fight to be the nagging voice reminding Tony of what little power he has left.
Next time, the final fight begins.
To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.