Movie Review: IRON MAN 3 - A Stark Failure

Expectations are riding high for the first post-Avengers film from Marvel Studios and with the American release finally here it's poised to shatter box office records. But will it do so on the strength of its own merits or riding on The Avengers coattails?

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By Mark Julian - 5/3/2013





"...What makes Iron Man 3 a bad film starts with the marketing- which consistently pitched the film as a dark and serious undertaking when it's actually a comedic romp that never takes itself seriously no matter how much danger the characters are in."



'It's the first post-Avengers film', that's the unique distinction for Iron Man 3 as well as it being the first film in Phase Two of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. As an American, and especially working around these parts, avoiding spoilers has been incredibly tough. However, aside from the twist concerning the film's main villain, I managed to avoid any other spoilers. So, not knowing any of the particulars of Iron Man 3 beforehand, I entered the theater incredibly optimistic and giddy at the prospect of viewing this year's first Marvel Studios film. I left the theater slightly pissed off.

From a fan standpoint, expectations and excitement for this film were centered primarily around The Mandarin as the main antagonist and to a lesser extent, at the prospect of potentially getting a few lingering questions answered about The Ten Rings. Sadly, expectations were not met. For the casual (non comic book reading) moviegoer, there's disappointment waiting for you as well. The charm, appeal and intense fandom centered around Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is built entirely around the incredible spectacle of the first Iron Man film. Hell, everything for Marvel tracks back to that one film, which worked so well from start-to-finish because it felt like the events that occurred could actually happen in real life. Aside from all the pop-culture references, Jon Favreau really conveyed a sense that to be Iron Man, all you needed was intelligence. In every Marvel Studios film since, that element of realism has slowly eroded away. You simply can't have that same interaction with the movie audience in a film centered around a Norse god, a genetically-engineered super soldier or a hulking rage monster. Marvel has tried and to some extent been successful but they've yet to duplicate the realistic, 'Hey, this could actually happen' quality of the first Iron Man. In comparison, The Avengers didn't go for that,it fully embraced its approach of 'We know this could never happen in real life - just sit back and be entertained.' Iron Man 3 returns to the first Marvel motif of trying to inject just the right amount of realism into their superhero films. Naturally, those looking for The Avengers experience are going to be dissapointed by this but that doesn't make Iron Man 3 a bad film.

What makes Iron Man 3 a bad film starts with the marketing- which consistently pitched the film as a dark and serious undertaking when it's actually a comedic romp that never takes itself seriously; no matter how dangerous the situation, there's no tension in this film.


What makes Iron Man 3 a bad film is an in-your-face marketing campaign specifically designed to pull off a "Kansas City Shuffle" - the artificially crafted twist of The Mandarin does the film a huge disservice. This might raise a huge question of the role of marketing in a film's quality but the facts are facts, audiences are purposely mislead heading into the film. What would your take on The Mandarin be if Marvel had opted for a softer marketing approach on the character?


What makes Iron Man 3 a bad film is the time spent with moronic and unlikable characters - Rebeca Hall as Maya Hansen brought nothing to the film. Were we supposed to feel something for her character? Did she have a change of heart, was she really a good guy or a bad guy - I guess we're supposed to decide for ourselves? Once again, War Machine is underutilized. The government turns to one, singular individual to hunt down the world's biggest terrorist? Really? You're telling me S.H.I.E.L.D. [Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division], Black Widow, Nick Fury, etc. wouldn't be all over this? This type of situation is precisely what the organization was created for, hell S.H.I.E.L.D. would have to be grossly inept to have let The Mandarin situation progress to such a level. Predictably, Rhodey not only fails miserably at his task, he gets his suit stolen rather easily and ends up needing to be rescued by Tony. In fact, this might be the worst depiction of Rhodey in all three films as he's nothing but a bumbling, inept (tiny) bruiser that's often the butt-end of the joke. There are a few bright spots like the casual evil of James Badge Dale's Savin and Ty Simpkin's Harley but the film simply didn't have the right balance of screen time between its supporting characters.


Character issues aside, the film asks you to forgive some pretty big plot holes and never truly gives answers to some of the questions it raises. The science and mechanics of Extremis are incredibly loose, what made some people spontaneously combust and others not? Why are the Extremis soldiers shown to be able to survive explosions and dismemberment in one scene and in the next, a repulsor blast finishes them off for good? And why would A.I.M. simply allow its test subjects to wander around America when there's a risk of them randomly blowing up? Wouldn't an outfit like A.I.M. have tighter control over something as incriminating as human experimentation - wouldn't they outright dispose of them immediately after experimenting or at least detain them? Speaking of A.I.M., what was Aldrich Killian's actual motivation? He wanted Extremis to improve his own physical condition, then to weaponize and sell it to the highest bidder? Okay, but that seems like it would be pretty easy to do without creating an international figurehead of terrorism that hijacks broadcast signals across the world to spread a message of terror. We've had quite a few Marvel films already were the U.S. government is looking to create scientifically enhanced soldiers; seems like they would just give Killian and A.I.M. a fat defense contract, the kind they were giving Tony in the first Iron Man film.

