Iron Man 3 review #2

Iron Man 3 Tony and Pepper
By Glen Ilnicki

If you haven’t yet, check out Mark Pacis’s positive review of Iron Man 3.

Possibly the only bad thing to come out of The Avengers is the unlikelihood of Marvel Studios ever topping it. Iron Man 3 is the latest installment of the Iron Man series taking place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s also the latest victim of one of the toughest things to do in show business: follow a great act.

Iron Man 3 also suffers from over-saturation. We’ve seen Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark in four movies since 2008. And while Stark is a fantastic character, it might just be that the whole Tony Stark/Iron Man thing is starting to feel a bit tired. This time around there’s a new director in Shane Black, a new post-Avengers era for Stark and new enemies emerging, but the character himself seems stale. No matter how much the film tries to delve deeper into the mind of the billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist, it relies on old tricks rather than new methods of characterization.

It tries, though. It really does. We learn that Stark’s experiences in The Avengers, battling a horde of aliens in New York City, aren’t sitting well with the usually suave super hero. This results in a series of sadly unconvincing panic attacks. You want to empathize with him, but the usually brilliant Downey, Jr just doesn’t sell his pain. The attacks come off as forced and inorganic. His emotional state also leads him to work relentlessly on his suits of armor. We’re on Mark 42 now. This causes friction with his girlfriend and Stark Industries CEO, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). None of these problems evolve into great drama, but you have to hand it to the filmmakers for at least considering the proposition of the events in The Avengers affecting Stark’s life. One might question why the events of the first two “Iron Man” films never seemed to affect him in such a way.

The villain this time around is The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in a role that leaves you asking, “why?”) who is a huge player in the comic books and quite possibly Iron Man’s greatest foe. In the film, he’s adorned with lavish cloaks and a beard down to his chest. And is he Chinese, Middle Eastern, American? I’m not really sure. The Mandarin is responsible for a string of bombings leaving little evidence, but critically injuring Stark Industries new security chief, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, the director of the previous films). After Stark threatens The Mandarin on live TV (the man must have balls of steel as well), the villain answers by completely obliterating Stark’s Malibu property, leaving Stark M.I.A. He finds himself in rural Tennessee after his malfunctioning AI, JARVIS, follows a previous, yet currently inconvenient, flight plan.

The second act is when the film could have shined under better direction. Stark teams up with a young boy, Harley, to help repair the suit of armor and to investigate another bombing which occurred in town. The story has a real chance to show a vulnerable side of Tony Stark. Often when he’s with the young boy he almost breaks down, shouts, or shows real pain in more ways than through a comedic defense mechanism. But right when that human aspect is about to come out of its metal shell, the writers choose to bombard us with more wisecracks. And when you think there’s going to be a real charming relationship between Stark and the boy…again…more wisecracks.

Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen are two new and important characters to this episode played by the talented Guy Pierce and Rebecca Hall, respectively. Stark and Hogan meet the two at a New Year’s Eve party shown through a flashback. Maya is the inventor of Extremis, a regenerative treatment used to help repair injuries. Killian is also a scientist who, in the present day, has begun work with Extremis is a big way. The flashback unconvincingly shows us his motives for later behavior.

Saying any more about Extremis and these two characters might give too much away. However, there stories are connected to that of The Mandarin in some way. Speaking of The Mandarin, his story comes to a head in a shockingly silly way, and the film doesn’t do justice at all to the character himself nor the accomplished thespian who plays him.

Don Cheadle reprises his role as James Rhodes, the once and future War Machine and the currently re-branded Iron Patriot…because for some reason they had to include Norman Osborn’s former suit of armor for this movie…It’s a long story. Whatever, you want to call Cheadle’s character, I’ll settle on “wasted”.

One interesting feature in the film is Stark’s ability to call upon his armor, whereupon it flies toward him and latches on ever so neatly. This process is used throughout the film, especially at the end when he calls upon his whole wardrobe to come to his rescue, switching from one suit to the other in seconds. There’s also a fun scene where Stark controls the suit remotely to save airplane passengers plunging to their demise. They form a flying chain. Cool stuff.

But even these concepts must’ve looked better on paper. Shane Black somehow sucks the life out of them. Technically they’re pretty good, but where’s the magic and wonder, the sheer spectacle like so many scenes in The Avengers? The whole film, while still having great special effects, decent acting and an acceptable story line, just feels somewhat uninspired. There’s a lingering sense of ‘ordinary’ when Marvel fans desire the ‘extraordinary’.

And consider this: Tony Stark just had his home destroyed, is at risk of losing the love of his life, has a good friend in critical condition and just fought off an alien invasion. What a perfect chance for drama to ensue in this chapter of his story arc. What we want to see is our hero, one who’s always composed and who always has a one liner and suit of armor ready for every bad situation, finally break down and feel real pain. We want a human being with whom to identify. Instead we get Iron Man 3.

Grade: D+

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Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 271 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.