Movie Review: IRON MAN 3 - A Stark Failure

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?

"...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.


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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