Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 2013
This is the latest in the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios releases, and especially movies with Robert Downey Jr. in a metal suit. The early reviews were mostly blown away by the new sequel and as I had to wait an extra week for it to come out here in the States, I was starting to chomp at the bit to watch the movie. Of course, once it hit theaters around my neck of the woods, there started to be a few more rumblings of failure and a lot more opinion that this actually wasn’t the best of the trilogy. There were plot holes, and weak moments and ill-fated twists, and when I got the chance to watch the movie… I wasn’t quite sure what I really thought about it. It had it’s action moments, and Robert Downey Jr. doing what he does best as he has done in the past three movies including the Avengers, but there were also those plot holes and other things tugging away at the sides of my brain. I decided I couldn’t quite give the movie justice until I gave it a few days thought and watched the movie for a second time. 2D every time all the time for me FYI. I had an article previously where I talked about the Curse of Three, and while the impact has dwindled a bit with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, it hasn’t completely gone away and I still think there are weak elements in this movie that can definitely hinder the watching experience for some and completely ruin it for others. And fair warning, there may be spoilers in this review, I will try to be non-specific where I can, but I’m not going to dance around them if I need to call them out.
Before I get into too many details, I do want to mention that I was on the most recent episode of the Lambcast over at the Lamb where we discussed Iron Man 3 shortly after I had watched it. Check it out right over here. After seeing it again, interestingly one thing that kind of bugged me the most was a continuity/editing error. During the final fight, at one point Tony gets his leg sliced off and you can clearly see that the leg of the suit had been severed, but when he falls, he still has both legs and it is actually one of the suits he is physically in instead of a remote suit. I really wasn’t very much of a fan of all the remote suit stuff as well as the couple times when it was a misdirect for the audience to believe that Tony was in the suit when he actually wasn’t, even if it was then played off as a humorous moment.
One of the things I do respect this movie for is the fact that it really tries to get to the central theme that the metal suit is not Iron Man, Tony Stark himself is Iron Man. He remains out of the suit, or at the very least in his prototype suit which isn’t fully functional, for most of the movie. He is being brought down to the level he was at during the first movie and has to rely much more on his intelligence rather than his technology. But this also creates this effect where not only is he intelligent and resourceful, he can also kick some major ass, and so can Pepper. I can understand that he has to have some fighting skills, because even though being in the suit boosts his strength, he still has to have the agility and reflexes to pull off the basic moves which the suit then enhances. Even though he doesn’t have any extreme martial arts throwdowns, he does have quite a few impressive fighting skills that I felt like it was a bit of a stretch for him to have. Why couldn’t he just rely completely on his intelligence and resourcefulness, does he also have to be able to take people out with relative ease without technological help?
Another piece of the movie that I felt was shoehorned into the plot was the whole Christmas angle. It’s mentioned only three or four times during the movie, and there’s one or two Christmas songs, but I never really got a feeling that the movie takes place during Christmas, and I also never understood how that was relevant to the rest of the plot of the movie. I also wasn’t really fond of the whole narration at the beginning where the movie kind of starts in the climax (at least the first climax) then becomes a flashback to what’s really the start of the movie. Just start the movie already. I will say that one element that I was the most worried about when he showed up turned out to be handled excellently: the kid sidekick. In many movies the kid sidekick can be the kiss of death, Short Round, little Anakin, the kid in Superman III, but little Harley was a great foil for Tony Stark. He really felt a lot like a real kid, one who was quite intelligent for his age and also lives in an insecure home. I absolutely loved two moments out of the kid; the first is when he’s asking a string of questions about the Avengers, and the second was when he’s trying to guilt trip Stark and Tony calls him out on it because “we’re connected”. I also felt that he got just the right amount of screentime. He played a big part during the time he was on screen, but once Tony left Tennessee, we only get a couple brief follow ups which is all we need.
The secondary characters were hit and miss in this movie, I thought both Pepper Potts and Rhodey had a little bit more to do than in previous films, but I still thought both of them got short changed. Rhodey only has a couple brief scenes in the first half of the movie and they are mostly played for comic relief. When he gets a couple chances to really show some action chops, he gets taken out way too easily, and even in the final battle he only gets a couple brief moments to shine. I think Pepper fares better, especially because she gets to don the armor momentarily and it’s an awesome moment where she’s able to save Tony for a change. And especially awesome in that it happens at least twice during the movie. It’s rare these days to see many strong female characters in superhero movies and it’s great that Marvel has two of them right now in Pepper Potts and Black Widow. But at the same time I hate that while she gets to play the strong, capable woman, she’s also relegated to being the damsel in distress as well as the bait. Sometimes in this movie it’s one step forward and two steps back.
I haven’t even gotten to the villains yet. One of the biggest love it or hate it moments in this movie is the Mandarin reveal. Since I don’t follow the comics and my only experience with the Mandarin was in the pretty poor animated Invincible Iron Man I was not at all mad about the bait and switch. I thought it was intelligent, funny, and amazing that it was such a surprise in this day and age. It really helped to quiet down all the early complaints about Ben Kingsley not being Asian. I did have a bit of a problem with the overtaking of the airwaves. With television being available through so many different sources, broadcast, cable, satellite, internet, it’s harder and harder to believe that someone can remotely take over every single station at once, it was especially annoying because it felt like this had been going on for months now and yet it was still a complete and total shock to everyone working at the television station? As for the lava-men-like Extremis projects? I liked the visual representation of how they glowed red, but I thought that the pseudo-science of how they actually worked was too implausible. Instead of nanobots, which is still fairly far fetched, they explained that it was an empty slot in the brain that they replaced with new DNA. The amount of energy needed to repair that level of damage and/or create that much heat needed to melt metal is not only massive, but very hard to imagine as something physically able to do by the human body. On top of that, Guy Pearce’s presence as a villain left something to be desired. I thought he handled the slimy businessman/potential suitor role fairly well, but he just wasn’t menacing enough in the end, and his plan was poorly defined. It is there, and can be explained, but it shouldn’t really have to be explained, it should be fairly simple and obvious.
Iron Man 3 had a lot of action, a lot of humor, and a lot of drama. But I don’t think it got them in quite the right combination. It’s still a pretty impressive Marvel movie with a lot of great moments, and I’ll never get tired of seeing Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark, but at the end of the day there was just a lot to be desired. This movie had a lot to live up to after the massive success of the Avengers and the relative disappointment of Iron Man 2. And while I’m one of the fewer people that thought Iron Man 2 was a great movie, I think Iron Man 3 falls right around the same level if not a little bit lower. I’ll happily watch it again once it hits home video, but for now I’m waiting for Man of Steel. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.