Review - Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 (2013), PG-13, 130 minutes - Iron Man 3.  Wow.  There's quite a bit to say and I'm not really sure where to start (and that's after thinking about it all last night and this morning).  There were things that I liked and things that I didn't.  I'm not sure that I've worked it all out yet, but I do know this for sure: there will be a longer than usual spoiler section at the end of this post.

Iron Man 3 starts off with a narration from Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) himself, thinking aloud, trying to figure out how to best tell the story of how he has gotten to this point in his life.  He starts once, stops, then starts again, flashing back to a technology conference held over New Year's of 2000, settling on that as the point at which everything currently happening can be traced back to.  That flashback sequence sets up some of the major players of Iron Man 3, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) as well as giving us a younger look at both Tony and Happy Hogan (director of the first two Iron Man films, Jon Favreau).  It is at that conference that Tony gets his first glimpse of Extremis, a bio-engineering program created by Hansen that re-writes portions of a DNA strand making rapid healing and even regeneration of lost limbs possible.  It has only been tested on plant life at this point, and despite being wildly successful, is also quite unstable.  Should Extremis not be fully accepted by the host it is introduced to, it causes a violent reaction resulting in a massive explosion.

Back in the present, Tony has been trying to deal with the events of last summer's billion and a half dollar making The Avengers.  He's experiencing panic attacks and having a hard time processing the fact that he helped stave off an alien invasion.  That's just a whole other level of weird for his scientific mind to handle.  He's pretty much walled himself off in his mansion, constantly tinkering with new variations of his Iron Man armor to pass his time.  His latest breakthrough is the Mark 42, which with the help of electromagnetic implants, he is able to command with his thoughts.  A series of terrorist attacks by a man who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey) draws Tony out of his self imposed exile when one of the attacks leaves Happy clinging to life in a coma.  Tony makes a public vow to personally take down The Mandarin and the action sequences of Iron Man 3 really ratchet up from there.

Overall, the story for Iron Man 3 is pretty good (I do have a major problem with a particular character, but I'll elaborate on that in the spoiler section).  I like the expanded role that Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets, both as acting CEO of Stark Industries and as Tony's now live-in girlfriend.  Pearce and Hall were nice additions to the cast and Don Cheadle reprises his role as Rhodey.  Paul Bettany gets more work as the voice of Jarvis and William Sadler even gets in a little screen time as President Ellis (of course, any time I see Heywood from The Shawshank Redemption I'm happy).  Shane Black (writer of the Lethal Weapon films and Downey, Jr. starring Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) co-wrote and directed, taking over for Jon Favreau.  Other than a couple small bits of dialogue, I felt his work fit in quite well with the rest of the trilogy.

For most of the movie-going public, Iron Man 3 will be considered a very entertaining movie.  A good rule of thumb?  If you liked The Avengers, you'll almost assuredly love Iron Man 3.  The action is huge, the humor is there, and there's a little relationship drama thrown in with everything else.  For those like me who have even an inkling of comic book nerd in them, there are a couple of things that will stick out like a sore thumb.  That's not to say that they make this a bad movie, they just lessened the enjoyment. As is the case with all Marvel Studios productions, there's a post credits scene.  Use your own discretion as to whether or not you stay for it.  Previous Marvel installments have used this scene as a teaser for another upcoming Marvel film, but this one is just a humorous clip.  It was amusing but not worth waiting through all of the credits in my opinion.

So what's my final verdict on Iron Man 3?  It's really tough to say.  I have enjoyed all three of the entries into the franchise but I definitely like the original Iron Man the best.  It is easily the strongest from a story standpoint and isn't slowed down at all by telling Tony's origin story.  As for 2 or 3, I think it's a toss up for me and probably depends on what mood I'm in.  If not for one major character trait change, I'd place 3 ahead of 2, but I'm not sure if the comic book nerd in me is able to look past it.