In terms of tone, of course this movie can't match the spectacle of The Avengers but it should strive to achieve the same caliber of execution. Joss Whedon knew exactly what he wanted to achieve with The Avengers and thus the film we got in theaters WAS the director's cut. Shane Black reportedly has a 3+-hr long director's cut, that's over 50 mins of footage left on the cutting room floor that he feels better explains his story. Another tonal issue is with the "Stark-speak", the witty, egocentric, monologue-esque rants that prove that Tony Stark is just too-cool and can't be bothered with all the petty concerns of the average person. Why are all the characters suddenly doing Stark-speak? Ok, Pepper lives with Tony and interacts with him on a regular basis so she's probably accepted and adapted to Stark's banter and style of communication. But when did Rhodey pick up that trait - or Killian, Maya, Harley, etc.? Instead of being overwhelmed by Stark they're giving it right back to him in equal measure, that deflates a pretty exceptional aspect of the Tony Stark persona.

Everything isn't a failure. Robert Downey Jr. delivers an excellent Tony Stark despite the surrounding elements. And while every scene is tinged with comedy, there are a few standout quips and moments that will have the entire audience laughing. And of course the VFX are top notch, the Extremis footsoldiers look pretty cool and the visual assault of the climatic battle between the Iron Man Army and Extremis soldiers is the best thing this film has to offer (why would Stark randomly decide to blow them all up at the end of the climatic battle?). However, this isn't enough to elevate it beyond the level of mediocre. It's one thing to aim for a film to play upon preconceived expectations but it's quite another when those preconceived expectations are artificially created. "Aha! You though it was this but it's really actually this" does not make for a satisfactory viewing experience by itself. That's simply a gimmick and one that's rings especially hollow when it's the only thing inside the candy wrapper.



MORE CBM REVIEWS


POWReviews: "This movie will split audiences"


ultimatefan1974: "IM3 is an improvement over the second installment, but my favorite one in the series still is the first"


whoa123: "I will say that 'Iron Man 3' is not better than the original Iron Man but it is definitely on par with that and definitely surpassing its predecessor"





Based on Warren Ellis' Extremis storyline and following the box-office shattering events of Marvel's The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has become the target of global terrorist The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) who has secretly been the mastermind behind most of the tragedies in Tony's life. Isolated from his fellow Avengers, Tony will have to devise his most advanced armor yet if he hopes to save the woman he loves, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Standing beside Tony as he takes on Mandarin's villainous allies and Ten Rings subordinates will be War Machine James Rhodey (Don Cheadle) who was conspicuously absent during the Chituari invasion in New York. Based on a screenplay by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and Drew Pearce (Godzilla, Sherlock Holmes 3).


Running Time: 2 hr 10 min (confirmed)
Release Date: May 3, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (confirmed)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Ben Kingsley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Don Cheadle, William Sadler, James Badge Dale, Yvonne Zima, Stephanie Szostak
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Shane Black (screenplay) Drew Pearce (screenplay) Stan Lee (comic book) Jack Kirby (comic book) Don Heck (comic book) Larry Lieber(comic book)

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KNIGHT3000 - 5/3/2013, 11:16 AM
I liked it, Am I 1st?
Christuffer - 5/3/2013, 11:17 AM
Teaser didn't say if there was spoilers. Didn't read the article. I'm scared
starkresilient - 5/3/2013, 11:17 AM
laughing so hard at that basic review.
MarkJulian - 5/3/2013, 11:18 AM
I know I'm in the minority here but I think I make some sense. How do you explain the lack of S.H.I.E.L.D. presence in this film? Out of all 3 Iron Man films this was the one that demanded it the most!
ArmGunar - 5/3/2013, 11:18 AM
1 > 3 >>>>>>>>>>>> 2
Killersloth - 5/3/2013, 11:19 AM
You marked the film down because of its marketing??
NoAssemblyReqd - 5/3/2013, 11:20 AM
IRON MAN 2 was blasted for too much forward-motion-killing fan service. Funny how 3 is getting blasted for tossing fan service out the window.
Avenger87 - 5/3/2013, 11:20 AM
leagues better than number 2
MrYurMomm - 5/3/2013, 11:20 AM
I see the thumbs up button.... But where's the thumbs down?

