Many argue that without the staggering critical and box office success of the first Iron Man movie, there would be no Marvel Universe, as we know it. However, when last I checked Spider-Man and the X-Men movies gave Marvel the confidence and financial resources to go off and build this franchise. Now Iron Man returns to kick off the aptly named Wave II of Marvel movies that eventually concludes with another Avengers movie.
Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) two biggest villains have always been the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist that wield 10 powerful magical rings and himself. Fans have been clamoring to see a big screen version of the Mandarin and a serious take on the famous Demon and the Bottle story where Tony goes completely off the rails. We got a little bit of that in the awful IM 2 but it was played for laughs.
Based on Marvel Executives current fascination with taking a big dump on fans (yes, I’m bitter about what they did to Spider-Man, no I won’t let it go), I should have known better than to get my hopes up about the Mandarin finally making it to the screen. Director Shane Black didn’t use magical rings because it would not have been “natural” or “realistic.”
Iron Man occupies a world where there are Gods of Thunder, 90-year old Super Soldiers, Aliens, Hulks, invisible flying fortresses, but somehow having a character with magical rings stretches the imagination? I’m sick to death of dark, grim, and “realistic. You are making a Super Hero movie. Get with the fun already!
The Mandarin is just as smart, but by being magic based, is the polar opposite of Tony. While there was no magical Mandarin, the way he was used was brilliant. Kingsley gave the Mandarin the gravitas and menace he deserved. The character design and costuming was awesome. He was the perfect foil for Stark. They didn’t need to completely bastardize his character and pee all over fans with the ridiculous 3rd act twist. I’m not saying The Mandarin is a comic character that I particularly like, what I’m saying is don’t use such an “iconic” character if you are just going to destroy him out of spite, create your own original villains.
Using Guy Pearce to play major bad guy Aldrich Killian the head of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) was solid casting, until it got completely mishandled. AIM in the comic book world is a dark, shadowy organization that always manipulates events in the background. IM 3 should have had Aim operate in the background and then they could have used AIM for a couple of the upcoming movies – the evil version of Shield.
Shane Black has had an interesting, spotty career, he wrote two of the best action movies of all time – the criminally underrated The Long Kiss Goodnight and Lethal Weapon, but he has very little directing experience and hasn’t done much of anything in the last several years so why Marvel selected him is beyond me. But ok.
Having just watched The Long Kiss Goodnight last week, there are some nice subtle touches that fans will recognize. The opening shot of the suits exploding and the voiceover had the same feel and there’s a funny moment in the middle of the movie where he uses the same Christmas song.
This time out Tony is suffering PTSD from the events of the Avengers and hyperventilates every time someone mentions the wormhole. The cool thing about IM3 is the fact that while his PTSD and nervous reactions stem from that movie, you don’t need to have seen any of the previous films to get this. As they say in comics – this is the perfect “jumping on point.” He covers his fears and stress up with his trademark humor.
Black’s dialogue in the hands of Downey, Jr. is a match made in heaven. The quips come fast, furious and usually hysterically funny. While the tone is black, Downey’s presence never allows the movie to sink under it’s own weight. Usually kids in these kinds of movies are annoying but the way Stark handles his little helper Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins) as a miniature adult that is to be mocked is pure gold. The first 2 thirds of this movie are really strong.
While the movie is packed with characters; returning favorites Jon Favreau, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow to new ones Rebecca Hall as Tony’s ex-girlfriend and William Sadler as President Ellis. The one person missing for most of the movie is Iron Man.
The movie finds a million illogical reasons for Tony not to use the Armor and I’ve lost count of the amount of times the armor gets destroyed. For one of the most powerful weapons in the world IM 3 completely belittles the suit. It is kind of criminal how poorly the suit is treated throughout most of this movie. Don’t get me wrong I can watch Downey, Jr. be Tony Stark all day and I love the chemistry between he and Paltow, however, don’t do it by making the suit a worthless hunk of junk.
Brian Tyler’s score was amazing. It was really hard to keep track of capabilities of the bad guys, one moment they can regenerate from after being blown into bits, other times a simple gun shot can kill them, there is zero consistency in this movie. Even with the major logic gaps and flaws the movie was viscerally enjoyable for a bit, until all involved just took a gigantic dump into my face.
I wish I could talk about the 3rd act to really explain how awful this is, but I don’t want to spoil the movie. There is no way they can justify what they did. The 3rd act has to be one of the worst ones in movie history, on so many different levels. Everything about the last 30 or 40 minutes is just god awful and not just because it’s all action – because I love mindless action. What I hate is when unnecessary plot “twists” destroy a movie, or action that is designed to completely mock your audience for liking something. The audience is too sophisticated to have magic rings, but the rest of this crap, yeah, we’ll just lap this up?
Iron Man 3 suffers from the “too many cooks in the kitchen syndrome,” you can literally see the studio interference and an inexperienced Director’s unwillingness to say no up on the screen. Either that or Shane Black hasn’t worked that much in the last 13 or 15 years for a reason.
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