Review: Iron Man 3

Spoilers

Trailer

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues, as Tony Stark opens up "Phase 2".

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues, as Tony Stark opens up “Phase 2”.

So, Phase 2 begins.

The first Iron Man might be, in competition with The Dark Knight, my favourite comic book superhero movie ever. It just seemed like the perfect mix of action, humour, visuals, great pacing, act progression, excellent casting and script work for the character of Tony Stark.

Iron Man 2, while far from unwatchable, fell well short of expectations. There was laziness about that production in terms of plot and characterization, a malaise that was absent when Joss Whedon temporarily took over the reins of the Stark story for The Avengers. Re-done elements, some concerning one-upmanship in terms of visual effects, a poor choice of villain.

So here’s the third instalment. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed Iron Man 3 overall, but unhappy to report that the cracks in the saga of Tony Stark, that began with Iron Man 2, have only gotten wider. This is a decent comic book superhero movie, but fails to match the heights of its original predecessor, or even some of the other movies in the more recent Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), suffering from anxiety attacks after the events of The Avengers, has to face a dual threat in the form of “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley) a Middle-Eastern terrorist modelled closely after Osama Bin Laden in this incarnation and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), the creator of “Extremis”, a biological formula that grants incredible healing ability and other powers, but has the small flaw of causing some of its users to become human bombs. Dealing with his own limitations and his fractious relationships with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Cody Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Stark flies back into action as the titular “Iron Man”.

It’s an enjoyable story, a decent adaptation of the Extremis arc, cutting and chopping where necessary to take the best parts of that plotline while ignoring some of the more ridiculous elements. New director Shane Black has chosen to make this probably the most personal tale about Stark, with him actually narrating the story in a new departure from the previous movies. The underling sub-plot of his anxiety attacks over the Battle of New York in his last outing is the kind of tale you will have rarely seen in any previous superhero film, and adds a sense of vulnerability to the character that helps ground him from the usual brash arrogant swagger we have come to expect. Stark has to face many threats and problems in the course of this movie, and I think that the plot does a decent job of balancing them all out and giving each its sufficient time to be a coherent sub-plot. I liked how Tony simply tries to ignore or suppress his psychological problems and focus on protecting Pepper from threats.

That these threats may never have even come near him but for his actions seems to fly over his head, but I think that actually matches how the character has evolved. Away from any criticisms I might make, the Iron Man films at least have a coherent and logical journey for Stark to take as he struggles to change his inherent nature. He makes many mistakes along the way, and has to deal with some unexpected and uncomfortable issues, but he’s trying and you really get that sense from Iron Man 3, of a man who is dedicated to changing his nature despite his propensity for messing up.

Black goes in some interesting directions with a lot of characters. His Mandarin is clearly modelled, as previously stated, on OBL and other Islamic fundamentalists, who make a habit of looking rather scary and threatening on television without actually being a tangible threat. The twist with the Mandarin is the kind of thing that will divide opinion: I thought it was rather clever and engaging personally, and reflected the sense that such terrorist leaders, like Osama Bin Laden, find their true power only in pageantry and presentation: Bin Laden, like the Mandarin here, was an impressive, scary looking guy in shady videos denouncing America, but was shot down in his own bedroom where he had been hiding away like a woodlouse, his lack of true power revealed.

That Black took the decision to go this way with the Mandarin is to be commended I think. It’s a brave and risky move: one of the people I saw it with was disgusted at the apparent waste of what is the closet Iron Man has to an arch-enemy. But I think it’s a clever representation of the reality of terrorist leaders, the sort the Mandarin embodies, and a good commentary on the simple power of a scarily edited video clip, which grants the Mandarin an immense status as someone to fear, when he really is just a comical puppet. The real threat is the guy that so many Americans would never suspect of such evil, but Killian is capable of exerting far more damage than the Middle-Eastern demagogue.

Sir Ben Kingsley perfectly captures the modern day terrorist demagogue, mostly noise and bluster, whose only power is what we give them.