Lol just kidding. Well I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the movie. But I'm not gonna let this one sour apple ruin the bunch for me. I saw it and loved it. Going again tonight and Saturday night. Absolutely loved it.
JDUKE25 - 5/3/2013, 11:21 AM
Yeah, didn't have much interest in this movie before, and have even less now.
cmay13 - 5/3/2013, 11:22 AM
I guess the secret service and us military didn't feel like trying to go help save the leader of the country.
marvel72 - 5/3/2013, 11:22 AM
where were shield? maybe hiding in the sewer with the gotham city police department. :)
untipoconboina - 5/3/2013, 11:24 AM
Yeah, like S.H.I.E.L.D. always shows up in the comics, right?
shelbz - 5/3/2013, 11:24 AM
...so what you're saying is that post Avengers, a singular hero can't exist since everyone else should be there to save the day too?
DioFoRio - 5/3/2013, 11:24 AM
it wasn't a job for sheild....Rhodey made that clear at the Diner...Not Superhero Business but US policy.
DrDoom - 5/3/2013, 11:25 AM
It sounds like you're angry at the film because of what the trailers led you to believe it was going to be rather than what it actually was. Regardless, you still articulated your points somewhat well, so I'll give you that.

I thought it was phenomenal, but then again, I acccept it for what it is.
DioFoRio - 5/3/2013, 11:25 AM
@Shelbz....thats because most of these people aren't used to doing shit alone when their friends are busy...XD
charlie2094 - 5/3/2013, 11:26 AM
Good review! Whilst I agree with a lot of your points, I still really enjoyed the movie but I did have problems with it. I did think the comedy got too much in the way of the drama at times, to crack a joke whilst his house is crumbling and like a minute after a dramatic scene towards the end is very annoying and destroys any drama created. I was disappointed that it wasn't any where as dramatic or emotional as the trailer suggested and the twist also annoyed me, not even so much as what it was, but because it was so unnecessary. Wasn't sure how it worked in with Killians plan, to sell Extremis off. Hoping that there's a REAL Mandarin out there which will explain why Trevor was really there, but who knows.

Phlegmbot - 5/3/2013, 11:26 AM
It was a fun romp...very typical Shane Black stuff. But, like the reviewer says, it never takes itself seriously, and that was actually an error.


Also, the two MAIN plot points of the movie (NO spoilers)
hinge on, 1. The audience believing Tony AND the terrorists are stupid (have you seen the trailer? Have you wondered how/why a missile can get through the defenses of Stark's house? You know, the place where f--king IRON MAN lives?! Well, not to worry, there's NO answer to that question.)

And 2. You have to be OK with a reeeeally dumb bait & switch the movie pulls on the audience. Forget about whether it's true to the comics. I DO NOT CARE. But, in terms of basic storytelling? It's just plain dumb.
Phlegmbot - 5/3/2013, 11:27 AM
@Charlie2094 - um, dude, you gave away the twist. You actually try ti be sly about it by calling it "the twist," then you just freakin' GIVE IT AWAY.
LucasMend - 5/3/2013, 11:27 AM
Excellent review. Some other problems:
So, just because AIM provided weapons or whatever for the iron patriot suit, the rhodey log in can access everything the company has on it's system from important files with soldiers interview etc?
There are a lot of jokes out of place. Remember the first iron man, when it had smart jokes? Now it's just looney tunes shit.
Tony's anxiety problems don't bring any actual problems to the movie. They don't get him in a hard situation, for example when his in a suit.
And a lot of other things.
codydriscollsrightarm - 5/3/2013, 11:28 AM
A lot of people were seriously disappointed by IM3. IT wasnt a bad movie imo, it was just mediocre like Thor, IM2 and Hulk. No emotional depth at all. Thus far Marvel has done two awesome movies: Iron Man (by far their best) and Avengers (not an spectacular flick, but its extremely enjoyable) everthing else has been highly overrated.
shelbz - 5/3/2013, 11:28 AM
@DioFoRio exactly

Accept the movie for what it is and not look at what it isn't.

Where is Thor in the current Godkiller series? Cap? Hulk?

Shield?

