This entry is a bit different as it comes from a movie that many may not think of as a Christmas movie and that is understandable as it came out in April. However, that brings us to the idea of alternative Christmas movies. Think movies such as Die Hard or Gremlins.
I used to be someone that hated the idea of thinking of Die Hard as a Christmas movie but I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have the time to care what people watch to celebrate the holidays. Now, it is fair to say that not everyone will consider what I’m looking at as a Christmas movie but Marvel themselves tweeted out that Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie and even wrote a lengthy piece in 2019 arguing that it is. Sure, it’s just marketing to convince people to watch one of their older movies but I do believe that it counts as a Christmas movie and not just because it features a man in a red suit. But rather because Tony’s journey reflects something I believe the holiday should be finding the hope to carry on.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the phrase, “Hope is not a plan”, that is perhaps the sentence that I hate most. This is not to discourage things such as science or organizing to have a plan but rather that if someone doesn’t have a hint of hope in their life, that is a hollow life in my opinion. Consider for a moment how Superman’s famous line has now been changed to
Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow
I like this new saying even more as the idea of a better tomorrow invokes a sense of hope in that there is a sense that no matter what you are going through, you can get through it and overcome it. Iron Man 3 hits on a deeper level because of that as you see Tony struggle with anxiety attacks and PTSD after what happened in New York. We can see this quite a bit as we look to sources such as Psychology Today.
Although no one in our world has ever carried a nuclear weapon through a wormhole, plenty of people have faced what seemed to be certain death and plenty of people have undergone bizarre experiences that no one around them afterward can fully understand, so they often feel alone in their experiences.
This is perfectly encapsulated in a scene early on in the movie where Tony uses one of his suits to escape a restaurant/bar to escape after having a panic attack.
That is perhaps one of the biggest things that I believe can be taken away from this movie is showing how different people handle anxiety and panic attacks. While Tony’s anxiety isn’t directly related to the holiday, that in a way is something else the movie highlights as people’s anxiety can heighten during this time of year.
It might be the most wonderful time of the year for some people, but for many others Christmas and the holiday season are actually very stressful. This can affect you whether you are living with a mental health problem or not.
When we get to Killian’s personality, this in a way will come back up again in an interesting way.
Pearce is quite a bit of fun in the role selling Killian as someone a bit unhinged a bit. He may not give the most memorable performance of an MCU villain but that’s in part because there are so many of them now.
When the film first introduces us to Killian is quite the contrast to the rest of the movie as he is walking with a limp and appears a bit unkempt. As the Villians Wiki states, he grew up with many disabilities and yes, he is yet another villain that Tony created by ignoring him when he asked Tony to meet him
Now Killian being disabled does serve a purpose for his character and his motivation. This in my opinion is a fine line to walk and I do think that it works rather well for the most part.
I feel as though Killian’s personality can be summed up with something he tells Tony late into the movie.
How can I be pissed at you, Tony? I’m here to thank you. You gave me the greatest gift that anybody’s ever given me. Desperation.
It’s interesting to see how Killian states desperation was his biggest motivator. This in a way ties back into what I mentioned about how Tony is at his lowest point. It does seem like two sides of the same coin. I am not saying that Tony is wallowing in desperation but rather how someone can look at this but as Killian learns (or doesn’t), desperation is not always the best motivator.
Desperation isn’t the right motivator. Inspiration is the better choice.
People respond to challenges. They respond when they have a mission that provides meaning. They respond to the opportunity to make a difference. People respond to the chance to grow, to become something more than they are
This is perhaps one of the biggest takeaways one can walk away with from this movie in that it is important to find the right thing that motivates you to keep going. Killian does find a motivation to keep going after Tony brushes him off and I don’t think anyone has any right to say that he shouldn’t be angry. I mean, we know Tony was something of an ass before he became a superhero.
Oh, does he have a laundry list from wanting to kill Tony. Which in a way I get and there’s also how he tried to kill the President. Oh and of course using Extremis to conquer the plane. Yeah, that stuff is freaky.
Yeah, that stuff is just a bit rough to watch but that is kind of the point.
