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Iron Man 3: Uhh, you come up with a subtitle.

May 9, 2013

Like many people, when Iron Man hit theaters in 2008 I was mesmerized. I could suddenly remember the Robert Downey Jr that existed before he become a punchline for late night talk show monologues. Yes, we all thought, a recovering addict was really perfect for the role of narcissistic alcoholic womanizing Tony Stark. Furthermore, it was a great and entertaining flick from beginning to end.

On top of all that, it was the launching point for Marvel’s Big Damn Movie Universe endeavor that culminated in last year’s Avengers.

The second film…

When it came up recently in conversation, someone said, “Well, that movie, as a stand-alone movie, was doomed to fail from the get-go.” As a sequel it really doesn’t push much. Tony shows some slight growth as a character, his relationships become a little tenser but not particularly strained, and there’s somehow less action than the previous installment. Of course, Iron Man 2 wasn’t really a sequel, it was just a place holder till we could get to the Avengers.

Does it work well as a place holder? I guess so, but what are you shooting for with a place holder? Basic entertainment I suppose and it did achieve that. After all, I have watched Iron Man 2 more than once so it’s clearly something entertaining despite being a lot of talking punctuated with a short action sequence before a big bang ending. I don’t know, I found it sufficient basically. Also, I enjoy Favreau’s directing. I think he had a good eye for the genre and could keep things looking right.

So, I guess this brings me to the latest movie and well…

Yeah, spoilers after the break.


So this series has really tried to work with two big themes. Mainly that Tony was such a colossal dick-bag before he became Iron Man that his past will inevitably come back to haunt him. Meanwhile, the other theme is the broader idea that science by itself is good and pure, but society twists it for evil (mostly war) . After all, every former Stark Industries competitor is just staffed by villains that would twirl mustaches if they weren’t too busy exuding clean shaven Silicon Valley exec-ness.

Seriously, all of these villains have been a shittier version of Hank Scorpio from the Simpsons episode You Only Move Twice.

To drive home these themes in one sequence, we go to the night where Tony apparently creates our villain by… refusing to speak to him despite the fact that the future-villain is clearly being sort of a crazy stalker?

I mean, yes I know I’d probably really creep the shit out of people in certain industries in an attempt to pitch something. We all would. However, them ditching you doesn’t make you turn to supervillainy. More often than not, it makes you realize you were a creep.

Still, he knows science and Tony screwed him over so I guess it’s time for crime? Of course, as we learn later in the film, he did get the research and researched he was interested in so… yeah.

This is the first part where this movie starts to stumble.

The majority of the plot is laid out for us in these first five minutes; the Extremis virus, its ideals, its potential misuse, and even the villain. They’re all there, and the rest of the movie is just connecting the dots to make it seem like there’s a mystery plot when there really isn’t. Or at least, there isn’t to the audience. Tony doesn’t know about Extremis as quickly as we do. If he did, then yeah, he’d probably just start destroying AIM a whole act earlier.


Skip ahead to the present, where Tony is tinkering with the Iron Man suits and basically trying to deal with the fact that he is this world’s Batman. He’s just a guy with money and science, not a God or a Living Legend or… well, the Hulk. In a way, I liked this angle. We see Tony becoming somewhat desperate, a little vulnerable. Tony’s still an asshole, but we sympathize with him because the rest of the world seems to be going on without him. In many ways, it’s really easy to pity a guy who tacks a note card up in his basement that reads, “Stark Industries R&D.”

These early moments in the first act are the only bursts of life this movie really has though. We have some good character interaction, a clear and present danger, and some cute little moments. Sadly though, it very quickly devolves into setting up the mystery that isn’t a mystery and slowly robbing the future action of any tension it might have.

The Mandarin is our clear and present threat, and he seems awesome. When Tony is describing him he just sounds like such a rich and complex villain: speaks like a Baptist preacher but uses Muslim iconography and seems firmly entrenched in the third world, while still steeping everything he does in Americana. Plus, Ben Kingsley simply slays this role.

