Iron Man 3 (2013)
For months, we’ve be hearing nothing but hype about the suits in Iron Man 3, especially its crown jewel, the Mark 42. I mean, Disneyland even has a mock exhibition devoted to them called “Iron Man Tech presented by Stark Industries” with such sleek and realistic presentation that it kind of makes me want to hop a plane to Anaheim. They might not have known it while putting that exhibit together, but the Mark 42 suit is actually the perfect symbol for the film: It’s new, it’s design concept is brilliant, and even in moments where it doesn’t perform exactly as you’d expect or want, it’s laugh out loud entertaining. It comes in pieces, lots and lots of pieces that eventually come together in a solid piece of work.
We find Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) post Avengers, rattled to say the least. Having panic attacks and a serious identity crisis, Tony’s having trouble reconciling himself as a guy in a “tin can” trying to protect what he loves (Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper) against gods and aliens. Meanwhile, didactic terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is committing atrocities all over the world as global think tank Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM!) headed by previously-written-off-now-charismatically-attractive Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is itching to get their volatile new regenerative Extremis formula into the hands of the highest bidder. As both The Mandarin and Killian strip him of everything he’s ever made, Tony must re-evaluate just what it is he’s made of (see what I did there?).
Now, just typing that was a lot. Watching it was also a lot. It was cool, but it was a lot. I’ve left out Rhodey and his inability to read the “Made by Terrorists” label on his suits (this is twice, sir!) and the morally flip-flopping creator of Extremis, not-a-botanist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) because I don’t want your head to explode. Antagonist wise, between the Mandarin, Killian, and volcano-people hopped up on Extremis, determining both the antagonist and their motive was more complicated than I wanted it to be. On the side of the Mandarin, I wanted more of a tie in to the Ten Rings, which I thought we were going to get ever since its mention in Iron Man. So it really felt like The Mandarin came out of nowhere when there was a nice big opportunity to tie him events from previous movies. On the side of the Killian and AIM, I couldn’t tell if they wanted Tony for his potential to stabilize the Extremis formula or if they were just after your run of the mill world domination or both. I ended up just going with, “Guy Pearce=bad guy” and kind of left it at that.
The pure gold of this movie comes from the scenes between Robert Downey, Jr. and Ty Simpkins as Harley Kenner, a kid in rural Tennessee (yes, we somehow got here) who helps Tony, sans suit and Jarvis, as he researches the origins of Extremis. The dialogue between these two characters is priceless as they tear down every Superhero/impressionable kid trope there has ever been. Oh, you were abandoned by your father? Don’t care. You want to keep helping me in your own way? Screw you and your Neverbugs! Simpkins holds his own with Downey, Jr., keeping the pace in scenes that came off as conversational and realistic. Watching the downward spiral that is Harley guiding (or rather provoking) Tony through an anxiety attack was hilarious. A move that could have been gag inducing turned out to be one of my absolute favorite parts of the movie.
Surprisingly, the rendering of the action scenes, which felt a little grandiose in the trailer, were not as jarring as I thought they’d be. It could have been overkill having a CGI’d cavalry of Iron Man suits but it was pretty stinking satisfying. A few shots were so acutely angled, quick, or, in the case of the water scenes, dark that it was hard to discern the action. But that’s just the way it goes in action movies these days.
My favorite aspect of the movie was the one I felt got a little muddled, unfortunately. The whole movie is about Tony figuring out just what he has to offer in a world that he understands less and less. There was a wonderful moment in the very beginning of the film as Tony just admits his fears to Pepper that showed just how far he’s come through these last three movies. No previous version of Tony Stark could have opened up like that or so early but this one, deftly respecting the passage of time and development of the character. This scene and the one following it did a beautiful job of illustrating just how unnerved Tony had become. In the end, he realizes that all of his accoutrements, the house, the suits, even Jarvis, are just extreme extensions of himself. He is the asset as the dreamer is actually more important than the dream. It’s a great idea that I loved (and was wonderfully portrayed by Downey, Jr.), but a lot of the plot points and admittedly awesome unmanned air rescue got in the way of it for me. While every action movie needs those distractions, there just seemed to be more than necessary in this one.
