I’m Gonna Offer the Choice: Do You Want an Empty Life, or a Meaningful Death?
The release of the Avengers set a high bar for superhero movies that I imagine filmmakers will find it very difficult to meet. But it would be horrible if they decided that they had done it and that they had to stop there. Of course they needed more. Nay … I needed more. I was worried that I might go into the follow up movie with expectations too high for any movie but Avengers 2 to match, but I found myself able to manage my expectations fairly well. And it certainly wasn’t the movie that made that so easy to do; it has quite a pedigree of its own to live up to. And not just the Avengers. The first movie in this series was probably the first step in the process of Marvel (and probably Hollywood in general) taking comic book movies seriously. The second one let a lot of fans down, but I wasn’t altogether opposed to it. And I finally got to see the third. And so I present to you my review of Iron Man 3, written by Drew Pearce, co-written and directed by Shane Black, and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Don Cheadle, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ty Simpkins, Paul Bettany, and Stephanie Szostak.
In 1999, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) meets a scientist named Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), who has been working on something she calls “Extremis” – an experimental cellular regeneration treatment with the nasty side effect of making some of the patients explode. He also meets a disabled scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who offers them a place in his company, A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics). But Stark is mainly interested in banging Hansen, so he neglects the other things in favor of that goal. Years later, Stark is mentally unstable in all sorts of different ways. Because of the events with the Chitauri, Stark cannot sleep and instead spends his time building new suits of his Iron Man armor, he has occasionally debilitating panic attacks, and his relationship with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are strained. And to make things worse, a terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is laying siege to the world with random explosions that leave no bomb residue.
I liked this movie … but I had a few problems with the movie that hindered my ability to love it. And a big portion of the problems surround the problem with being a fan. I loved what I thought they were doing with the Mandarin in this movie by making him a terrorist, but I did not like what it turned out they were actually doing with him. I’m okay with you removing the magic rings element of the Mandarin if you want to keep the series based more in real life (even though the Avengers introduced someone that also relies heavily on magic rings in a matter of speaking), but what you did with the Mandarin in this movie was take one of Iron Man’s greatest villains and make him completely insignificant by the end of the movie. And it wasn’t even a surprise! I started getting sad that I was seeing it coming when I first saw the movie studio the Mandarin would broadcast from. And they did the same thing with another of the biggest characters in the Iron Man mythos: Iron Man himself! I didn’t come to see Tony Stark 3; I came to see Iron Man 3. But the greater majority of this movie is Tony Stark fighting outside of a suit because his suits were destroyed or ineffective. And then – almost to apologize for that – they spend the last fight scene of the movie dripping with Iron Man suits. You’d think I’d appreciate that since I was complaining about the lack of metal suits through the rest of the movie, but that’s also not the case. The suits Stark kept jumping into in that last fight were so disposable you’d think they were made of Post Its. The bad guys would slice through them like a hot hand through Iron Man suits. Then he’d run around for a while and jump into a new suit for a few seconds of fighting. And he didn’t even get to be the ultimate hero at the end of the movie! Though how it happened was fairly badass, it wasn’t Iron Man doing it. I need my hero to defeat my villain.
That amount of complaining might lead you to incorrect conclusions about my thoughts on this movie. I did not hate it, but parts of it bummed me out. It was still a good movie, and I’d even recommend seeing it in theaters if you haven’t already. It’s still got some decent writing in the story, and Tony Stark has some great lines as always. For instance, I liked when he called that little kid a pussy. When an enemy asked Tony Stark if all he had was “cheap tricks and cheesy one-liners” and Tony responded with “that should be the name of my autobiography,” I still laughed.
The look of the movie remains fantastic, and I could not bring myself to complain about that. Even though I didn’t like that most of the action didn’t involve Iron Man, I appreciated the action that was there. And I could not stop myself from getting a little excited when the large group of Iron Man prototypes shows up to throw down, but I found myself thinking that it was good that Tony fucked around and created all those disposable Iron Man suits, but why wouldn’t he create just one of them that could withstand tremendous heat? In the comics, Stark has different armor for all sorts of different occasions. He has one that can go underwater, he has one that can go into space, he has one that can take on the Hulk, but he doesn’t have one that can withstand heat? I find that farfetched, and I refuse to realize the irony in calling something in a superhero comic book movie “farfetched.”
The performances in the movie also remained excellent. I find it impossible to not like Robert Downey, Jr., especially as Tony Stark. He’s got more than enough acting and comedic chops to go around. Gwyneth Paltrow remains great as well, able to go toe-to-toe with Downey in every way. I thought Guy Pearce was a little over the top in the nerdy version of his character, but he did the rest of it very well. I thought Ben Kingsley was amazing and badass throughout the greater majority of the movie, and he even brought some (unwelcome) comedic parts to the movie. I welcome comedic stuff when Tony Stark brings it because it’s true to his character, but it’s really not something I want to see the Mandarin doing. When I saw Ty Simpkins in the movie, it made me nervous. You see, I’ve been watching Married With Children recently and I’ve just reached the part where they unleash the character of Seven upon the world, effectively destroying every episode he was in, as is generally the case when they decide what something needs to boost ratings is to add a child sidekick. Thankfully, I didn’t have those feelings with Simpkins. He didn’t specifically bring very much to the table for me, but Downey did in his interactions with him.
Iron Man 3 was a good movie, but my nerdiness made me resent certain parts of it. The story was good, but I didn’t appreciate the angle they went with the Mandarin. The action was good, but I didn’t appreciate the relative lack of Iron Man, nor did I appreciate how disposable his armor was. And anything I didn’t like about the performances was not to be blamed on the actors. They were all fantastic. Overall, I was torn in my feelings about Iron Man 3, but I am not torn in my belief that you should watch this movie. It could have been better, but it remains worth the price of admission. Iron Man 3 gets “Lesson number one: heroes, there is no such thing” out of “You know, it’s moments like these when I realize how much of a superhero I am.”
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