Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3

The third installments of superhero franchises are known for being let downs, and “Iron Man 3” will do little to dispel that reputation.

I don’t mind shallow if a movie compensates with spectacle. The action here, though, wasn’t enough to save the day. I found “Iron Man 3” to be at times silly, misguided, dull, and disappointing. It’s still a big budget summer superhero movie, and as such, carries an inherent entertainment value. But anything else above and beyond is squandered, sadly.

A terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has been hijacking national airwaves and broadcasting anti-American diatribes, claiming responsibility for a series of mysterious explosions. When someone Tony Stark (Robert Downey) is close to is caught in one, he publicly vows revenge. Unfortunately, this makes him a target for the Mandarin and his forces. Stark’s ocean-view estate is destroyed by a helicopter assault soon thereafter, and he’s left without his headquarters and back up armors.

There’s no time to regroup, however. In addition finding and stopping the Mandarin, Stark will have also have to determine what, if any, is the connection between the explosions and A.I.M., the biological research group headed by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). A.I.M. has been conducting experiments with a genetic compound known as Extremis, which grant people extreme regenerative (and other) powers, but at the cost of becoming unstable on a molecular level.

When Stark’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), is abducted by A.I.M., Stark has to use his wits and suddenly limited resources to rescue her and stop the terrorists.

I have a number of issues with “Iron Man 3”, many of them major.

I’m not enamored of either villain in this film. Ben Kingsley puts on an angry Walter Cronkite impersonation before the film absolutely neuters his character (something the comic book fan in me is very, very angry about). Pearce’s character, meanwhile, is given poor to no motivation to be who he is or to do what he’s doing. In fact, what his master plan was is still a bit of a grey area for me, I’m still not certain I know 100% what his character was hoping to accomplish. The evil henchmen glow in the dark and attack people by grabbing hold of them (something the film makes easy for them, in spite of the fact that our hero can fly). One of them even breathes fire at one point. It was a level of ridiculous I wasn’t prepared to fully accept.

I’m not a fan of the fact that Tony Stark adopts a kid sidekick for a significant stretch of the film, nor of the fact that his girlfriend actually dons the armor. The Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) exists solely to give someone for Stark to crack jokes to, outside of one lame action moment that I swear was written just to give him something to do.

The action content was disappointing to me as well. It was sparse, carried little weight, and was occasionally silly. By this point in time, Stark’s armor is practically magic. He can leap into it in mid-air, telepathically summon it from hundreds of miles away, use it to encase or entrap others, or explode them remotely. The suits even fight on their own now, which, frankly, removes the stakes from combat. Should audiences worry that a robot Iron Man is going to be destroyed? Of course not. The resulting action is hollow, unfortunately. Certainly, much of this is done to illustrate that it’s Tony Stark, and not the armor that’s the hero (as he spends so much time WITHOUT the suit), but that doesn’t help the fact that as an audience we don’t actually get a lot of Iron Man, and when we do, Tony Stark isn’t even always in the suit.

“Iron Man 3” illustrates some of the worst aspects superhero storytelling. There’s honestly no real reason for it to exist except to make a third movie in the franchise. There’s no new characters that were begging to be brought to life on the big screen (and don’t get me started on what they did to the one that was, the Mandarin), there’s no story that needed conclusion from prior installments, it’s not a direct adaptation of a story from the comics (Yes, I’m aware of the “Extremis” arc) and in and of itself, there’s really nothing original here worth telling. As a result, we wind up with a film that feels like an excuse just to have a superhero movie.

I wouldn’t have minded any of that, if this movie didn’t make me feel it so blatantly.

Were it not for my pre-existing affection for these characters, and the big budget spectacle of it all, I’d be tempted to call this film bad outright. As it is, it’s still a big movie, loaded with visual effects, telling a story about characters that I’ve liked in other context, both in comics and prior films.


Daniel Fogarty

127 thoughts on “Iron Man 3

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  3. I waited to see it before reading your comments. Your views are a pre-echo of what I wrote about the movie. WTF, why bother setting up rules that you are going to break or create characters that you are going to ignore? I ate my popcorn and drank my Coke (Zero) and I had an OK time, but it sure leaves a lot to be desired. Like the second film, some great visual ideas that need a story to work with.

    • Yeah, the further away from it I get the less I like it, too. “Mulling it over” hasnt done it any favors. 😦

      Did you post your review yet? I’ll swing by when I get the notification…

  4. Shoot I just thought of this, I hope it is original. When Pepper dawns the suit does that make her “Iron Maiden”?

  5. I watched it today with my friends. While I found it quite entertaining and funny at some points, I think many jokes appear forced and distract audiences from the main plot. And agree with you that the motivation of the antagonists is not clear at all, and the ending felt rushed for me. I’ll give this movie 5/10.

    • Yeahhhh… this movie WAS disappointing. As more and more people see it, I’m finding more and more people that were disappointed in it.

      The antagonists were the worst part of the movie for me. I hated the whole thing with the Mandarin, then I thought Guy Pearce’s character was silly… 😦 This one really didnt do it for me, either, though the big budget spectacle and familiar characters were enough to hand it a passing grade.

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  7. So even with the whole PTSD thing the movie didn’t work for you at all?I kind of feel we saw a whole different movie or something.

    Also, what is the issue with Pepper donning the suit?I mean, it was just one scene and considering how underrepresented women have been in most superhero adaptions thus far i thought it was a nice touch.