Sir Ben Kingsley perfectly captures the modern day terrorist demagogue, mostly noise and bluster, whose only power is what we give them.

But that is not to say that it could have been done better. Too much humour is used with the Mandarin in the latter part of the movie (see below) and one can sympathise with the fans who see an iconic villain denigrated to such an extent. Another friend had an intriguing suggestion for how much of the same themes and ideas Black uses with the Mandarin could be maintained but without making a total mockery of the character: by making the Mandarin a real terrorist leader, but one that has aged, is no longer really effective, and has become senile and easily controlled, perhaps even thinking that his ten rings do indeed have magical powers as they do in the comic book source material. This would have kept him true enough to the original Mandarin character, while still allowing for his present-day role as a hapless puppet of the real villain of the piece.

Killian is a perfectly acceptable villain, though some rather concerning holes can be found all over his character and his plot. He’s just a little short on depth for much of his motivation: it is inferred that he has a revenge wish on Stark for his treatment in the opening scenes, but it is never really made concrete. It is inferred that he hopes to replace the current President with a more sympathetic VP, but is never really made clear why the VP is going along with this (committing treason and murder just to get a little girl her leg back seems rather extreme for someone in that position, and it wasn’t even stated that the girl was his daughter). It is (slightly) inferred that he controls the Ten Rings in order to have a “false flag” option to instil fear in Americans and maintain the richness of his own company, A.I.M, but this is never made clear (and since it isn’t you cannot escape the question: why all the elaborate song and dance with the Mandarin and the Ten Rings at all when he could just use of his undetectable human bombs to kill the President during a public speech or something?). All of those points are big deficiencies in Iron Man 3 for me. It scrapes a passing grade in my own “Inception Test”, but only just.

It’s nice to see Pepper Potts being given a bit more to do than just be a damsel in distress. That she is the one who delivers the final blow to Killian was a smart move, a good reaction to the fact that she was mostly passive as Tony gets her into danger time and time again in the course of the movie. Marvel and its movies are just as guilty as anyone in sidelining female characters to too much of an extent, so it’s refreshing to actually see a woman kick some ass on occasion. Potts, like Stark, has also gone on a well expanded upon journey, from personal assistant, to company president, to actually holding her own in a fight.

While Iron Man 3 is a bit too long, with plenty of scenes that could be shaved down a tad without really losing anything important, it’s still paced pretty well, which is a skill that the Marvel movies all seem to share to some degree (Avengers is a master-piece for that). From the opening flashback to Tony driving off into the sunset, I think the structure was pretty enjoyable. There is a fine balance found between dialogue-heavy scenes, investigation and action. The Iron Man franchise has never been one for putting in a load of traditional superhero fight scenes within their running time, something I appreciate, and they do some unique things for action sequences here too, like the Mansion destruction and saving the passengers of Air Force One, that bring tension and excitement to the experience without a single punch being thrown.

The big problem though is that I’ve seen this movie before, or at least very large crucial elements of it. It’s a bad guy who heads a corporation – Obadiah Stane, Justin Hammer. There’s a big emphasis on new and improved suits, just like there was in #2. Tony has a crippling personal problem to overcome, just like the Palladium poisoning in #2 or his relationship difficulties/survivors guilt in #1. The bad guy largely becomes a victim of his own creations. The closing sequence features a gigantic amount of flying armour suits with no people in them, just like #2. Lots of shots of Tony jumping into a suit. A distinct lack of change in the circumstances of the main characters by close of play (despite valiant attempts to portray things otherwise – Tony losing his mansion and his chest magnet don’t change his personal circumstance that much).

I’m going to talk about all this a bit more at the conclusion, and the warning bells they bring up in my mind, but for now I’ll simply say that much of the criticism of Iron Man 2 was how it was trying too much to be just like Iron Man in too many ways. Iron Man 3 cannot escape this criticism either. There seems to be points that every Iron Man movie, both in terms of plot, pacing, visual effects and endgame, need to hit. That makes the experience of viewing Iron Man 3 somewhat familiar at times, which is a major sticking point. Iron Man 3 adds plenty of new things and goes a very original way with the (initial) primary villain, but ultimately falls back on too many tropes of previous editions for my liking.

