This article contains spoilers
As Kyle Bradstreet’s Secret Invasion reaches its halfway point, the spy series is surprising us in more ways than one. It’s not just the shocking death of Emilia Clarke’s G’iah and the well-signposted reveal that Don Cheadle’s James “Rhodey” Rhodes is a Skrull that make Episode 3 worth a watch. Somehow, Secret Invasion has done the almost unthinkable and made us reconsider Iron Man 3.
Up there with Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World and (more recently) Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, Shane Black’s 2013 threequel is often held as one of the ‘worst’ Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. While even a bad MCU outing usually fares better than an average DC movie, Iron Man 3’s reception hasn’t exactly improved over the years. With botched villains, a bizarre push to release in 3D, and THAT Mandarin twist, it’s taken a decade to convince many it’s even worth a rewatch.
During July 5’s “Betrayed,” Secret Invasion revealed what Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Gravik has been up to, with the slippery Skrull confirming his master plan to create a race of Super Skrulls. While we know your standard Skrull already boasts enhanced strength and immunity to radiation to go alongside their shapeshifting, Super Skrulls are poised to emerge as souped-up changelings that could take on even the Avengers.
Secret Invasion’s second episode cued the Super Skrull program, with a tease that Gravik wants to enhance his species with attributes from Frost Beasts, Cull Obsidian, and the fan-favourite Groot. There was a throwaway mention of Extremis, which MCU purists will remember is a convoluted plot point of Iron Man 3. We saw the payoff of this in “Betrayed,” as an enraged Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) stabbed a knife into Gravik’s hand. The Skrull general pulled his hand backwards and watched the wound heal before his eyes.
As a refresher, the Extremis virus was the creation of Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3. The bookish doctor co-created Extremis with Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), realising nanotechnology could help the human body regenerate. The potential of Extremis was largely written off when Kilian went down in a flame of mediocrity in Iron Man 3’s CGI-logged finale, but with regenerating Super Skrulls packing the punch of Cull Obsidian and Groot, Black’s maligned movie is suddenly relevant again.
The Iron Man 3 Problem
Much like how Secret Invasion is an MCU-ified version of the 2008 comic crossover of the same name, Iron Man 3 attempted to adapt Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s “Extremis” miniseries of 2005-2006 but got itself sidetracked. Serving as something of a sequel to 2012’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3 had the odds stacked against it. In just five years, we’d had a whole trilogy of Iron Man movies before we’d seen the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, or Captain Marvel.
However, even if you remove iconic scenes like the Malibu mansion attack and the fact it’s the MCU’s first Christmas movie, it’s still clear to see what Iron Man 3 could’ve been. It’s the only Iron Man movie that really dived into the man behind the suit. Although Iron Man 3 didn’t quite break into the realms of the acclaimed “Demon in a Bottle” comic arc, we dealt with Tony’s PTSD after he went on a suicide mission into space at the end of The Avengers.
Both Hall and Black have spoken out about how Maya Hansen was handled, and after Hall claimed she was missold her “reduced” role, Black confirmed his original plan for Hansen to be the big bad. Black told Uproxx how Disney execs were unconvinced about the idea of a female villain thanks to its potential lack of toy sales. Whether the sweet-as-pie Hansen giving us a jaw-dropping villain turn would’ve worked or not, there’s bad blood about her character’s underwhelming handling. Instead, Extremis and Killian are two completely forgettable parts of the MCU’s sometimes murky past.
The ghost of Iron Man 3 haunts the MCU, and in Black’s own words, the All Hail the King One-Shot was created to undo his Mandarin twist. Still, the dangling threads of Iron Man 3 present some interesting opportunities. If we’re revisiting the idea of Extremis in Secret Invasion, there’s a potential to explore more of Advanced Idea Mechanics. Despite A.I.M. being up there with H.Y.D.R.A. in terms of Marvel villainy, we’ve already moved past Killian and decided to ignore M.O.D.O.K.’s potential connection to the shadowy think tank.
Currently, Secret Invasion seems like a dumping ground for “Hey, remember this?” ideas, like Episode 3’s throwaway mention of Black Widow’s Dreykov (Ray Winstone) or the relevance of Cull Obsidian from Thanos’ Black Order. Much like Shang-Chi’s Mandarin retcon, Secret Invasion is seemingly just a way to thaw the frosty reception of Iron Man 3. But, alongside trying to bring Black Widow into the fold, Bradstreet is doing a stellar job of trying to redeem underrated Marvel movies – well, someone has to.