*****SPOILERS*****

I'm going to get the couple of things that really bugged me out of the way first:

- The twist that Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian was the actual Mandarin and Ben Kingsley's Mandarin was just a drunk/stoned actor giving The Mandarin a menacing public face drove me absolutely crazy for a couple of reasons.  The advance marketing for Iron Man 3 has hyped Kingsley's Mandarin as the primary villain for months.  To marginalize him the way they did, making him Killian's puppet was very disappointing.  There is precedent in the comics for the publicly portrayed persona of The Mandarin differing from that of the actual man, but in that case (Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 from 2010 by Matt Fraction and Carmine Di Giandomenico) The Mandarin abducts, tortures, and blackmails a highly respected film director to make a biopic about his life, the story of which he highly embellishes (for example, he claims to be a direct descendant of Ghangis Khan, but is actually the bastard son of a whore).  The Mandarin is still the same menacing, evil figure, he just tweaked his own back story to appear more important.  The movie just shows Killian (who is only alive for a few pages of Warren Ellis' and Adi Granov's Extremis story line from 2005) embodying the actual Mandarin and hiding behind the facade of a theater actor.

- It is a much smaller problem than The Mandarin switch, but I felt that Tony took a couple of really unnecessary and out of character stabs at the boy who was helping him (Harley, played by Insidious' Ty Simpkins).  Twice he makes sarcastic, mean spirited comments to Harley about the fact that his father had left he and his mother years before.  These comments just felt out of place.

- I felt that Maya Hansen's story was cut short.  She had a one night stand with Tony back in the day, and invented Extremis.  She partner's with Killian and is even in on Killian's plans to abduct Tony and blackmail him into helping figure out how to stabilize Extremis.  She stands up to Killian once, trying to keep more people from being unnecessarily killed and he just shoots her.  Her involvement isn't even thought of again after that. It's even more frustrating because Rebecca Hall is a good actress and she got shortchanged.

- What no AC/DC whatsoever?  We don't need a two hour long AC/DC music video, but their music has been an overarching theme in the previous Iron Man movies and even when he first appeared in The Avengers.  No AC/DC at all in this film was a little odd.

I really did enjoy the majority of the movie, so here are the spoilery reasons behind what I did like:

- While taking some liberties, Iron Man 3 pulls heavily from the ideas put forth in the comics from the creative teams of Warren Ellis/Adi Granov and Matt Fraction/Salvador LaRocca/Carmine Di Giandomenico.      Not only did Extremis come from the Ellis/Granov run, but so did the electro-magnetically controlled Mark 42 concept, as well as Tony's updated origin that was used in the original Iron Man.  The Mandarin twist could be linked to the aforementioned Fraction/Di Giandomenico annual, even if it played out differently and I didn't care for the movie version.  Pepper using the Iron Man armor herself also echoes back to the Fraction/LaRocca run in which Tony made her her own 'Rescue' armor.

- I absolutely loved the inclusion of Ho Yinsen (Shaun Toub) in the flashback scene at the beginning of the film.  It was a nice nod back to the first Iron Man when after saving Tony's life, he explains that the two men had in fact met at a conference years before, a meeting that Tony does not remember occurring.

- I liked Happy's being an overzealous head of security.  It's was a tad predictable, but worked out well that his paranoia over Killian and his associate Savin (James Badge Dale) was well founded.

- Speaking of Happy, I absolutely loved his John Travolta as Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction-esque look in the flashback sequence and his reaction to the Extremis plant blowing up ('it's not Y2K?').

- I liked the addition of A.I.M. (Killian's Advanced Idea Mechanics) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

- It was cool seeing the many different armors that Tony had been tinkering with, although it would have been cooler to see more of a handful of them to better see their differing uses than seeing so many of them for a split second here or there.

- This was the last film that was covered by Robert Downey, Jr.'s contract with Marvel.  I would be completely surprised if he did not appear in Avengers 2 (2015) or even have a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) considering both his popularity as Stark and the character's inclusion in those comics. It will be interesting to see if he reprises Tony Stark in a lead role again in the future though.

