So, the grand finale. This fight is going to take place, like so many of the MCU’s final fights, in three phases, marked by location. Up at the start will be the freeway, though we have to get there first.
And it starts with a bang. Tony is hurtling towards Stane, Stane is letting loose with the minigun on his arm, and the whole thing passes by in a flash. We barely have time to register the gunfire before the Mark III smashes into the Ironmonger, sending both through the hole previously created and into the bowels of Sector 16.
From there, in just a few short seconds, the two tumble through another wall and out onto a nearby freeway, colliding and rolling through traffic. An unfortunate truck gets torn to shreds, swerving dangerously, while the two fighters some to a rest in the middle of the oncoming cars, one of which Stane disdainfully causes to crash. Gotta mark him out at the bad guy even more I guess.
With cars screeching to a halt all around, Stane sees an opportunity. A family wagon (Audi logo prominently displayed) squeals to a halt in front of the Ironmonger, the innocent family inside screaming. Stane is quickly lifting the car up with his metal arms.
I love this suit!
I’ll come right out and say it: Stane’s dialogue for the final fight is terrible, and not even Jeff Bridges’ wholehearted delivery can save it. I suppose its tone ties into the idea that Stane has genuinely gone mad, but it just sounds so wrong coming out of his mouth.
Put ’em down!
Collateral damage Tony.
The Ironmonger, preparing to use the car as a weapon, advances towards Stark. But our hero isn’t standing for that.
Divert power to chest RT.
The slow build up of power, the growing higher him, and the chest light glows brighter than it ever has before. A burst of repulsor power comes shooting out, knocking Stane backwards into the air, the Ironmonger landing clumsily on the bonnet of another car. The CGI here isn’t stellar on a small screen – indicative of a lack of staying power – but serves its purpose. Before the Audi can hit the ground, Tony is on hand to catch it by the front.
Tony, as seen through another upfront look at his strained face inside the helmet, struggles to put the vehicle down safely, with JARVIS helpfully chiming in:
Power reduced to 19%.
Oh good. In a brief comedy aside, the driver of the car floors it upon hitting the ground, dragging Tony along for a moment, even as he pleads for her to stop. It’s an odd interlude after the main fight has started, with a significant amount of the budget presumably going into the sight of the Mark III, getting rolled over and ground on by this car, before Tony rolls clear.
Back to the important business. Like a charging elephant, Stane comes running back towards Tony, using a little rocket boost in the legs of the Ironmonger to vault a few vehicles. It’s moments like that which do the best job at illustrating how powerful the Ironmonger actually is, though the next one does too. An unfortunate motorcyclist gets up ended and dumped, his two wheeled vehicles, still roaring, used as a club to send Tony flying back and into another adjacent car. It’s a neat little sequence, and the aim seems to be to portray Tony as getting his ass handed to him.
Civilians all along the roads start to panic and flee, their focus very much on a stopped bus that people clamour out of. Stane keeps the pain coming, landing a savage kick on the Mark III, before picking it up and throwing it back down to the ground.
For 30 years I’ve been holding you up…
Yes, very droll. Iron Man hits the ground with a sickening thud, and before he can struggle to his feet, gets trod on by the huge feet of the Ironmonger, the strain starting to seriously show on the Mark III.
I built this company up from nothing…
The megalomania is on display big time here it would seem. Picking Tony up by the neck, Stane continues his bad guy clichés:
…and nothing’s going to stand in my way!
Good grief. Tony gets flung into the bus, crashing through its side with barely any resistance. The Ironmonger trundles away, turns, and produces a surprisingly large missile from a cavity on its back, which soon points a red laser guide right at the bus.
Least of all you!
The missile fires, and the bus explodes violently, sending up a huge fireball, that also happens to contain Stark, the Mark III seemingly on its last legs from all of the attack. It’s a more impressive CGI moment, and a decent job has been done so far to portray the disparity between these two suits. That’s what phase one of this fight is all about.
That phase is coming to an end. The Mark III plummets back to earth, but Tony suddenly rights himself and hits the break, his repulsors, stopping the fall dead and leaving Iron Man hovering gently in the air. It’s an odd but effective moment, like Favreau was suddenly dispelling everything that had just happened, as if none of it really bothered Stark at all. That sort of suits him I guess.
