Iron Man 3 is that awkward sibling at the family gatherings that has a biological connection with everyone else there, but has none of the same physical features. IM3 is such a tricky film to review because there are aspects that I’d like if it were a different franchise, but the fact that it’s Iron Man just takes a dump over everything we’ve come to expect from a Marvel flick (which isn’t that much, but still). With that said, there’s no way I can review this movie without spoilers. If you don’t want your Iron Man memories tarnished, read this review so you can swallow the third installment without choking.
IM3 kicks off with a cool little prologue where Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) has a one night stand with Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), a researcher who would later go on to help Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) develop Extremis, a serum that can fix all deformities in the body, but comes at the cost of turning the user into a human microwave always on the verge of exploding. Well, when Tony has his fun and giggles with Hansen, he neglects to meet up with a deformed Killian who he said he’d meet on the roof. It’s that night that Aldrich becomes desperate to find a source for funding, so he somehow manages to secure it from the vice president (under the table, of course) and creates a plan to wipe out the president and make his new political ally the leader of the United States. During all this, he creates “The Mandarin” (Sir Ben Kingsley), an actor who will portray the figure of terrorism so that all of Killian’s murders are blamed on The Mandarin so the government chases him instead, which gives the VP and Aldrich time to set up a monopoly on the war on terror. It’s a clever plot, but fault number one of Iron Man 3: You can’t make the Mandarin FAKE! What were they thinking! This would’ve been bad-ass had it been some random movie not associated with Iron Man, but when you take a well-known comic villain, portray him as the lead bad-ass in every trailer leading up to the film and then psych your viewers once they arrive at the theatre, well, that’s just cruel. On the bright side, it means more of Guy Pearce and Aldrich. On the downside, we’ve been lied to and deceived and left feeling like an abused child with our ticket stub in hand.
Another plot point that yanked my chain AND rustled my jimmies all in one fell swoop was when Tony Stark activates his inner Ezio Auditore and starts doing parkour and gun fights like it’s been his profession since day one of Iron Man. No, he doesn’t have that kind of skill in a fight, directors. The suit does the physical magic, he’s just the guy with the brains to build it. I like how they DID incorporate his intellect into making his own guns and whatnot, but the fact that he alone can break into Killian’s mansion without assistance or a suit is just a bit far fetched.
The last real story element that made me shake my head in the theatre was Extremis and how they chose to implement it in the film. First off, Aldrich Killian breathes fire at one point. Which just looked f*cking stupid. Secondly, Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow… ew…) gets some of the Extremis, falls two hundred feet to her “death”, and you’re supposed to buy it, even though we saw Extremis soldiers falling thousands of feet and living just seconds before. Hell, the trailers show you the scene where she’s in the sports bra post-fall! So the minute you see her fall, making that mental connection to the trailer ruins any tension that might’ve ensued otherwise.
The whole narrative ties together neatly, even if a lot of the individual plot points just don’t sit well with me. But the one thing I just can’t shake off is how many people were brutally killed in the movie and how everyone just shook it off, either cracking a cheesy one liner or just moving on. When the body count is rising exponentially, that’s not the time for a punchline that compromises any possible drama.
Story aside, the acting was decent all around; and then there’s Gwenyth Paltrow. Don Cheadle seemed a lot more relaxed than he did in IM2, which was ironic because this is the movie where tensions should’ve been a LOT higher. No performances stood out at me, although I went in with high hopes that Guy Pearce would blow my mind.
As far as the special effects go that make an Iron Man movie an Iron Man movie, they were pretty damn lackluster compared to what the first two were. Awkward Windows Movie Maker transitions and occasionally animated cartoon-quality Iron Man models stop you from getting sucked into the action like you did in Iron Man or its sequel. I don’t know if this was because they had to use more of the budget for advertising this time around, but most scenes just felt a lot less polished than what we’re accustomed to with Marvel (Disney probably had a bigger hand in this than Marvel, to be fair). The scene where Iron Man rescues everyone from Air Force 1 had to be the best scene (visually) in the movie, and you can see half of it just from the trailers, to give you an idea of how the rest of the movie is. The highlights are in all of the promotional material, the movie is only a vessel to string those moments together. Hulkbuster’s scene is especially short and uninteresting, even though they decided to plop him in at the very end of every trailer to excite people.
Overall, Iron Man 3 just isn’t the third installment you’re looking for. The character arc just doesn’t work as well for Tony Stark as it did for Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight movies, and his whole “changed man” mentality just comes off as stupid by the end of the film when he destroys every awesome suit he’s made up to that point. It’s a movie that kicks off with a riproaring first act, a questionable second act, and a third act that tries hard but trips so many times it might as well stay down flat on its face. Hell, that’s an analogy for the Iron Man trilogy as a whole. If this is what Marvel’s planning on delivering for phase two of post-Avengers movies, I’m hopping ship to the DC fanboy club.