Acting wise, it’s the usual good stuff we’ve come to expect from the set cast with some noteworthy editions for this instalment. I suppose no matter how many plot holes I can find or other flaws to detract, you can always come back to the fact that the Marvel Studios back catalogue doesn’t really have any moves where I would consider most of the acting to be of a mediocre or poor quality.

Robert Downey Jr remains as perfect for the role of Stark as he was in the first instalment. It is a delicate job, having to walk the fine line between brash arrogance and extreme competence. The Stark we see is the kind of man who, truly gifted, drifts between the womanising playboy and the wunderkind of his generation. You’re never left in any doubt about Starks’ charm or his intelligence and that’s something. “RDJ” has always excelled in this role, from the carefree quips that hide deeper problems or his stern action hero side.

As previously mentioned, the big strength, especially this time around, is how Downey Jr portrays a man who changes, consciously. Iron Man showed us the all too carefree genius forced to re-evaluate his life. Iron Man 3 starts off with a flashback to remind us of that original problem, before going on to present a man who has almost changed his life completely around. He remains obsessed with his toys and struggles with a committed relationship and how that really works, but life isn’t perfect and the Iron Man franchise shows that very well with its main character. Downey Jr is easily the best actor in this Marvel continuity and if anyone can carry this franchise into a fourth movie that could maintain my interest, it’s him.

Guy Pearce is effective as Aldrich Killian, but his character is at the focal point of many of Iron Man 3's plot holes.

Guy Pearce is effective as Aldrich Killian, but his character is at the focal point of many of Iron Man 3’s plot holes.

Paltrow is an actress I’ve generally liked in the stuff I’ve seen her in, even Glee, and she’s good here. She starts off as the sort of observer character that women too often become in movies of this type, but by the end she is able to fling herself into the action directly. But much more than that, Paltrow displays a certain sympathetic  vulnerability at times that makes Potts very endearing. She’s a successful career women, but she’s in a relationship where her other half seems very self-destructive, and that’s something that she has to deal with. That she at first tries to understand but then later flips out about it was very human and I like to see that in romantic sub-plots.

Paltrow’s good at other things though and I’d like to zero in on one moment I really liked, when she meets Killian for the first time (in the movie). She goes in thinking he’s the same crippled, hairy mess she knew years ago but finds a well built, well dressed specimen who oozes with charm and a suave nature. She’s clearly impressed, but when he moves in to give her a peck on the cheek at their parting, she produces this uncomfortable, almost disgusted look for her face. That was a great moment to demonstrate the facade of the Killian character, who may have altered his body with the Extremis technology, but is still the same weedy repulsive individual he always was, deep down inside. I have to give kudos to Paltrow for exhibiting that kind of silent emotion.

Pearce I also enjoyed. For anyone to switch between the pathetic individual we see at the beginning to the masterful character of the rest of the movie is impressive. Pearce has a very engaging intensity to his performances, and I was reminded very much of his villainous turn in The Count of Monte Cristo when watching his Killian here. This is a villain all about pretence, of becoming the exact opposite to the dweeb he was when he met Stark in Bern – in fact, to become as close to Tony Stark as he can. But for all that pretence, his Extremis powers are carefully teased out so that we come to believe him as a very real threat to Stark. Pearce’s Killian is at pains to remain in control of his emotions all throughout the movie, even during the final confrontation, which makes the rare moments of explosion, like with the fire breathing and the last showdown, all the more memorable.

Ben Kingsley, well, he’s really playing two characters here. His Mandarin is everything you would expect him to be – powerful, commanding, sinister, utterly calm and utterly in control. Kingsley plays this act to a tee, and nobody can possibly be expecting the swerve that comes mid-way through. The inspiration is very obvious for that side of the character, and I was certainly never in any doubt of the kind of evil the Mandarin represented.