Then, to illustrate his newest revelation, Tony destroys all his armor and removes the arc reactor from his chest. While I knew I should be sharing Tony’s liberation, I felt like it was too much too quickly. This is all happening in literally the last five minutes of the movie and, for such a major life decision, I wondered if the possibility of removing the arc reactor could have been mentioned earlier in the film. First, I didn’t know removing the reactor and fixing Tony’s heart was an option and what are the repercussions if its taken? I guess I’m saying that’s a pretty big deal and I felt sideswiped by it just casually happening in a montage. And all of this makes you wonder if all this changes Tony’s ideas about The Avengers and his role therein, but, that’s beside the point. This movie is about Tony and good for him: he’s got his priorities straight and he’s finally on a solid foundation. Good on ya, buddy!
So, like I said, Iron Man 3 may have been a little jumbled but the thru-line of the story was captivating and well-played enough that it saves it from being written off as just another sequel. And thankfully, like Tony, it manages to exceed the sum of its parts, as shiny as they might be.
- It’s entertaining, if a little jerky on the pacing, and a great continuation of the Iron Man character. For Iron Man 3, “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do”
Iron Man 3. This franchise has single-handedly become the benchmark for what it means to be a comic book movie. It has now survived to the point of earning a third installment which, historically, can be where a franchise can start o slack in its freshness and lose touch with what made the original so strong. The continuing adventures of Tony Star and Iron Man are something that has been much-anticipated and the question has long been just how amazing will this adventure be.
After surviving the events of The Avengers film, it goes without saying that Tony’s life is drastically different. For perhaps the first time in his life, Tony’s finding himself unable to explain and at time get a hold on what he has experienced. Struggling with picking up the pieces of his life after those events is an excellent and strong story element to move forward with for this new chapter. Tony’s apparently been busy since New York with a vast number of new suits in his arsenal and a giant, stuffed bunny. There are also moments where Tony finds himself having to survive without his suit which have, rightfully so, been a defining characteristic for him. Unfortunately, that story element does not get enough focus in this flick. But with the inclusion of the Mandarin and the Extremis virus, there are so many story elements present in this film that end up being convoluted with straight narrative and action narrative struggling for screen time throughout. The Mandarin villain turns out to be much softer than expected and the overall effectiveness of the Extremis virus is unclear. Of course, as has been the working formula with Marvel’s film studio, there are some light-hearted and comedic moments (that work really well) to balance out the dramatic pace of the film. The separate parts of the story all work and make since, but when forced together in a running time just over 2 hours, the overall story is not as effective as it should have been.
Many of the cast present throughout the majority of the franchise reprise their roles here. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts with more action to have in this one but still a bit of an unfortunate, secondary character. John Favreau also returns as Happy Hogan but is sadly not present for most of the flick due to the character being incapacitated for a large portion of the film. Don Cheadle reprises his role as James Rhodes, and gets to do the Iron Patriot armor that looks awesome but is grossly underused. But Rhodey gets some hardcore action in this go around. And Robert Downey Jr comes back as Tony Stark and once again proves why he is truly the only person that should be allowed to play that role. Of course there are some new faces here with Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall playing a pair of scientists that are surrounding the Extremis storyline. Guy makes an impressive performance early on but both he and Hall just become glorified line readers after a certain point. And Ty Simpkins makes a small but very effective appearance as Harley Keener. However, Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin makes a surprisingly hilarious and magnificent showing that gives him the most breakthrough performance alongside the titular character of course.
Visually speaking, this third Iron Man flick is just as much a visual spectacle as to be expected. True, there are no stunningly breathtaking visuals present, but the action set pieces are full of splash and excitement. The look of the suits in action is even better than ever however there’s left to be felt after the reveal of all of Tony’s other suits. The idea of seeing so many new suits in action was very exciting and seemed promising but turned out to be somewhat disappointing. However, things were kept fresh for the film with Tony being forced to spend so much time without his suits. We were treated with a reminding look at how and why he is so resourceful. But again, with so many story elements present, all fighting for screen time in a flick suffering with a runtime just over 2 hours, the overall integrity of the film is not what it should and could have been.
- For you Iron Man 3, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”