REVIEW: “Iron Man 3”

IRON MAN 3 poster

Marvel Studies’ wildly successful 2012 film “The Avengers” confirmed several things. First, the amazing interconnected universe experiment that started all the way back in the first Iron Man film worked brilliantly. Another thing it did was establish Robert Downey Jr. and his Tony Stark character as the biggest draw of the group. Well now Downey Jr. returns for his third individual Iron Man flick in what’s sure to be another mammoth blockbuster hit. And while hordes of moviegoers and fanboys are sure to flock to it, can “Iron Man 3” continue to build on its already successful formula?

Let me say I loved “Iron Man” from 2008. And while its sequel “Iron Man 2” had its shortcomings, it was still a fun and entertaining entry into Marvel’s cinematic universe and a cool link into the Avengers project. I was really hoping that “Iron Man 3” would more closely resemble the franchise’s first film – a movie that I still think is one of the best superhero films period. But for me it more closely resembled the second picture, perhaps better but only slightly.

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Gwyneth Paltrow in “Iron Man 3”

This is the first Marvel Studios film since “The Avengers” and we do get a few cool references to what took place in New York City. But by and large this is a separate story focused on Tony Stark more so than his metal man persona. The movie starts with a flashback to 1999 where Tony (Downey Jr.) and his best friend Happy (Jon Favreau) are partying it up at a science conference in Switzerland on New Years Eve. Tony, ever the womanizer back in the day, hooks up with a brilliant botanist named Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). At the party Tony pompously brushes off the wormy Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) who approaches Stark with an invitation to join his think tank Advanced Idea Mechanics (comic fans will most certainly recognize A.I.M.). This brief prologue introduces the beautiful Maya and the scorned Killian into the movie’s landscape.

From there the film moves to present day where Tony has found himself a nervous wreck since the alien invasion of New York City (ala “The Avengers”). Battling panic attacks and insomnia, he finds refuge in building Iron Man suits. Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), the cure to Tony’s past life of excess and carousing, begins to feel the effects of Tony’s emotional state. Aside from his personal troubles a Bin Laden-esque terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings. When Happy is seriously injured in one of those attacks an infuriated Tony calls The Mandarin out publicly. What follows leaves Tony alone, armorless, and presumed dead with only his brains, wits, and deductive skills to find The Mandarin and stop him.

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Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

Shane Black directs and co-writes the story that tosses a lot at the audience. Killian pops back into picture in a much better physical condition than when we first see him. We also see Maya again and even though its a pretty small role she holds some rather important bits of information. Don Cheadle gets plenty of screen time as “Rhodey” who dons the more politically sensitive Iron Patriot armor. But everything comes back to Tony Stark and the movie really focuses on the man outside of the Iron Man suit. To some degree I enjoyed that and many have responded to the movie because it tries to look more at the man than the superhero. He’s forced to resort more to his inventive ingenuity much like in the early scenes of the first film.

But if I’m honest I have to say that I don’t know if that’s what I want from an Iron Man superhero movie. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the idea of giving the character some depth. The first film did that well. But considering how much time is spent with Tony outside of the armor, I didn’t feel his character was expanded that much. Downey Jr. certainly gives us another solid performance and I love him in this role. And while the more desperate tone did lessen the number of quick quips and smart-alecky jests, he still pulls in some good laughs especially when partnering with a precocious young boy (Ty Simpkins) who otherwise serves no other purpose than to play his cliched temporary sidekick.

The film does have strong moments and it delivers some pretty hefty payoffs. The tension surrounding The Mandarin really works for most of the movie and there are some big time action sequences that visually blew my socks off. I also loved the work of Guy Pearce in a performance that he himself viewed as “experimental” in a sense. Rebecca Hall was also very good and she had me craving more screen time for her. In fact, the entire cast gives us some really good performances and even when the dialogue occasionally trips over itself they still impress.

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Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin

But I keep coming back to one thing, something stemming from a conscious choice of Shane Black. I wanted to see more of Iron Man in his armor and while the buddy cop elements with Rhodey and the super sleuth angle in small town Tennessee didn’t equal bad cinema, it did leave me anxious for a superhero film that I’m not sure ever came. I don’t want to leave the impression that we never see the armor, but even then many of those moments aren’t Tony Stark at all (I’ll leave it at that). Even with the number of wild explosions and hair-raising action scenes which I thoroughly enjoyed, the movie still didn’t feel quite like the second phase of Marvel’s movie universe.