Now, while Killian is the head of A.I.M., I only wish to focus on two characters that work for him. Let’s start with the one that was only in this movie.
Maya was also at the same party where Killian introduced himself to Tony but she got Tony’s attention. Gee, I wonder why? She played Tony and Pepper as it’s revealed that she was the one that came up with the Extremis virus. Now, she does eventually redeem herself in the end and after learning what Killian plans to, she threatens to kill herself with the Extremis virus. That wasn’t needed as Killian ups and kills her anyway.
Yeah, what’s an alternative Christmas without some death in it. After all, one of my favorite Christmas movies deals with zombies.
Interestingly in the original draft of the movie, Hansen would have been the main villain and while I do like Killian, I think that could have been even more interesting. Consider how the idea of Killian as a villain is being someone Tony wronged in the past, I feel as though that’d hold even more weight if it were an ex-lover.
Now in full disclosure at the time of I had yet to see Shang-Chi but I do understand that Slattery makes a reappearance in that film. (I did see it last month) Crazy how a character can show up in a movie eight years later but having said that, I am only going to focus on Slattery as he appears in this movie. When I first saw this movie in theaters eight years ago, I hated The Mandarin twist but having rewatched the movie for this article, I think this was the perfect way to handle this at the time. I love how much it deflates a character that the movie has built up as a legit threat. When Tony meets him for the first time in the movie, we learn that he’s just an actor and he’s nothing more than a joke that Killian hired to play this role.
If we take this even further and tie it into the discussion of anxiety and desperation that has been brought up throughout this blog, Slattery pretending to be The Mandarian is reminiscent of how society forces us to wear a mask to try and fit in. This is a stretch to be sure but I do believe there is something of a through-line here. There are many different reasons one might wear a mask in society. Looking to an article from Mind & Body Works, one of the reasons that they list that works with my Slattery comparison is the act of deception.
Yes, Slattery is just an actor that was hired by Killian but he is tricking and deceiving the world into them believing that he is The Mandarian. It’s a mask and facade that he puts and when he is wearing the mask of being The Mandarian, he comes across as tough and someone not to cross.
However, when the mask of The Mandarian is removed and we are left with Trevor Slattery, he’s nothing more than a loser. It shows how much he has to pretend to be someone else to puff up his image. Now, there is an interesting end here as when he’s arrested, it seems as though he has people that want his autographs much in the same way people would send fan mail to serial killers.
Believing himself to have finally gained the fame he had desire his entire life, Slattery enjoyed having the attention from so many people and thanked them for seeing him.
In a twisted sense, this shows that Slattery finally found the attention and acceptance he had been yearning for once he stopped being The Mandarian.
Most Evil Deed
Killian’s most evil deed is interesting as it speaks to how frail he truly is as it’s a sense of projecting. He kidnaps Pepper and plans to improve her with the Extremis virus
I say that this is a sense of projection as that’s what Killian did to himself, he improved himself to better an image that he needed. This reminds me of a line from RENT.
You’ll never share real love until you love yourself
That is something Killian doesn’t understand as he is at heart, a selfish person that believes people need to be bettered for society to function or so that is what we are led to believe at first.
Killian’s death is a but yeesh but Pepper gets in the final blow.
. Just before Killian was able to retaliate, Pepper ripped a repulsor arm from the Mark X Suit, attached it to herself, utilized its capabilities, and finally killed Killian with it.
This death is the perfect capper for Killian’s character as it shows that if one tries too hard to perfect themselves, they may face consequences and that is exactly what happened to Killian after putting so much Extremis into his body, he paid the price.
Is Aldrich Killian A Good Villain?
I’d say so and I do think that he is a good reflection of where Tony could have been if he didn’t have the support of Pepper and Rhode to help him through his anxiety. Instead of finding support to help Killian wallowed in desperation and let it consume him to the point where he became the monster we see at the end of the movie. Join me next time as we look at how Disney tried to reimagine a beloved Christmas classic and made the oddest choice of changing the villain to…
The Sugar Plum Fairy