But “Trevor”, well, Trevor was something completely different.  Kingsley plays this comic relief/whacky character very well, but I was almost a bit too gobsmacked to really pay much attention. The humour goes a bit too far by his final scenes, but Kingsley at least succeeds in making us believe that, yes, “Trevor” is a good enough actor to play the part of the Mandarin and that part of the scheme is buyable.

Don Cheadle is back as Cody Rhodes, now as the Iron Patriot as opposed to War Machine. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really get a lot to do here other than play second fiddle to Stark, and his brief moments of solo activity are dragged down by comic elements that weren’t really necessary. I like Cheadle and I think he’s stepped into Terence Howard’s shoes as well as anyone could have, but he’s limited here, even more than he was in #2. War Machine shouldn’t just be Tony Stark’s sidekick. The use of the Iron Man technology by the military was a huge part of Iron Man 2, but this concern has been abandoned by Black in his outing, and Rhodes suffers as a character because of this.

Most of the rest of the cast is pretty one note. Rebecca Hall as the botanist who helps create Extremis is a weirdly fluctuating character, who switches between sympathetic to villainous at the push of a button, and I never really bought either state. James Badge Dale of The Pacific, apparently playing Coldblood, is acceptable enough as Killian’s right hand man, but has little to emote aside from determination and swagger. Jon Favreau is back as Happy Hogan and has some of the better comic relief stuff to mark him out, but he’s comatose for most of the movie. Nice to see some excellent continuity with Shaun Toub’s Yinsen being present in the flashback. Paul Bettany is, as usual, great in his pretty minor recurring role of Jarvis the AI.

The only other standout I can mention is Ty Simpkins as Harley, the young boy who Stark befriends during his temporary “death”. The classic sidekick model is inverted a little bit and some excellent dialogue really makes his relationship with Stark a real delight to behold. Harley enters the story at a time when Stark is at his lowest and needs to reconnect with some basic humanity, but this is Tony Stark – he does it in as sarcastic and uncompromising a fashion as possible, recognising the problems in Harley’s life he can help with and getting snappy when the kid does things he doesn’t like. Harley’s help gets Stark through a tough fight and calls back to his own father issues that were such a big part of Iron Man 2, but the father figure angle is brilliantly rejected by Stark by the end of their interaction is a scene that, while very humorous and enjoyable, also served a serious purpose, to demonstrate just how well the Stark recovery was going.

Visually, it’s another treat from the Marvel production team. They’ve long since perfected the seamless blend of CGI with reality when it comes to the Iron Man suit, so that all comes off pretty well, and you never really notice that the metal suit doesn’t belong in the environment. There is a very large amount of overkill with the suits though, nearly 42 in this edition I believe, which is just part and parcel of the way superhero movies work: there always has to be escalation and expansion. Iron Man 2 suffered from this, but Iron Man 3 takes it into crazy territory altogether. Having so many suits, which all come at Stark’s command and operates nearly independently of any human control really dilutes the initially impressive nature of Starks’ designs, and brings into question any real sense of tension in the story: if Tony’s “weakness” is that he’s just an ordinary guy, creating a place where he’s never more than a few seconds away from a suit destroys the illusion somewhat. Iron Man 3 does its best to create a story where the suits’ absence from play is a believable thing, but stretches the boundaries eventually. Also, if you liked that bit in Avengers where the Iron Man suit formed around an in motion Stark, you’ll love this movie, because it seems to happen every 90 seconds.

Starks decision to destroy all of his suits at the end is an odd one, supposed to be the climax of his personal arc and a commitment to Pepper, and it does produce this stunning fireworks display in the sky. But it certainly won’t stop Stark from being Iron Man, so it, again, all seems rather pointless, a very garish special effect.

Paltrow plays one of this genre's better female characters, and Iron Man 3 is adept at actually giving her something to do.

Paltrow plays one of this genre’s better female characters, and Iron Man 3 is adept at actually giving her something to do.

