Top Ten Plot Holes in Iron Man 3

Now that Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3 has been released and has made several hundred million dollars, we can try and analyze how it holds up as an actual film, not just by how it continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Iron Man movies have always had their fair share of plot holes, but IRON MAN 3 seems to set a new record for  head-scratching jumps in logic and continuity errors. Here are the top ten plot holes from IRON MAN 3.

Why did Aldrich Killian only breathe fire once?

Let’s start this list with an admittedly minor plot hole that nevertheless seems strange in retrospect. After Killian reveals that he has also injected himself with Extremis, he displays an ability to breathe fire. However, he only does it once. Why doesn’t he breathe fire again during the climactic battle with Tony Stark? Wouldn’t one good fire blast be enough to kill Tony even if he was in one of his suits? Speaking of the suits…

Where did Iron Patriot’s damage go?

After capturing Iron Patriot, Killian tries to force the suit open to extract James Rhodes. He eventually uses his Extremis powers to try and force him out. But in doing so he melts a good portion of Iron Patriot’s chest-plate. But when Iron Patriot goes to kidnap the President, the armor is completely unharmed. Killian mentioned that his men could fix the suit during the extraction scene, but the film implies that the suit was sent to kidnap the President immediately after they got Rhodes out. While we’re talking about Iron Patriot, let’s move on and ask the question…

How did Killian’s henchman use the War Machine armor?

During the film, we are shown that Tony’s suits have retinal scan technology, thereby only allowing select people to use them. One could argue that the War Machine armor was different since it belonged to Rhodes. But at one point, Tony reveals that Rhodes DOES have an account (leading to the WarMachineRox line). This implies that the War Machine armor DID have retinal scan technology. So how did Killian’s henchman bypass it so he could use it? Did he hack the armor? Tony’s suits are supposed to be state-of-the-art. So unless that henchman was a technological savant who could hack the suit en route to kidnapping the president, it seems unlikely if not impossible that he could use it.

Why did Killian warn his own men about the Mandarin?

Before we dive into the more egregious plot holes, I want to address another smaller one that still bothers me. At one point, we see Killian’s men getting ready to film one of the Mandarin’s video messages. We then hear them being instructed not to look him in the eyes if they want to live. At this point in the movie, it makes sense. After all, the audience isn’t aware yet that the Mandarin is just a puppet played by an actor. But later, the Mandarin “kills” a hostage during one of the videos. We later learn that this was staged, too. So, if the hostage killing was faked, obviously the people making the messages knew that it was all smoke and mirrors. So why put on the charade that he was real earlier in the film when there was nobody BUT the workers there to see him?

Why didn’t Tony arm the mansion after calling out the Mandarin?

One of the major themes of the film concerns Tony’s devotion to Pepper versus his devotion to his work and his suits. We learn that Pepper is, in fact, the most important thing to him. So why didn’t he warn Pepper or arm the mansion after giving the Mandarin his home address? If Pepper really was the most important thing to him, why didn’t he evacuate her or immediately put her in a suit to protect her? But this isn’t the only plot hole surrounding the scene where the Mandarin attacks the mansion. For example…

Why did the Mandarin attack Tony’s mansion when Maya was there?

We learn much later in the movie that Maya Hansen is working for Killian and that, in his eyes, she is ultimately disposable. But this doesn’t explain why the Mandarin orders helicopters to bomb Tony’s mansion while she was in it. Maybe the Mandarin and his men knew that she could survive the attack because of her exposure to Extremis, but Tony and Pepper didn’t. In fact, wouldn’t wounding Maya be a dead give-away to Tony about her and Killian’s connection to the bombings? And speaking about Pepper…

Why did the Mandarin wait to kidnap Pepper?

After the Mandarin’s men bomb Tony’s house, they fail to kidnap Pepper. Yes, Tony may have destroyed most of the helicopters, but why didn’t Maya kidnap Pepper? With Tony flying off to Tennessee while unconscious there was no reason for Maya to keep pretending that she wasn’t working for Killian. After all, later in the movie they go on and kidnap Pepper anyway. So why did they wait? It’s possible that they waited because they thought that Tony was dead, but that seems like a really flimsy reason considering the fact that Maya would have been able to see Tony flying away after the battle.

Why didn’t the authorities make the connection between the Tennessee bombing and the Mandarin attacks?

A massive chunk of the movie involves Tony going to rural Tennessee to investigate the mysterious death of a US servicemen that involved an explosion similar to the Mandarin bombings. It doesn’t take long for him to determine that his death, listed as a suicide, was actually caused by Extremis. So why doesn’t the US government or SHIELD look into it after the Mandarin begins his reign of terror? It’s not like the US government doesn’t know about it. After all, the movie explains that the government covered it up. If they covered it up, then they knew about the unusual circumstances surrounding his death. If they knew that, then why didn’t they immediately start investigating other wounded veterans who might have sought radical medical treatments? The film implies that the military cover-up may have been ANOTHER cover-up orchestrated by AIM. But the film only explicitly names ONE member of the government as working with AIM: the vice-president. Does the vice-president really have the power to keep such info a secret, especially from SHIELD, an organization specifically dedicated to such problems? I don’t think so.

Why did Tony wait until the end to summon all the suits?

For the big climax, Tony orders all of his suits to come to his aid to stop Killian and save the president. But this begs the question of why he didn’t do that before? Why didn’t he summon them when the mansion was attacked? Why didn’t he call them when he first arrived in Tennessee? Yes, his armor ran out of power, but he was able to call Pepper from a phone booth. Why couldn’t he tell her to go to his mansion and release them? One could argue that he couldn’t summon them until the end because up until then they were covered with debris and rubble. To that, I have two responses. One: how did Tony know that they weren’t covered in rubble anymore when he was literally a continent away? Two: are you telling me that around 40 Iron Man suits could blast their way out of the side of a mountain? Really? REALLY?

Where were the Avengers and SHIELD?

Here’s the biggest plot hole in the entire movie: WHERE WERE THE AVENGERS? Yes, part of the suspension of disbelief that comes with superhero stories set in a shared universe is that superheroes can’t be everywhere at once. Superman can’t always come help Batman, Thor can’t always help Spider-man. But here’s the big problem with a story like the one featured in IRON MAN 3: the entire nation was under attack at the time. If the entire story was limited to, say, California, then it would make sense that the other Avengers and SHIELD may not be able to get there in time. But the film takes place over several days. Where was Captain America when the President of the United States was attacked and kidnapped by terrorists? Where was Nick Fury and SHIELD when Tony disappeared? Are you telling me that Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk did nothing when the Mandarin’s attacks started? We aren’t even given a one-line explanation like “Oh, SHIELD’s busy rebuilding after New York” or “Thor’s off fighting something.” They just aren’t there. And in a franchise like the Marvel Cinematic Universe where the central selling point is the fact that all of these heroes exist in the same world, that is inexcusable.

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