We then dig into the plot about bombs that aren’t bombs which can be clearly connected to AIM but the only person who knows this is Happy, who is in a coma. The movie goes forward, ignoring the fact that Tony knew that Happy was tracking an AIM agent so that the mystery can begin and Tony announces his intention to kill the Mandarin.

This is where the movie really lost me, and for a very simple reason: Tony plans to kill the Mandarin.

At first, you might think it’s just him playing up to the cameras but it isn’t. In this movie, things get lethal. Tony and Rhodes start killing people left and right because fuck established morals. Tony abhors killing in the previous films. His realization that violence won’t solve things is part of why he doesn’t produce weapons anymore. Yet, in this movie he’s shooting guns and clearly endorsing the concept that wanton murder will save the day.

From here the movie is just downhill. A few neat reveals involving the Mandarin are all the film has left and in a way I felt like they just make things worse. Since rather than be an actually interesting villain, the Mandarin is just an actor. An actor who says dumb and inappropriate things because hey, Marvel comedies need humor.

Not charming humor mind you, just quick gags like pointless crotch shots to make you laugh. If you can laugh while shoving popcorn into your facehole.

Iron Man 3 wants you to not pay attention to it because then you’ll realize that everything about it is just a connecting of the dots, and its action has been pre-determined to be safe and devoid of tension.

In the middle section of the movie, Tony meets a kid who is a lonely snarky genius just like him! Except that the kid has a child’s innocence and wisdom, by which I mean, “is a clear mouth piece for the author.” Throughout the whole second act, Tony is in contact with this kid who basically just keeps telling him how to move the plot forward by making vague but encouraging statements.

The third act brings all the dots together and begins the big final action sequences. The one thing I can say is that Shane Black does know how to shoot action. This isn’t some frenetic Michael Bay piece of shit where you have no concept of where anyone is or what they’re doing. We know where everyone is in relation to each other, what their goals are, who they’re fighting, and so on. It works on a technical level but it’s ultimately toothless.

We already know that Tony can control the suits without being in them, plus he has dozens at this point. Losing a suit is a minor inconvenience and even possible life-threatening injuries aren’t a problem because he doesn’t have to be in the suit anymore. With these factors in place, Tony is only in danger when he’s completely robbed of his technology. However, the second act proves that Tony can improvise pretty easily so… yeah.

Rhodes isn’t in danger either because being in the military has long been movie-code for Herculean God.

Even the main threat of Pepper being injected with the Exteremis Virus and being flung into a giant fire isn’t a problem. First off, we already know that the Extremis Virus causes people to regenerate from 3,000 degree explosions, so an oil fire and two hundred foot drop are not a problem. Furthermore, it’s not a serious long-term danger since it was already established that Tony almost solved the virus’ whole problem thirteen years ago while drunk. Finally, the last action scene shows us that there are a ton of people who underwent the process and are totally fine.

As far as I can tell, somewhere between 10 and 15 people actually die and explode from Extremis. The rest become superhuman badasses, and given the fact that there are at least as many Extremis soldiers as there are Iron Man suits (if not far more since a few soldiers gang up on single suits), that gives Pepper pretty good odds of surviving.

There are no threats in this movie. There is no tension. It is just Iron Man going through the motions of still refusing to learn that he shouldn’t be a dick to everyone. Also, at this point, anyone who has had some past relationship with Tony and knows science should be investigated by SHIELD because well… they’re probably evil.

The final issue with this film is the dangling thread of Tony dealing with the fallout of fighting the aliens in Manhattan. There’s a strong implication that he has some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, and that this needs to be dealt with. However, it’s forgotten sometime late in the second act and never really mentioned again.

What happened?

Has he decided to stop being Iron Man?

Well then why does the movie end with him saying, “I am Iron Man.”

Will the next movie start with him limping around in his big empty mansion for no reason, moping about and not Iron Man-ing?


The final verdict here is that this movie is technically competent and sufficient. Still, unless you’re really invested in the Marvel film universe, you can probably pass on this movie.

It doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen already and it lacks the charm of previous installments. Even if you are invested in Marvel’s Big Damn Movie Universe, it will probably come to some streaming service before the next installment.


From → Movies

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