And I can’t help myself, I have to mention another thing. This film takes Tony Stark and his Iron Man story far away from its comic book source material, farther than either of the other films. For many this is a non-issue, but for a fanboy who sees the original material as better, well let’s just say it’s a shame. And it’s not just the Tony Stark character who is altered. There’s a huge reveal in the second half of the film that obliterates a major part of Iron Man’s history. It’s pushed by some pretty lame attempts at comedy and it drains the film of one of its strongest story angles. Frankly, it didn’t work for me. Black and co-writer Drew Pearce’s choice for a twist combined with several plot holes and the typical maniacal world domination story was a surprising letdown.

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Yes, that’s Pepper Potts

I’m still conflicted about “Iron Man 3” and it’s a film I think I need to rewatch before I can truly cement my overall rating. But I don’t want my gripes to overshadow the fact that I had a lot of fun with the movie. The performances are wonderful and I’m surprised to say that they are what kept me enthralled more so than the action or drama. But the action sequences are for the most part outstanding. There are a few cheesy effects but there are also some of the most jaw-dropping visual sequences yet to come out of Marvel Studios.

So is this just a case of enormous expectations or was I expecting a different movie altogether? Well, a little of both I think. In the end “Iron Man 3” does deliver but it’s certainly not the ‘blow you away’ flick both the fanboy and superhero fan in me was hoping for. Black had a decent vision for this film and he certainly had a wonderful cast. But his overall story direction is lacking and his shredding of key source material took away from what he did right. I’m afraid that’s what is keeping me from fully embracing this movie. It’s certainly a fun time, but in a way it was a little disappointing.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

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50 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Iron Man 3”

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly on your take on this movie. I really think that it needs to be watched again, and then it can be established how good an entry to the trilogy this is.

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  3. I’m also conflicted Keith. I’m not sure how much I liked it. I enjoyed it but the more I think about it, the more I’m picking it apart. I reckon I’ll probably end up with the same score as you, maybe push it to a four depending on how I feel about it.

  4. Sweet review Keith. Definitely not going to make a lot of people, but still worth the time and effort because of the new breath of fresh air that Black is able bring to this franchise.

    • Thanks man. Honestly I didn’t really get the fresh air I was hoping for. I dunno, I think I just need to see it again to see if I can get past some pretty glaring flaws.

  5. I had problems with this movie too. I liked it, but overall I must say I found it to be the weakest part of the trilogy. It was fun and I didn’t have a problem with big twist but those glowing eyes of the villains and the fact that the villain himself wasn’t all that interesting were disappointing. Also where were the Avengers during all of this? Before Avengers movie I never wondered about that seeing the films about separate characters but now for 50% of the movie I was like – why is no one helping him with that crap?

    • You just nailed one of my biggest questions. I know it’ll be said that this is just an Iron Man story. I don’t buy that because it involves the president of the United States and an eventual global takeover. Where is Nick fury? Where are the avengers? I found myself thinking about that too.

  6. Nice review. I agree with you about a lot of the bad points. I don’t want to give anything away here either but the bit that grates the most for me is what you call the shredding of the source material – nice phrase! Just don’t think it worked. Still, had fun watching it for the most part.

    • It really didn’t work for me. I have to be vague but its such a disservice to the source material. I give movies A LOT of wiggle room but this particular angle was pretty bad!

      • Yeah, not even a mile of wiggle room could sort this problem out! I’m not even a massive comic fan but knew enough about the history to be thinking “WTF?!”

  7. Too bad you were a little disappointed. It seems the ratings have gone down a bit after the hype of its release. Sometimes it’s hard when you get all pumped up for a film (Evil Dead) and it falls to your expectations.

    • You’re right, expectations are a funny thing. But I really don’t think it’s all about that with this movie. It did have some flaws for me and there were some things that just irritated me. It’s still a really good time which is why we go to the movies. But I can’t help feel it could’ve been so much better.