Impressive! You’ve upgraded your armour. I’ve made a few upgrades of my own!
The feet of the Ironmonger adjust themselves, and suddenly bright light and smoke exhaust erupt. Like a Saturn V reaching into the sky, slowly at first but with increasing power, Stane takes off, the music suddenly back and swelling (OST: “Arc Reactor“). It’s been absent in this fight scene up to now, and its reappearance serves to illustrate that this final combat is evolving into something else.
Sir, it appears that his suit can fly.
Helpful as always. Inside the helmet, Stark panics for a brief moment, then quickly devises a new plan.
Duly noted. Take me to maximum altitude.
With only 15% power, the odds of reaching that…
I know the math! Do it!
Iron Man, with the Ironmonger slowly gaining on him amid a cloud of ugly smoke, turns and shoots away into the sky. From outside the Arc reactor, Pepper can only stand and watch, helpless for the moment, as Stane really takes off. I understand that there is some criticism of the Ironmonger suit here, largely because of how slow it takes off and how unnatural it all looks, for something that big to become airborne at such a slow rate. And I would agree, for the most part, though it gets over it quickly.
The wide shot, featuring Pepper looks especially bad, and should have been avoided. A much wider shot, showing little more than two lights in the distance above the brightness of the city, illustrates the point a bit better. The Mark III streaks away, but the Ironmonger isn’t that far behind, and its getting faster.
Back in Edwards, the military has picked up the fight, recognising the Mark III.
Sir, you’re not going to believe this. That thing is back.
Get me Major Allen. Scramble the jets!
But before the US military can get involved, Rhodes is on hand to input his involvement in the finale.
Not necessary, people. Just a training exercise.
Rhodes gives a reassuring smile to the staff, who acquiesce. Tony and Stane will fight this out on their own. This is Rhodes’ only part in the finale (there is cut material which I will get to) and it’s a little lame. It also doesn’t make any sense. Why not send Tony some back-up?
Anyway, phase two of the fight, which is a call-back to the flight of the Mark II earlier in the film. The main Iron Man theme is roaring, and the chase is on, as the Ironmonger steps up its jets and gets closer.
Thirteen percent power, sir.
The shots here are carbon copies of the Mark II flight, even including the moon. The difference is, the Mark III’s trouble isn’t icing, it’s the loss of power. The Ironmonger, on the other hand, starts to get a distinct shade of white around it.
Seven percent power.
Just leave it on the screen! Stop telling me!
Yeah, shut up JARVIS! Lights on the Mark III begin to flash and sputter, as Stane makes his grab. Iron Man gets dragged down, its flight stopped, as the Ironmonger holds the two face to face, seemingly triumphant.
You had a great idea, Tony, but my suit is more advanced in every way!
How’d you solve the icing problem?
It’s a sort of a weird thing here, as the camera moves back and forth between the two exchanging dialogue, even though we can’t actually see their faces. Though, we do see Stane inside the suit, a mirror of Tony’s, for a brief moment, his electronics going haywire. Suddenly, as the Mark II did, the suit shuts down, the lights out, all noise stopping.
Might want to look into it.
Stark gives the Ironmonger a simple bong on the head, dislodging some of the compacted ice, and the entire thing goes into freefall, spinning towards the bright lights below. Triumphant music plays, as Iron Man stays floating in the air, contrasted with the light of the moon. Game over?
The repulsors go out, and then Stark is falling too. Whoops.
We are now running on emergency back-up power.
Tony’s fall is interrupted by brief flashes of the repulsors, killing his downward momentum but providing a queasy feeling in the audience I’m sure, as Iron Man drops and stops, drops and stops, repeatedly. The Mark III eventually reaches ground, the top of the Arc reactor building actually, and executes a somewhat undignified crash landing, through some railings, before tumbling onto the roof. End of phase two, where in Tony used some of his past experience to one-up the bad guy, maybe even to the point of defeating him totally.
PEPPER (still outside facility):
Tony! Oh, my God, are you okay?
I’m almost out of power. I’ve got to get out of this thing. I’ll be right there.
The Mark III struggles to its feet and we get a brief glimpse of Tony’s face inside the suit, a cool image. The gloves are literally coming off, when the Ironmonger jumps into frame behind Tony.
