Iron Man 3 hit theaters this weekend, and while its massive box office numbers tell the story of yet another Marvel blockbuster, it may end up joining the ranks of Spider-Man 3, The Matrix Revolutions, Godfather: Part III, and X-Men: The Last Stand in the bargain bin of cursed trilogies that ended with fans expecting more. (spoilers)
If you haven’t read our reviews for Iron Man 3, take a look at them here and here, where two of our writers have two very different takes on the film. Instead of another review, we thought we’d take a look at what may have gone wrong in director Shane Black’s Iron Man 3.
Marvel fans and moviegoers in general have joined a massive online discussion about whether Iron Man 3 has fallen victim to what so many trilogies have in the past. Its “twist” has audiences across the globe split and foaming at the mouth, with the majority finding it unnecessarily comical, instead of vital to the plot, and wondering what exactly the true villain in this film was attempting to accomplish. The film has also suffered on film review aggregate RottenTomatoes, as it continues to slip from its critic score of 97% to 77% over the past few days.
Robert Downey Jr. starts the film off with a great flashback where we see our old friend living the good life, but throughout Iron Man 3 we’re left with a totally different Tony Stark – one with what we’ll call Post-Avengers-Stress-Syndrome. Director Shane Black and the film’s writer, Drew Pearce, were quoted saying that they wished to move back to the basics with Iron Man 3, but we aren’t seeing even a hint of the original Iron Man in the new film. Honestly, one has to wonder at this point if these two even saw the first two Iron Man films.
Each trailer and TV spot that was released for Iron Man 3 greeted fans with a similar tone for the film. We were led to believe that Tony would be in a psychological battle with Sir Ben Kingsley’s, The Mandarin, but the Oscar-winning actor is in the film literally less than 10 minutes, considerably less if you don’t count the pre-recorded terrorist videos that he releases. Not only is he a weak opponent for Iron Man, he’s an entirely fake opponent, and his bumbling drunken-act completely sucked the life out of everything we thought we knew about this villain and his motives.
Now, sometimes this sort of revelation about a villain can work. Not knowing much about a villain in a movie can often make them more menacing and thought provoking, but what we ended up with was the true villain, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who has very little backstory, other than a sob story from 13 years ago and literally zero reason to be a major villain. Why is he committing all of these heinous acts? He says he’s attempting to create a supply and demand for his product, Extremis, but to do so he apparently feels the need to kill the President of the United States (and countless others in terrorists bombings) and enlist the Vice President into committing treason?
Why exactly would Killian need to go to such great lengths to gain wealth or power? He’s obviously an intelligent guy, and possibly most important of all: his product works. He has an incredible product in Extremis; it rebuilds the human body and makes humans stronger. Of course there are problems along the way, but did he skip Bio 101? People react differently to viruses, therefore his subjects that explode are simply margins of error that investors would have to be made aware of (we are talking about a comic book movie afterall). The point is, Killian’s goals are all obtainable without acts of terrorism and forcing elected officials into committing treason.
So let’s look past the poorly fleshed out villain(s) and their severe lack of vision. What happened with all the talent in this film? We have a couple of the most talented actors in the last decade in this film and yet most of them have less screentime than some Extremis soldiers. Why hire an incredible actress like Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen if you’re only going to use her for less than five minutes and then have her own boss shoot her for no apparent reason? This doesn’t even seem to bother Tony that much that his old fling was shot-dead right in front of him. But, if someone dares to say New York in his presence, he’s forced into a fetal position as his eyes swell up.
Speaking of Tony’s flings, Gwyneth Paltrow continues to get the shaft in these films, even though she plays a character that fans truly seem to enjoy seeing on screen alongside Downey. Don Cheadle probably gets it the worst though, as the trailers and TV spots had us believing he would be vital to this film, seeing as he was given the job of protecting the President, but one would never know that unless they saw the teasers as all he’s seen doing in the Iron Patriot suit is going on two missions which turn out to be completely bogus. Then he ends up losing his suit to the terrorists – what sort of script execution is that? Rhodey may be the most poorly written sidekick in the history of superhero films.