    • Yes, even with the PTSD the movie didnt work for me. A) It felt forced – like just to give him a flaw. I didnt buy it as actually developing out of what happened, it felt much more like a “device” written by some writer. B) That’s not what I want to see in Tony Stark. For three movies he’s been super cocksure and swaggering. Who thought I would want to see him deal with panic attacks? I know I didnt sign up for that….

      Here’s my issues with Pepper and the suit A) During the mansion attack, she had worn the suit more than he had at that point, or at least equal. B) It was part of my issue with the “Magic armor”… those suits were doing outright silly things at this point C) SPOILER She kills the bad guy (at least Im pretty sure she did, its been a couple weeks now).* *I dont want to see that. I want to see the hero – the star of the movie – the person with their name on the film – kill the villain*.*

      I AGREE that women are under represented in the Superhero movie genre. Big Time! So… give me a Wonder Woman movie finally, or lets get a Black Widow spin off. Why not some of the X-Men, that franchise is going strong. Give Jennifer Lawrence her own Mystique movie!! But let’s not let Tony get his ass saved by his girlfriend (AND a 12 year old), that’s not how I see a Superhero.

  8. *spoiler*

    hi Fogs,
    this was a disappointment for me as well but mainly because of its final act (or last 30 minutes). For the most part it was entertaining and then it just went downhill for the same reasons as yours.

    a B- sounds a bit high, but maybe i don’t understand. What is your B- rating equivalent to?, is that like a 6/10?

    Completely agree on 2 points:
    -the villain twist- that was a real let-down, even for myself a non-comic book collector. It breaks a ‘basic rule’ – if the villain is fearsome, he should stay so till his demise.
    -the action scenes-particularly at the climax…terrible!…..all fireworks and iron suits flying around. No slight sense of weight, physics, or even danger…it was too cartoonish.

    am actually quite curious whether Shane Black was completely satisfied with this product. he wrote and directed two solid action classics known for their action scenes- Lethal Weapon 1 & 2.
    * a bit of trivia: like In Iron Man 3, Lethal Weapon 2, also has a helicopter ambush where Riggs poor little camper gets bullet riddled, and also a final climax at the shipping pier.

    • I don’t know, its always confusing trying to correlate grades in between scales. It’s a B- here, but I think I gave it a 3.5 out of five when I had to use out of 5, which would multiply out to a 7/10. 7 out of 10 seems low, though, I’d probably say 7.5.

      Meanwhile, it still surprises me that more people aren’t up in arms about the “twist” with the villain. That seems like such a rip off, it completely surprises me that everyone wasn’t really pissed off about it! 😯

      • ok, i guess 7.5 will do.

        about the villain, Exactly right. i am just as surprised.

        from more positive reviews that i’ve read, it seems that some viewers took a different approach to this film-looking forward to witty banters and Downey’s performance. fair enough, if that’s the case, the film is good.

        however, being an Iron Man movie, Action scenes should be well thought out and carefully choreographed and the motivations behind them should be strong and clear. Iron Man 2 was pretty good in that regard.

        anyway, if they make Iron Man 4, will still be looking forward to it.

      • Oh yeah. I’m not going anywhere, LOL, if they make an Iron Man 4, I’ll be there.

        You’re right though Martin, with the exception of the plane sequence, the action was terrible here 😦

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  11. All right, finally swinging back to this. Didn’t want to read it until I’d seen the movie and reviewed it myself. And then got distracted. 😛

    I didn’t have as many problems with it as you did. Yeah, the narrative’s a bit shaky in places, but while it’s not better than a lot of superhero films in that regard, it’s not really worse either. It’s all right.

    I’ve got no problem with Pepper donning the armor briefly, nor even of her being the one to off Killian. It worked for me, it felt more like a redressing of the balance, than the “off the rival” feel it might have had if Tony had been the one to do it. I do get what you’re saying about the “magic suits”, though, and especially the robot drones. It might have worked better had it been written so that Tony had been making the suit specifically for Pepper (which I gather is what happened in the comics). Also agree that Rhodey just seemed to be window dressing.

    The PTSD angle worked reasonably well for me as well. I get that it’s not quite what was expected, but then, it seems to be the cocksure ones that develop PTSD more. They’re the ones whose worldviews are altered by the earth-shattering events; the non-cocky ones already know they’re vulnerable. Of course, I always got the sense that Tony’s cockiness was half an act anyway.

    On the Mandarin… I suspect most people aren’t up in arms about it because most people never cared about the Mandarin in the first place. He’s not a major villain. In all the time you and I and the rest of the gang were chatting comics on CM and the Halls, how often did he come up, not counting his one HeroClix appearance? I don’t recall it ever happening. Did he even make any comic book appearances in that stretch? And I have to say that thematically, the comic book version does not fit the Iron Man series. I don’t think every villain should be “another guy in armor”, but an ancient Chinese sorcerer is pretty far out there for a solo Iron Man adventure. It’d be like facing Loki with no sign of Thor ever having been around, or like having him go up against a bunch of old west cowboys. It just doesn’t mesh. So I have no problems with the changes, and my main problem with the twist is that it was foreshadowed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

    All that said, we’re not far off in our estimations here. You gave it a B-. I gave a it four stars. I’m a little higher than you, but not all that much.

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