It was, in fairness. Great moment here as Tony raises his hand to fire at Stane, only to belatedly realise he just took his glove off. The Ironmonger socks him, and Iron Man goes flying backwards, the piercing violins back in force.
The Ironmonger looks none the worse for wear after its fall, so must have been able to get out of it alright. Which, considering he was falling rapidly towards a city, is probably a good thing. Anyway, Tony is back on his feet quickly, and with a nice life from his remaining repulsors, lands a punch on the Ironmonger head for…absolutely no effect. Well, it’s not like anybody told Tony had to fight guys like this.
Stane soon has Stark in a bear hug, and starts putting on the squeeze, bits of metal and (presumably) hydraulic flood falling off him like blood.
Repulsors offline. Missiles offline.
A “Pressure” warning appears in Tony’s eyeline as the suit starts to buckle. Stane, meanwhile, looks positively orgasmic as he prepares to finish Tony off. Time for another call-back to save the day (again).
The red streaks burst out of their hip cavities one more time, and the Ironmonger is obliged to let Stark go, Stane left wincing from the bright lights on the inside of the suit.
In the aftermath, with a cool smoky background, we get one of the brief looks at the physical Ironmonger prop during the battle, as Stane recovers and looks around menacingly.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stark, hiding behind a pillar, seems to have rapidly come to the proper conclusion that this is not a fight he can win on his own.
Time to get her more involved, thankfully.
This isn’t working. We’re going to have to overload the reactor and blast the roof.
Well, how are you going to do that?
You’re going to do it. Go to the central console, open up all the circuits. When I get clear of the roof, I’ll let you know. You’re going to hit the master bypass button. It’s’ going to fry everything up here.
That sounds like a bit of a suicide plan really, but OK, you’re the genius. Pepper, very hesitantly walking over the shattered glass, starts heading back inside, clearly terrified.
Okay. I’m going in now.
Make sure you wait till I clear the roof. I’ll buy you some time.
Stane continues his search through the smoke, while Pepper, now with some agency in the fight, gets to work on the reactor, flipping switches and what have you. What the actual thing she’s doing is largely meaningless in plot terms, it’s just the MacGuffin that can beat Stane. The Arc reactor has been at the heart (almost literally) of everything in Iron Man, and now it’s going to be at the end too.
On the roof, Iron Man suddenly jumps on the Ironmonger’s back, and a really cool first person views shows the Mark II highlighting some switches in Stanes’ suits electronics, even while the eye is drawn to the fractured screen. Tony gleefully rips out whatever he grabbed.
This looks important!
Stane is momentarily blinded, with a “Lost Optical Connection” warning. As Pepper warms the reactor up, Iron Man and Ironmonger continue their wrestling, the contest clearly coming to a head. Which is just what Stane grabs, tearing off the Iron Man helmet as he flings Stark across the roof, miraculously not breaking Stark’s neck or decapitating him in the process.
Stark lands on the glass section of the roof, directly over the reactor. OK…
The Ironmonger opens up, revealing the upper body and head of Stane inside, the suit’s left arm holding the Iron Man helmet. Time for more villainous dialogue!
I never had a taste for this sort of thing, but I must admit, I’m deeply enjoying the suit.
The helmet gets crumpled and Stane tosses it, dismissively, towards Tony, its crushed remnant coming to a halt just in front of him. In a shot stolen straight from the finale of Sam Raini’s Spider-man, Tony looks up from his prone state, with a very angry, determined look, even as the Ironmonger advances. Time for the last moves.
You finally outdid yourself Tony. You made your father proud.
At lot of the subtext in Iron Man does come back to Howard Stark doesn’t it? Though here, Stane is just mocking Tony really. The fact that we can now see and hear Stane directly doesn’t really help though. Tony gamely gets up on one knee, but his suit is clearly running on empty.
It’s ready, Tony! Get off the roof!
Stark doesn’t have time to respond, because the Ironmonger’s minigun is soon firing. A quick break-up of components in the arm shields Tony’s face from the assault, but the glass under him soon shatters, leaving him clinging on to support struts and Pepper shielding herself from the debris. Like a cat playing with its soon to be dead food, Stane busies himself with shooting out the rest of the glass, leaving Tony bereft of salvation.
