Iron Man 3, Too Many Villains and The Threequel Curse

Iron Man 3 has a lot to prove. It is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) post-Avengers…

Tristan Heron


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Iron Man 3 has a lot to prove. It is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) post-Avengers and is set to launch phase 2 of the MCU. It stars the most popular character in the MCU. It has at least four confirmed villains in Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, James Badge Dale as Coldblood and Ashley Hamilton as Firepower. It is also a threequel.

Threequels, and in particular those in the superhero genre, have not lived up to other films in the franchise. This is widely considered as the threequel curse. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man film trilogy, the original X-Men trilogy, the Blade trilogy, the original Superman film series, the original Batman film series and even the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy have fallen prey to the curse.

What is it about threequels that make them prone to being bad or at least disappointing films?


In the case of the film series listed above, changes in director have had an impact. The original X-Men trilogy, the Blade trilogy, the original Superman and Batman film series all had changes in director in the third film resulting in an inferior product. Iron Man 3 also has a change in director for the threequel, but unlike those other series, the new director Shane Black has greater credentials than the previous director Jon Favreau.

Black wrote and directed the crime comedy film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which starred Tony Stark himself Robert Downey Jr. He also was involved in screenwriting for the first two Lethal Weapon films and Iron Man 2, and was involved in screenwriting and producing The Long Kiss Goodnight. Apparently Favreau and Downey also consulted with Black during pre-production of one of the earlier Iron Man films.

A change in director does not however explain the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film trilogy or Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. The problems with The Dark Knight Rises have been talked about ad-nauseam, but what went wrong with Spider-Man 3?

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It is often suggested that the problem with Spider-Man 3 is too many villains. Spider-Man had three villains; Harry Osborne aka The New Goblin, The Sandman and Venom. There are many very good superhero films that have three or more villains. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have three villains, if the Mafia are included. All of the X-Men films have more than three villains.

The problem with Spider-Man 3 seems to be not related to the number of villains, but to how these villains and their related themes interact with each other. The X-Men films have many villains, but they often act as one in the Brotherhood or Hellfire Club. James Badge Dale has stated how the villains in Iron Man 3 relate to each other. The Mandarin is the mouthpiece, Killian is the brain and Coldblood is the muscle.

I have high hopes for Iron Man 3. It has a great director in Shane Black. It has a great cast with Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce joining Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. The director of the previous instalments Jon Favreau is on set and on side as Executive Producer along with Kevin Feige. It doesn’t have the restrictions of Iron Man 2 being a lead up to The Avengers, and it has the potential to greatly expand the MCU. Hopefully Iron Man 3 will bury the threequel curse once and for all.