The Extremis stuff is competently done in my opinion. It can be difficult to create a CGI rendering of intense heat, but I think they pull it off here, even when they go into some far out territory with the Killian character breathing fire. By the end of the movie it’s all getting rather familiar of course, and Iron Man 3 suffers from a continuing sense of monotony in its villains: the healing factor doesn’t look quite as impressive by the end as it does in the Chinese Theatre bombing scene. I also note that the nature of Extremis is not something that Tony Stark ever has to apply his genius to solving, he just has to shoot them more.

The one visual effect I want to give special praise too is the sequence where Starks cliff-top mansion is annihilated by the Mandarin’s helicopters. I’ve always liked that set; I thought it complimented the Stark character and his lifestyle – a mix of playboy and engineering genius – very well. To see it destroyed in so complete and comprehensive a fashion was oddly engaging, a testament to the work that had gone into designing it in the first place. The CGI work as the edifice and foundations crumble into the ocean, followed by the encompassing site of huge chunks of it descending on a trapped and helpless Stark, was thrilling, and I only wish that the production team hadn’t showcased so much of this sequence in the trailers before the movie was released.

It’s a great action sequence of its own accord, and most of the fight scenes in Iron Man 3 are similarly well done, from the small town fight with the Extremis assassins to the final suit filled confrontation at the dockyard. There’s so much variety in that final fight as to be somewhat distracting I suppose, and you wonder if some of the ideas presented in it could have been better served by being saved for a future instalment, but it is a visual feast for the eyes, between Starks multi-piece suit, the “Igor” model and the Iron Patriot, a beautifully painted version of War Machine that calls back to Captain America and his colours.

The Marvel movies have always been shot in a fairly expert manner, mostly wide angles that take in as much of the environment as they can, utilising the really pretty sets they’ve constructed. If the detail is there, use it, and they do in Iron Man 3. It’s a very sleek, shiny production for the most part, which only better serves to mark out the more dank sequences, like the haunting sight of Tony Stark dragging his battered armour through the snow. There is a good use and contrast between light and dark.

Script wise it’s another engaging effort, though it’s let down in parts by an overabundance of comedy lines. Stark has been consistently written well in these movies and that remains, mostly in his back and forth with various sympathetic characters, matched by his rare displays of sternness and seriousness. That doesn’t change here, and Downey can match his great performance with a great script. The Mandarin, pre-twist, is written really, really well, very threatening and shudder-inducing, and if Black had chosen to actually keep him as a main villain I’m sure he would have been effective right to the end.

The humour stuff does let it all down though. None of it is bad or not particularly funny, it’s just in every single part of the movie, even the finale. Stark joking and degrading Happy Hogan was funny, the stuff with the kid was funny. But the stuff with the hardcore Stark fan in the news van was just a little odd, and the repeated jokes about the unreliability of his latest armour, most notably as he prepares for the final face-off with Killian, was really badly placed. It disrupted the flow of the movie to too much of an extent, broke the tension sharply. I was too busy tittering at the sight of the Mk 42 armour slamming into pieces off an obstacle to really be too emotionally invested in Stark’s last battle with Killian.

The post-credits scene, a practise I don’t really like at the best of times, is also wasted on a humorous moment with Bruce Banner rather than setting up any future movies or plots. I’d prefer that another Hulk movie was being put into production rather than Ruffalo being wasted like this.

Then there is just some missing lines at times, the kind of one note things that could just wrap up some of the plot points and make it a better experience. If Killian could just be a tiny bit clearer on his motivations to create “the Mandarin” in the first place. If the Vice-President could have a bit more on why exactly he’s going along with Killian’s scheme. If Tony could just mention why he never removed the shrapnel from his chest before now, considering that keeping it in place was poisoning him in #2.

Just in that last one, even something as simple as “This surgery was always too risky before, but I’m at a point in my life where I can’t live with this stuff in me anymore” would do it. I suppose I can be accused of wanting things spelled out for me, but in this instance it directly contradicts a pretty vital plot element of the second movie.