Let’s focus on one of the more poignant scenes in the film: Stark’s cliffside mansion being blown to bits. Prior to this event, Tony broadcasts his home’s location, but when “The Mandarin” attacks Tony’s home with helicopters and missiles, he has no home defense mechanisms and his main suit is essentially unusable. No flight-mode yet?
Apparently Stark’s been working on all of his other 41 suits instead of giving his current suit the ability to fly. While the visual effects are breathtaking, this inability to have a fully functional suit available after taunting a terrorist seems like quite a poor choice. Not to mention, in many of the 21 TV spots released for the film, we see The Mandarin hanging outside one of the helicopters that takes down his house, but he’s nowhere to be found in the film itself. Not entirely unusual for trailer footage to be cut from the final film, but this just continues to make us think the studio was selling us a film they never intended on the public seeing.
The suit finally takes flight (for unknown reasons) underwater after being crushed by slabs of concrete from his mansion, and he wakes up in Tennessee where we meet his new friend, Harley. Granted, this kid was actually fairly refreshing considering the mess that was the first act. He and Tony’s relationship was fairly comical, a surprising highlight during this part of the film, culminating to the point where he’s called a pussy by Tony of course (But who’s the one crawling on the ground weeping). One question though, why exactly does Tony Stark need to charge his suit during this sequence again? Isn’t that one of the advantages of having an arc reactor attached to his chest 24/7? Plot hole number 87.
Despite enjoying Harley, we can’t help but feel Disney’s heavy hand in his involvement. Injecting a young kid into the film, and then later having Stark send him a ton of Christmas gifts, including a Verizon FiOS enabled computer which just happened to have their logo plastered on the screen. We were fairly surprised Tony didn’t include some toy-sized Iron Man suits to play with, along with the hot rod that Harley won’t be able to drive for the next six years.
It definitely had us paying attention to the product placement, but fans may have been laughing too much to remember what products they should be buying after heading out of the theater. Not to mention the half a dozen Audis we saw throughout the film. One which Tony Stark seems to simply steal when he leaves the bar, but not before throwing Harley another insult.
The final act attempts to redeem the film by stuffing scenes with as many Iron Man suits as possible, but it fails to emotionally effect fans as even Tony Stark can barely muster up any emotion when “the person he cares most about” falls 100 feet into a blazing fire to her death.
As he and Aldrich battle, it doesn’t quite feel as epic as it should, and as Tony destroys suit after suit, they really start to lose their magic that they once had in the previous films. Not to mention his suit is shattered when hit by a truck after the the Air Force One sequence. Wasn’t he able to catch cars and trucks with his suit in the first film? As he continues to fight Aldrich, with interesting jumps and slides into multiple suits which Killian cuts in half with ease, we start to wonder about their lack of durability. By the end of the massive fight, Killian’s death is forgetful at best as Pepper comes out of nowhere and knocks him on his ass with a pipe, while Tony throws his Mark 42 suit on him and orders Jarvis to self-destruct.
With Pepper showing back up, all is well as Tony, for reasons unbenounced to the audience, decides to blow up all the rest of his suits that he’s spent countless hours (ignoring Pepper and his company) building over the last few years.
Looking past the rampant product placement, which can be understood, this film simply wasn’t well executed. The VFX looked impeccable, as it should, but with the lack of a well written, proper villain, and a plot which strays constantly, we just ended up with a panic-attack-ridden Tony Stark, outside of the suit that made him famous, attempting to save Pepper Potts once again in front of a new backdrop.
The film wraps up nearly everything; Stark even has his metal fragments removed from his chest, and he tosses his arc reactor into the sea below his previously destroyed cliffside mansion as his voiceover attempts to make audiences feel all warm and fuzzy – as if something has actually been accomplished by what we’ve just seen.
When the end credits finish rolling, and we see Stark talking with his new “psychiatrist,” Bruce Banner (Hulk), it definitely felt great to have the two geniuses together again since The Avengers proved that the two actors have great chemistry, but when the screen flashes “Tony Stark will be back,” we’re just not so sure about that after sitting through this film.