Title: Iron Man 3
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black & Drew Pearce (Based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, & Don Heck)
Studio: Marvel Studios & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Sir Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau, Ty Simpkins, & Paul Bettany
Release Date: May 3, 2013
MPAA: Rated PG-13
Iron Man 3 is the FIRST Marvel Film set after the events of Marvel’s The Avengers and presumably the LAST entry in the Iron Man series (though there is always the potential for sequels). The movie sets things up with a flashback to Tony’s (RDJ) past that will eventually build into the main crisis of the film. Here, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a crippled, socially awkward yet gifted scientist attempts a partnership with Tony Stark to share their talents for future endeavors. It all goes horribly wrong and Aldrich vows revenge, by outdoing his idol in every way and also becoming an evil villain. So, in a nutshell there is the premise behind Batman Forever…er, uhm, I mean The Incredibles…no, I mean Iron Man 3.
Robert Downey, Jr.’s career has been a tumultuous one, put on hold for nearly half a decade because of substance abuse and stints of rehab. Afterward he got back on his feet, and with a lot of help became the likeable, snarky, loveable performer we all know today. I say that to say this: RDJ IS TONY STARK. If one actor was so suited to play an alcoholic narcissist turned charming loveable hero, it’s RDJ.
RDJ’s comeback as a leading man came about in 2005 with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, written and directed by Shane Black, who just so happens to be writer and director of Iron Man 3, and it shows. While still entertaining and pretty good all around, this film feels less like an Iron Man movie and more like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with supervillains and robot-armors. Now Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a great film, so this isn’t really bad for Iron Man 3, but it’s still not good that an Iron Man movie doesn’t feel like Iron Man.
All of the quips and one-liners return in force with Shane Black at the wheel, and RDJ delivers his snarky, sarcastic, goofy yet charming persona on full tilt. Just as with the previous Iron Man movies and Marvel’s The Avengers, Tony Stark spouts off crazy pop-culture references at break neck speed, most of which seem designed for the parents who came to see these films with their teens. Quite possibly the funniest pop-culture reference is when a little blonde boy runs up to ask Tony for his autograph, and Tony tells the kid, “I loved you in A Christmas Story.”
The action has been ratcheted up to the Nth degree in this film, from the first explosion to the large-scale final battle. Though it’s not an action film, and in no way does any of the character development from the likes of Tony or Killian take a backseat. There’s enough flashback and in-story explanation to set up how these people became who they are by the end of the film, and it all works rather well, with a story that’s been clearly proven to work (see the aforementioned Batman Forever and The Incredibles).
The problems start when the story stops being about the characters, and starts becoming about the action and events; in other words, when the story stops being the WHY and starts being the HOW. This movie is filled to the brim with plot-holes and plot-contrivances. The two previous Iron Man films had some plot problems, but not to the level that the third one has. For example, if you pointed out the few plot problems in the first two films, the solution would require a few additional scenes and a slightly longer script, but in the third film the plot is full of holes that bring the movie to a screeching halt if you bothered to address them.
Another issue with the story stems from the fact that not only is this film a sequel, but more importantly a sequel/continuation of Marvel’s The Avengers. The biggest problem with this idea of a shared movie universe is the inherent lack of other heroes in the solo entries. The audience knows Iron Man exists with The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, and all the rest. So, when a global-threat like The Mandarin starts attacking the entire United States, the President, and one of the key members of The Avengers, it’s absolutely impossible to believe that none of them would show up. Hell, at the end of Marvel’s The Avengers The Incredible Hulk agrees to stay at Tony’s place and use his R&D Lab, so where is he?
Brain-numbing, head-scratching plot issues aside, the movie overall is rather good. It features a great story about a man struggling to be himself and coping with the fact that he’s become dependent, almost…well…addicted to his creations. Brian Tyler’s score is rousing, emotional, and quiet when it needs to be; and bombastic and action-packed when it needs to be, never sitting lifeless in the background or overwhelming the scene. Cinematographer John Toll and his crew should be praised for lovely camera work, only delving into “shaky cam” territory when the on-screen action is best suited for it, POV shots from Stark’s Iron Man suit, or parts of the crazy battle sequence at the end of the film.
The film features a lot of nice nods to the source material that fans should hopefully appreciate. Rhodey (Don Cheadle) sports The Iron Patriot armor, and there are cameos from nearly every Iron Man armor that’s ever been on screen or in a comic book, including the Dark Reign armor and the Hulkbuster armor. Speaking of Rhodey, he gets a good amount of time to shine, and keeping with the spirit of the film’s story about man overcoming his dependence on machine, he gets some time to kick a bit of butt outside of the armor.
One point of contention that seems to have both fans and critics completely divided is the way the film handles The Mandarin. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into too much detail other than to say that there is a huge bait-and-switch mid-way through the film, and the payoff near the end of the film is lackluster, forced, and over far too soon. At first I found the switch entertaining yet frustrating, then infuriating, so if the film had handled the payoff differently I might be less irritated, but consider this critic one of many who has joined the ranks of the displeased.
While on the subject of mixed emotions about payoffs, let’s address the film’s climax and ending. The end of the movie has Iron Man activate a small army of his robot armors, all A.I. controlled and programmed to attack baddies and defend the good guys in a huge skirmish that happens to be a visual feast. The problem: if he could do this at any point, why didn’t Tony activate his suits right after openly challenging The Mandarin to a fight?!
Another issue (not a spoiler because it doesn’t have any effect on the plot) is that at the end of the film Tony Stark has a surgery that miraculously fixes his fatal heart condition that’s been affecting him for the entire series. If it was so easy that it could be taken care of in a ten second clip in a montage, why wasn’t this handled before? In fact, since it throws one of the major aspects of his character right out of the window, why bother including the scene at all?!
The final complaint *WHICH IS A MAJOR SPOILER* – WARNING –
about this film stems from the portrayal of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who happens to be Tony’s girlfriend in the movies. One might consider her to be both the true villain and true hero of the film. She spends the better part of the film trying to convince Tony to quit being Iron Man, thereby quit being a superhero and quit being a member of The Avengers, and by the end of the film she succeeds as Tony willfully destroys all of his armors. She essentially nags him into giving up. Furthermore, after Tony and Rhodey effectively wipe out all of the baddies, Pepper swoops in and kills the villain after Tony loses the fight, saving the day.
Iron Man 3 is a fun film, not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but not necessarily all that great either. It gets a score of 7 out of 10.