Some good work has gone on with the soundtrack, which has been altered slightly from the previous electric sound. A decent main theme is introduced that is memorable enough, while much of the rest of the soundtrack has a distinctly eighties feel to it, such as in the credits sequence montage, which seemed like the sort of fast paced music/random clips that would be more at home on the opening of Hawaii 5-0 or the like. I actually sort of liked the use of Eiffel 65’s “Blue” in the opening flashback, I thought it added a good sense of nostalgia and misery to some of the proceedings.

Let’s talk themes. As previously stated, I think the main one is the internal change and redemption of the Tony Stark character, carrying through all three Iron Man films, as he tries to become the opposite of the man he used to be. We start with a look at the womanising, heavy-drinking Stark before his capture in Afghanistan. We end with the more responsible, loving and likable man willing to make great sacrifices for a loved one.

Perhaps an equally important theme is something Stark mentions in his opening narration, which resonates for the rest of the film: “We make our own demons”. Perhaps a shout-out to the “Demon in a Bottle” story, this concept can be seen in things like the Mandarin, the terrorist archetype that American has no problem buying into and imbuing with so much power and threat, which turns out to be the creation of another man. That man, Killian, has created his own demon inside of himself with the Extremis technology, that leaves him a hideous burned wreck by the films conclusion. Tony is having anxiety attacks over New York and finding himself unwilling to actually deal with this problem. He puts Potts on a pedestal as something that has to be protected, never realising that he has invented a problem he doesn’t have to. The Maya character allows Killian to go beyond the red line of moral study, and her repentance comes far too late.

Iron Man 3's key strength is its visual work, with the scene depicting the destruction of the Stark mansion being one of the best sequences of the year.

Iron Man 3’s key strength is its visual work, with the scene depicting the destruction of the Stark mansion being one of the best sequences of the year.

This ties into the other big theme I noticed, which is pageantry and showmanship. It seems most obviously in the Mandarin’s terror videos, which Black makes sure to show us up close (I especially liked the UN peacekeeper helmets riddled with bullets and burning ends). Killian plans to assassinate the President in the most spectacular way possible in order to leave the greatest mark. In fact, the whole Killian character is a deception based on pageantry, the pageantry of a suave corporate head hiding the meek, angry individual underneath.

There’s also the undercurrent theme of revenge, albeit a repressed sort. Killian carries a grudge against Stark, the kind of grudge that is disguised with nonchalantness early on and then a dismissive attitude towards the end. No one will buy Killian declarations that he’s happy Stark treated him abysmally back in Bern, even if he Killian does. Stark swears revenge on the Mandarin, but he can’t take it on the caricature that is “Trevor”, so it carries it on to Killian. At least Stark’s motivation is based on the threat to his friends and loved ones, and not based on personal aggrandisement like Killian’s.

Lastly I would say that I saw a little bit of a “No man is an island” theme at times. This is a pretty predictable one for any superhero movie to follow, but I think Iron Man 3 carries it off. Tony Stark tries to act like a lone wolf in his mission to take down the Mandarin and later Killian, but he gets help everywhere he goes: from Potts, from Harley, from Rhodes and from his mini-army of suits. In the end, Stark rejects the materialistic obsession that saw him create his metal men obsessively and in solitude, and focus on the actual people in his life. Killian on the other hand, faces his end alone, his army of duped veterans disposed of and with little chance of ever returning to anything resembling a normal life. The message is pretty clear, about the rewards that come with placing yourself on the light side of the moral spectrum.

As I head towards the conclusion, I’d like to talk about the future. My final notes before I wrote this review were a micro chasm of my overall thoughts after the credits rolled: “What now?”

We’ve seen three Iron Man movies, all of them containing similar elements and neither sequel has really told a drastically different story or taken things in a very different direction. You could argue that the conclusion of #3 leaves the possibilities open for them to do some very different things with Stark in future, but I’m not convinced. The track record on that score is lousy, and I fear that a standard formula of more suits and more humour will result in the wholesale destruction of Iron Man suits at the end of this instalment to be rowed back on pretty quickly.