  8. Fair score. I have watched a couple of times now and I enjoyed it even more second time. 2nd view was also in 2d so I was allowed to view it without a visual mess, thought the 3d was pretty poor. Good review, nicely made points 😉

  9. I’ve now seen this twice and stick with my original verdict. Speaking as a Marvel fanboy, I was disappointed with the overarching twist, but to say it didn’t stick to the comic source material may be an overstatement as it adapted the Extremis storyline pretty well I thought, albeit with no metal-infused Tony. But that twist… It’s settled with me. It’s ok. I can deal with it. Mainly because I don’t think we’ll see an Iron Man 4 for a long, long time. So the repercussions in the IM universe won’t be felt.

    And I liked the fact that the final battle was pretty suitless. I was tired of metal suit v metal suit. Agreed on Pearce though – fabulous as always. I’d say it’s superior to IM2, as for being near the original? Maybe not.

    I’m sure Marvel will address the ‘absence’ of the Avengers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as that’ll be a SHIELD movie… Well, I hope they do.

    Well thought through review though Keith! All eyes on Thor for October…

    • Thanks bro. Just can’t shake the annoyance of the big “twist”. Considering the character involved, I think it’s a pretty big trampling of the source material. But that aside I also thought it was pretty flat and unfunny.

      I didn’t necessarily need another metal man vs. metal man. But I think there are several avenues they could have traveled that would have allowed us to see Iron Man in action. As for the Avengers, I really don’t think the Winter Soldier flick will answer why the Avengers were a no show. I think it’ll be one of those “just don’t think about it” things. But honestly that’s not a major gripe for me. I can overlook that.

  10. I felt the same as you. It wasnt what I was expecting at all and the big twist was so disappointing. The movie had its fun parts but at the end I felt really disappointed. Good review.

  11. Great review Keith, glad that you enjoyed it pretty much as much as I did, give or take. I quite like that the focus on Tony Stark the man “…more so than his metal man persona” and the twist on The Mandarin was such a hoot! I too wish Rebecca Hall had more screen time.

    • Thanks Ruth! Always appreciate the comments. I gotta say I really disliked the big twist. It really didn’t work for me on any level. But I do recognize I’m coming from a fanboy perspective and I don’t deny that it influenced my take on it. I like the look at Tony Stark the man. I just wish a little more of the other moments were spent on the metal man himself. I keep thinking back to the first film. It was a great mix of Tony Stark and Iron Man. I didn’t fully get that here. But I don’t want to harp on the negative. It was a fun flick and I’m really anxious to see it again.

      • Oh I still prefer the first film to this third one so yeah, we agree on that front. As for The Mandarin, I’m not a fangirl so I didn’t know what he’s supposed to be in the comics. So I enjoyed Kingsley’s um, interpretation of that character.

      • I’ll show my nerdiness here ;). Mandarin is Iron Man’s arch nemesis. He is Tony Stark’s Joker or Lex Luther. So he’s a pretty big dude in the Iron Man universe. This concludes the “Keith is a geek” lesson for the day. 😀

  12. Nice review! I am in the minority here! 😀

    I loved it! But, also I have no comic book attachments–so, it was awesome! I’ve always enjoyed the search for the “hero” without the “super” element–so, it being about Tony Stark is being about Iron Man–because that is who he is. I had a blast!

    But, hey–I’ve been on the end of this kind of argument before–Skyfall? Prometheus? So, I get it and respect it.

    Later!

    • He you’re not alone. I know a lot of folks who really love the film. And I do think the movie deserves another chance. I’m really anxious to see it again.

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    • It really surprised me to see how many people shared my take on the film. The initial reviews were really strong but it seems that more recently I’m seeing people who liked the film but had issues with it.

      • exactly how can Black and Pearce (writers) deviate from the actual context and continuity from the first film where Marvel and Favreau made it a “terrorist” centric agenda to introduce “The Mandarin” and just overlapped it with the “Lethal Weapon” blueprint.

        Can’t cry over spilled milk…nuff said! Cheers.

  15. you and I see alot eye to eye with this one. I wanted more. still liked it, but…yeeeaaahh.

    haha. and I really was disappointed with what they did with the villains…all of them. But there were a few fun Easter eggs.

    • They did butcher some things but you’re right, it has some fun hidden gems. It may not sound like it but I really did like the movie. I just can’t help but be a little disappointed by it.

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