How Did 'Iron Man 3' Make So Much Money?

You probably mostly forgot about the final Iron Man film, so let me remind you that it made over $1.2 billion dollars

When Marvel made almost $700 million from Dr Strange, a two-hour, LSD trip with magic mumbo jumbo sprinkled throughout, I said nothing.

When they made close to $800 million from Guardians of the Galaxy, a film whose main characters included an irritable racoon and a sentient tree, I still said nothing.

If, after Infinity War, they re-released that short video of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas just slapping their knees and chanting about ants, I’d not only say squat, I’d probably be there on opening night, helping nudge the film along to presumably out-earn The Dark Knight.

Everything Marvel touches turns to gold (except you, Incredible Hulk, but we don’t talk about that) and everyone now just accepts that.

There’s just one thing I can’t wrap my head around though. On the fifth anniversary of its release, just how did Iron Man 3 make as much money as it did?

You probably mostly forgot about the final Iron Man film, so let me remind you it made over $1.2 billion dollars. Recent news that Infinity War broke through that barrier in under two weeks may have conditioned you to think little of that figure, but you have to remember this was 2013, a more innocent time when that was enough to make a film the fifth-highest-grossing ever.

$1.2 billion is more than Captain America: Civil War made, which was billed as almost another Avengers movie. It’s more than the earnings of the previous two Iron Mans combined. Even today, it’s more than every other film ever made, bar 14. I can’t be the only person who finds that… well, weird.

Sure, it was an MCU film, and I know we now live in a world where the Minions movie can earn more money than Crassus, but this is Iron Man 3 we’re talking about. I don’t remember there being a huge amount of hype or a massive marketing campaign, and the reviews that came out were split between calling it a fun flick and calling for the end of the world to save them from the monstrosity they had just witnessed.

And as for the film itself, the second-best Iron Man film – a title it’s granted simply by not being Iron Man 2 – is far from Marvel’s best work.

Although, to be fair to Iron Man 2, it did give Rhodes a bit more to do in the suit.
Although, to be fair to Iron Man 2, it did give Rhodes a bit more to do in the suit.

The Mandarin twist was probably the most divisive thing we’ve seen in a Marvel film, the other villain was classic Marvel filler and Tony Stark’s armour couldn’t have been less robust if it had been put together with Blu Tack and spit. Seriously, it took punches from the Iron Monger in the first film, and a direct hit from Mjolnir in the Avengers, but it couldn’t handle being hit by a truck on a motorway?

And this is all coming from someone who generally quite likes Iron Man 3, especially the whip-smart dialogue and detective scenes where Stark pieced together how the terrorist attacks had been orchestrated. But how it made as much money as it did will never make sense to me.

The only explanation I can think of that begins to address this burning issue is that it received a giant post-Avengers bump, which could also help to explain how Thor 2 made almost $650 million. But such a huge boost can’t be entirely explained by the success of the Avengers, especially since Iron Man 3 was far more of a standalone film than a world-building one.

So forget Peter Quill’s magical Walkman – which has remained in mint condition since 1988 – or Stark giving his address to a terrorist and then forgetting about it. For my money, the biggest mystery surrounding the MCU is how a decent Iron Man film, that came out half a decade ago and didn’t contain much actual Iron Man in, managed to become such a box office phenomenon.