Naturally, at the end of Iron Man 3 (and, yes, I’m talking about the end right off the bat, so maybe the spoiler-phobic should go look at Gwyneth Paltrow’s ridiculous premiere dress instead), the bad guy gets beaned over the head by a super-powered being who just survived a 20-story drop and is pissed off at the baddie for blowing up everything in the known universe. No, that being is not Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, it is Gwyneth Paltrow as his silly assistant Pepper Potts. Thank god, the Marvel movie universe finally has a girl with powers!
Yes, one of the cooler things about this movie was seeing Paltrow with a super power other than her own conviction that she’s living the best life in the whole world. In fact, her role might even make you not hate her. The world that Marvel studios has been creating with their movies based on The Avengers franchise has man things – aliens with magic hammers, a super soldier who was frozen in time, a green monstrosity you won’t like when he’s angry – but there is one thing it’s short on: women. Sure, there is Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, but her only power seems to be not sweating that much while wearing a red wig. Now, finally, there is some real girl power (or girls with powers) in these movies.
But the problem is that Marvel took them all away. At the end of the movie, Tony Stark, Downey Jr’s character, said that he would fix Pepper’s power problem and she will presumably go back to being the CEO of Stark Enterprises. One of this great movie’s few problems is we don’t know how the Extremis chemical — which is what gave Gwynnie her ability to regenerate limbs, invulnerability, super strength, and possibly the ability to breathe fire — really works. The rules seem sketchy. It is fine in some people and not in others, and it is life threatening but only in certain vague circumstances that seem to serve the plot more than logic. Was this just so they could erase the traces of her powers like Britney Spears did with her bad Vegas wedding?
Marvel really missed a huge opportunity here to create a great character, and one that is native to the movies. While watching Pepper bash the bad guy, she looked just like She-Hulk from the comics (and if anyone on earth has a superhuman body, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow!) and I thought about how cool that would be. Wouldn’t she be a great Avenger — a reluctant hero who was trust into a position to do right in the world even though she’d rather be playing house with Tony Stark. That seems facinating.
Also, these movies could use some women who do something other than get themselves in trouble and then kiss the hero when he saves the day. The Avengers comic books have more and more badass ladies among their ranks. While it’s rumored that the Scarlet Witch will be joining Avengers 2, couldn’t we bring Pepper Potts along for the ride?
But no. Her powers were “fixed,” so her saving the day isn’t a matter of a equality, it’s just a cheap novelty to wrap up a damsel in distress storyline in an interesting way. Yes, it’s subversive to have the “girl” save the day once, but what would be really subversive would be having her kicking ass and taking names all the time. Sure, it would have been expensive to bring Gwyneth along for the rest of the movies, but Marvel really dropped the ball on this one. The only fix to a woman with powers is to create even more of them.
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