It doesn't happen like that in the comics, why should we expect it to happen in the movies and complain when it doesn't.
hush - 5/3/2013, 11:28 AM
Ok, it wasn't a great movie, no denying that. But it wasn't a 'bad' film - that's a pretty scathing review.
Ocelot - 5/3/2013, 11:29 AM
@MarkJulian this will be the main problem with the mcu, if the the shield/human/american based roster keeps increasing, the more earth based characters you add to the overall universe, the more people will ask where are they?, you can get away with once, but twice?, how many times can characters not conviently show up without raising questions. The first phase of films got away it as most characters hadn't been established in the universe, this is not the case with phase 2 or even 3 for that matter. the more the danger and threat level increases in a solo movie, the more people ask where are the other heroes and why aren't they getting involved. I think that's one of the reasons why they're doing other franchises that aren't core to earth/america e.g. guardians and strange, their stories work well away from them.
MarkJulian - 5/3/2013, 11:30 AM
@LucasMend Good points!
exe - 5/3/2013, 11:33 AM
Completely agree with the review. Iron Man 3 is terrible. Just like the second one.
TayDee - 5/3/2013, 11:34 AM
Your only valid points are about War Machine and Extremis.

To form a prediction about the tone of a movie based on the marketing is stupid.

The "Stark speak" comment was ridiculous. Rhodey and Tony always go back and forth with each other, and is to be expected between the two.

Maya Hansen was the inventor of Extremes so she was essential to the film. She needed Tony to improve the Extremis virus to make it better and more stable, so she was important to the film. Underdeveloped, but still important.
ThePowerCosmic - 5/3/2013, 11:34 AM
Yeah right! Great film it was.
bbarber2323 - 5/3/2013, 11:35 AM
@Mark Julian...this is the best writing you've ever done. Keep this up and you will redeem your past. Great job. I loved the movie btw.
Ocelot - 5/3/2013, 11:35 AM
@LucasMend this movie just didn't match the tone the first two movies established, Iron Man 1 and 2 had maturity and semi-realism to an extent, that works better in his universe imo, Iron Man 3 instead felt like it was in the same world as Thor(tone-wise so to speak)
MarkJulian - 5/3/2013, 11:36 AM
Just my personal opinion guys. I accept opinions will be different and probably more people will enjoy it, hence the other positive reviews from other CBM Users.

For me, it was a let down. If you want me to accept the MCU as this big, shared universe where all this interaction takes place between heroes, villains and clandestine organizations then deliver on that promise. Either bombard me with awesomeness so that I don't have time to think about the plot holes or make your movie air tight.
AsianVersionOfET - 5/3/2013, 11:40 AM
Not even going to this. Maybe I'll watch parts of it on FX in two years.
BrickWall - 5/3/2013, 11:40 AM
What sense did it make when Tony tells the Mandarin his home address, only for him to be totally unprepared with a half finished Iron Man suit for protection when his house is attacked.

KNIGHT3000 - 5/3/2013, 11:41 AM
I honestly don't have a problem with the comedy, they were each equally hilarious. Without the comedy I don't think Robert Downey Jr would have shined as brightly.
I do see what you mean about S.H.I.E.L.D. but its already been established that Tony doesn't like to include them in anything. Plus the bad guys literally took the fight to Tony's door.
I also think the "Clean Slate Protocol" or whatever is another way of saying Tony is starting over from scratch, making suits with their own power source, and not run off his extracted chest piece...
I still, unlike most, love IronMan 2, because that was WarMachine... IronPatriot on Rhodey was annoying, but I knew before hand, so I shouldn't complain... Kinda like Spidey's black movie suit... what you gonna do, you know?
That being said, IronTrilogy is pretty solid, but not perfect
MrReese - 5/3/2013, 11:41 AM
It was ok I'd give it a 3/5
NoAssemblyReqd - 5/3/2013, 11:42 AM
I, for one, applaud the filmmakers for playing with fan expectations. Too many superhero movies roll out the heroes' nemeses in rote fashion (ALL the Spider-Man movies, IRON MAN 2). Along comes IRON MAN 3 with a fresh take on the Mandarin (and yes, we *do* see a powerful, deadly Mandarin) and people whine that he's not introduced like every other supervillain we've seen in a dozen comic book movies.
Minato - 5/3/2013, 11:42 AM
The Marketing Campain never mentioned that Mandarin was chinese and or had the Maukulan rings. As I remember everything shown in the marketing campain happened on screen. I think it was your own knowledge of characters and events that made you have those notions. Maybe since you heard the Mandarin was going to be in it you told everyone Mandarin was one way and he turned out to be different. I did the same thing but im not too upset with it.

My biggest question.
SPOILER
How did Killian remote control the Iron Patriot with the POTUS inside?
TayDee - 5/3/2013, 11:42 AM
@Intruder

Agreed. People want to see Avengers style movie in an Iron Man / Tony movie. It was by no means a perfect movie, it had flaws, but it was definitely better than IM2. Good, but not great movie.
StoneyArc - 5/3/2013, 11:43 AM
Um... No. I disagree with pretty much this whole review. But that's why opinions are awesome... because we are all entitled to one. Cheers. =)
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