- The post credits sequence was fun and I did like the Mark Ruffalo cameo as Bruce Banner nodding off when Tony has been trying to tell him his story.  Fun clip, but not worthy of waiting through credits for, and slightly disappointing when previous Marvel installments have used that space to feature a teaser related to an upcoming release of theirs.

- Obligatory Stan Lee cameo: he was a judge at the Miss Chattanooga contest.  To quote a joke with my old high school buddy Brandon: 'Only in Tennessee!'





***BONUS***

My review for Iron Man pre-dates the existence of this blog, so I'm sharing it as a bonus here now.  My review for Iron Man 2 can be seen here.

Archive Review - Iron Man (originally posted on Myspace on May 2, 2008)

Iron Man (PG-13), 2008, 126 minutes - The comic book nerd in me has never been a big fan of the Tony Stark/Iron Man character, but I've been looking forward to this movie since the teaser was released months ago. Not only did the movie meet my expectations, but Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of millionaire playboy Tony Stark actually makes me not dislike the character so much. He really turned out to be the perfect fit, maybe because Stark starts out very similar to Downey in his younger days.

Downey Jr leads what is easily the best collection of actors/actresses in terms of talent that has been assembled for a comic book based movie. He's joined by Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes (Stark's military weapon's liaison buddy), Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane (Stark's business partner who originally built Stark Industries with Tony's father), and Gweneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts (Stark's assistant and the story's love interest) all of whom bring good depth to their characters. Even Leslie Bibb's character (you've seen her in Talladega Nights) is deeper than the initial one night stand she appears to be when her Vanity Fair reporter character open's Stark's eyes to the underhanded business dealings of Obadiah Stane that have placed Stark Industries weapons (produced for the US Military) in the hands of radicals in Afghanistan.

The growth of Stark over the course of the movie makes him one of the deeper characters to have appeared in a Marvel comic based flick yet. He starts as the rich playboy without a care in the world and after being saved by a fellow prisoner in a radical camp in Afghanistan he realizes that everything he has accomplished through his company has hurt an untold number of people. He builds his first Iron Man armor from pieces of various Stark Industries weapon's that the Afghan group has in their camp (they want Stark to build them one of his Jericho missiles) and uses it to escape (while destroying as much of the camp as possible). Once home, he goes about building a newer, sleeker version of the armor that he can use to help track down Stark industries weapon's that have gotten into the wrong hands.

The visuals in Iron Man are great and the dialogue between characters is well written and often times quite humorous. This is the first movie that Marvel Studios produced by themselves and they did a very good job. Director Jon Favreau did an excellent job of moving the story along while implementing a bit of comedy here and there along with the necessary action for a summer blockbuster. There are even a couple bits that would serve as great lead-ins for a sequel (War Machine and Mandarin references), and that's BEFORE the comic book nerd friendly post-credit clip!

**** - I put this up in the upper echelon of comic book movies (i.e. Spider-Man, X-2, Batman Begins). Check it out, you won't be disappointed!

Comments

  1. I've got mixed feelings on this one. It was fun and funny and full of action, but I agree the character of Tony Stark felt a little off most of the time and villain was a let down. And I'm not sure how I felt about the ending...Granted, my judgement may be slightly clouded by the fact that we watched the movie in a crowded theater with someone's 4-yr old sitting behind us. The kid was making random noises and talking the entire time, and the only time he paid attention to the movie was when the suit came out and he said, "OHHHH! IRON MAN!!!"

    Unrelated: Did you catch the trailer for "Now You See Me" that played before the movie? That looks like an awesome concept and a helluva cast.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alisa and I were just commenting last night that 'Now You See Me' looks good when we saw the commercial. Add it to the long list of summer time flicks I need to find the time to see!

      Delete
    2. Oh yeah...glad I'm not the only one that felt like Tony was a little bit off (and not just because of the panic attacks). You're the first person that has agreed with me.

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