Pepper, looking up, see’s Tony dangling above her and screams his name. Time for the hard choice.
How ironic Tony. You tried to rid the world of weapons. You gave it its best one ever.
He’s got a point there, does Obadiah, something that this franchise never really addresses properly. Tony isn’t really listening though.
And now, I’m going to kill you with it.
Thankfully, we’re nearly done with the bad villain dialogue. The Ironmonger shoots off a missile, but it inexplicably streaks wide, exploding in the background.
You ripped out my targeting system.
Bridges reads this line like it’s on a placard behind the camera. It’s really odd, and the end of this fight really does seem put together just to draw things out as much as possible. You’d think the bear hug moment would have been a better choice.
Time to hit the button!
You told me not to!
Tony’s made his choice, in the full knowledge that he’s probably a dead man.
Hold still you little prick.
Those were his last words. Seriously. Another missile shoots wide.
Just do it!
And another missile, all the time they’re getting closer. Tony finds himself clinging on with one arm, and doesn’t have any more time.
Pepper, reluctantly, does so.
Blue arcs of energy erupt from the reactor as she flees, the bright blue lights encapsulating everything. A sudden pulse of power erupts and heads upwards. Tony is knocked clear of the roof, conveniently, lying prone to the side. From behind at first, and then in front, we see Stane and the Ironmonger caught in this blast wave, Stane screaming and holding his arms aloft.
A wide bean of bright blue light erupts into the cloudy sky above. It’s an oddly repeated thing – see TV Tropes’ “Pillar of Light” for the collection of examples – but at least it looks cool. The light goes out suddenly, leaving just a reverberating sound and a few brief flashes of light in the clouds.
Back on the roof, it isn’t clear if Stane is dead or unconscious. Regardless, he and Ironmonger topple forward, through the skylight, smashing into walls and supports all the way down, finally hitting the Arc reactor…
…which explodes in a flash of sparks and fireballs. Tony dodges the flames erupting from the roof, while the entrance to the facility is wrapped in a wave of destruction. So long Obadiah. So long Ironmonger. A great collection of cuts and pans here, giving everything a really good sense of movement and rapidity.
On the roof, the camera pans towards a prone and unmoving Stark, the Mark III suit smashed to bits, the reactor in the chest non functional. In the distance, distorted, Pepper calls out his name.
The camera keeps panning in, as the chest light starts to flicker, like a weak heartbeat. It seems to revive totally, but Tony’s fate is left unclear as the scene fades to black.
For The Film
Our climax has come, the final fight between Tony and Stane, and their respective ideologies. The immediate lead up to this battle hasn’t been great if we’re being honest, but at least the pay-off is somewhat decent. The Iron Man/Ironmonger fight goes through its phases, has its call-backs to previous moments, and manages to suck Pepper in. It’s fairly standard stuff in terms of action beats really, but I think it’s a fitting end to the main crux of the plot. Iron Man proves himself as a hero in testing circumstances, taking on the version of himself that’s over powered and out of control. We see Tony willing to make that ultimate sacrifice, and know that he is truly now a changed man.
If Iron Man is about Stark’s journey to be a better person, then the final combat with Stane illustrates the different ways that this has come to pass. He takes on a much bigger and more powerful foe fearlessly, he saves innocent bystanders as well as he can, he uses his wits and intelligence to beat the Ironmonger down, he trusts Pepper to do her part and, in the fateful moment, is willing to sacrifice his own life in order to stop the schemes of the true mechanical menace. A lot of this is a far cry from the man we saw opening the film.
Yeah, he’s gone mad. Uncaring of who gets in his way or the destruction he causes, Stane is hell-bent on not just killing Tony, but proving his superiority along the way. In the end, he gets outfoxed, and dies at the hand of the very device he was so scornful of earlier in the film.
Initially she’s just a scared bystander, watching the battle being fought elsewhere. But, when called upon to play her part, she does so, and with only a little hesitation. The decision to “push the button” is a hard one, but Pepper shows her inner strength by taking that leap.
Helping out, in as annoying a manner as possible. But JARVIS has proven himself a worthwhile sidekick.
Oh yeah, he’s here too. Rhodes has little to do, other than to trust that Tony can get the job done.
Next time, we finish up.
To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.
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