Marvel was, in this ambitious quest to create such a large-scale universe of integrated continuities, going to reach a point of diminishing returns eventually. Only a handful of superhero franchises have reached beyond three movies  – Superman (six, with Supergirl), the Burton/Schumacher Batman (four) and technically speaking the X-Men franchise (including upcoming movies, seven, though split into different threads at this point). Of those, only X-Men could remotely claim to still be making critically successful movies past #3. It is an all too common problem that a nosedive in quality begins around a third instalment of anything and superheroes are no exception to that general rule.

We’ve just seen Iron Man 3. What can they do in a possible #4 to change things from this seemingly inevitable slide towards mediocrity, which #3 has just about delayed?

I mean, what villains, good ones I mean, are left for Iron Man to actually take on? Ironmonger, Justin Hammer, Whiplash, Crimson Dynamo (sort of), Extremis and now the Mandarin have all been used up, and in the case of the Mandarin used up in a fashion that made them somewhat throwaway (still liked it, but I understand why some people wouldn’t). What good storylines are left, after Demon in a Bottle (which Marvel simply won’t go near) or Armour Wars (another metal suited villain(s), hurrah)?

As Iron Man 3 came to a conclusion and Stark began to sort out his life in various ways, I thought for a minute that we were going to see Stark follow his comics counterpart and become the director of SHIELD or something, leaving his role as Iron Man to the side. That would have been an interesting place to go, and would tie in to another suggestion of mine: stop making Iron Man movies. Limit Tony to appearances in future Avenger films as a sort-of leader character, and reject the inevitable critical failure that subsequent Iron Man movies are sure to bring. Robert Downey Jr isn’t getting any younger, they’ve left the Stark character in a good place, there is a bit of a sense of closure from this series of movies.

I’m fairly sure Marvel won’t take me up on that, but if they want Iron Man to remain a character unblemished by a failure, in a way that Superman, Batman and Spiderman cannot claim to be, they’d think about it. Instead, Tony just drives off into the sunset, and is fairly likely to be back in the suit, facing…someone in a few years time. I just don’t think there are many interesting places left to take Tony Stark at this point, unless they decide to end his journey here. His best villains are dealt with, the overkill has reached the tipping point and we keep seeing the same things over and over again.

I’ll still give Iron Man 3 a good mark, on its own merits. It’s only when viewed in conjunction with its predecessors and the other Marvel movies that you begin to see deeper problems. It also has some significant plot holes, CGI overkill and some script issues.

But it’s also got Robert Rowney Jr as Tony Stark, great CGI overall, good performances and some good dialogue. Iron Man is still a great concept, with a lot of possibilities if the Marvel team make good use of the opportunities they have. It’s recommended, but I’m not sure I’ll recommend the next one.

A decent effort, that improves on the failings of 2, but does little to provoke hope for the franchises future.

A decent effort, that improves on the failings of 2, but does little to provoke hope for the franchises future.

(All images copyright of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures).

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12 Responses to Review: Iron Man 3

  1. Anthony says:

    The biggest problem for me was the use of Extremis as a random “gives you superpowers” macguffin. I think I enjoyed the film less because I was waiting for the Actual Payoff to the Extremis arc (the self-upgrade) that never transpired. Personally, I really liked that development for the Iron Man character, and it fits the themes of him discarding his armour/can as a physical and psychological defense mechanism to fully realise his identity as a hero – Finally, he Is Iron Man.

    That, and as you point out, some badly timed comic moments that disrupted the drama and pacing.

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  7. drush76 says:

    It was pretty good, but I liked the first two movies a little better. The movie’s second half seemed a bit overwrought and confusing.

    Actually, I liked IRON MAN 2 the best. The narrative for IRON MAN wasn’t really that remarkable. It could have easily been a paint-by-the-number superhero origin tale without the Tony Stark character. The character and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance made that movie.

    IRON MAN 2 had a more detailed and original plot, and stronger characterization. Thankfully, I thought it lacked the confusion and over-the-top aspect of IRON MAN 3.

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