(DL) – Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) opens Iron Man 3 narrating with an analogy to summarize the entire story before we experience it. It's not good. And that sums up what you can expect of the entire movie experience. It's not good. It doesn't suck, but as Iron Man 3 continues with characters quoting forgettable analogies meant to be memorable, they fail even in the category of cliché.
The producers of Iron Man 3 had a host of good stories to pull out from the Iron Man cannon. Extremis being a great choice as Iron Man ( 2008) essentially features the new desert origin with the modern armor design. Both Iron Man ( 2008) and Iron Man 3 (2013) borrow heavily from the Extremis storyline, a six part comic book series written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Adi Granov.
With such a great start to Marvel's film version of Iron Man, you'd expect any more of Extremis to be a big hit on film. It misses. I blame director Shane Black. He makes great use of Robert Downey Jr's interpretation of Tony Stark by way of Tony's selfish humor, but everything else about Iron Man is watered down. Many will argue that Iron Man 3 is filled with action. If you constitute Iron Man parts flying around by themselves or attaching them to Tony as action, then I stand corrected. Watching Tony drag it around, sit on the couch in it and fly out of a bar using it as his ride home is not action. Continuity comes into question numerous times. What is with the sudden power concern? Didn't he resolve that issue with the arc reactor in the previous two installments? Another question you'll need to ask yourself is why do the Iron Man suits suddenly show weakness to heat? I'm all for suspending disbelief, don't mess with continuity or movie goers struggle to stay on board.
The Extremis as a rogue chemical enhancement concept is never explained well. Thankfully the comic book Extremis bio-computer enhancement is left out of Iron Man 3 and won't enter into Iron 4 if one should be made. Perhaps the biggest killjoy in experiencing Iron Man 3 is Watching Tony Stark trot around almost the entire film in a non-working Iron Man suit. Here is a tip for directors attempting to try and inject some character into characters, when it's a superhero, stop giving us the actor portraying the character, give the audience the superhero. The idea of Tony Stark using his brain power to beat bad guys without his suit is not good for IMAX 3D, or 3D. In fact it's not good for any summer blockbuster. Action movies are about action. Don't forget the action. The Mark 42 Iron Man suit is also – and this is a subjective statement, ugly. Perhaps it's better said that it has no screen presence.
Worse yet, Iron Man 3 is a comic book action movie. It threatens us with action and does not deliver. While it's nice to see any film break from the often overused opening action scene, why would you begin a comic book superhero movie without any action beyond a two second flash forward implication of his Iron Man suit collection being blown up? You know the scene, you've seen it in the trailers.
In fact if you've seen the trailers, you've seen the first third of the film except for the assorted Iron Man suits lining up on screen in the dark of night ready for battle in support of Tony. Initially as I watched the film this comforted me as I thought, "Now when I see another action scene, it will be something I didn't expect." Well, that's just it, there was so little exciting action that all the drama and pacing of Tony chasing down clues as if he were now Batman, it just got long and disappointing.
Characters drive stories. They must be believable or your lose your audience. I think I was lost when Tony said one line to a character that had traveled down the wrong path for 10 years and in seconds changed their values. For someone so committed to accomplishing their own goals with a lifetime agenda at stake, then giving it up to 'do the right thing' was a crock. I get it that you have a limited amount of screen time to take characters through arcs but that was total BS. There is some product placement in Iron Man 3. Enjoy it. It is as low key as an political messages. It seems in the case Hollywood has not taken and sides, aside from featuring mostly liberal based news media and liberal news personalities characters in the film from Bill Maher to MSNBC. No, that wasn't obvious.
Was it nice to see characters return? Of course. Did they develop much? No, not really. We do get to see Pepper Pots in the Iron Man armor. In fact it seems everyone gets to wear the armor which dulls the allure of having Tony wear it. While Tony doesn't have to 'grow' in every story, there are great story devices left unattended such as his battle with alcoholism. If the comic book can take on the issue, why can't a film version? Instead he gets the same lame problem Spider-Man got in Spider-Man 2 (2004). Tony gets a case of anxiety. The reason he gets anxiety is asinine. Yet somehow this is the most entertaining twist in the film as it wasn't portrayed in the same cliché manner Toby McGuire did in Spider-Man in Spider-Man 2 where he couldn't use his super powers. Instead, Tony has some all too real Tony moments with a pre-teen which are highly entertaining. Yet another let down is the team up scene of Iron Man and Iron Patriot. Okay, they did that in Iron Man 2, don't do the same thing over again, but when you include the same characters, then you've already ventured into that territory. Do it right if you do it at all. Wasted.
An annoying continuity issue also plagues Iron Man 3. Battery power. It needs to be said and this is no real spoiler. Tony has battery power issues but the fact is his power source in his chest, that famous arc reactor is all the battery he needs right? Somehow that is completely ignored in Iron Man 3. It's like without explanation making vampires that can walk in daylight after years of knowing light should kill them.
It is realistic for any fan of comic book movies to expect the third installment to either expand on the cannon or tie previous efforts up on a nice bow. Again, Iron Man 3 taunts us with this idea but misses the mark in absolute failure. A glaring example is wasting the character The Mandarin. He's built up so well in expectation and flops huge. A secondary villain in the story is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). As always Guy Pearce's screen presence is great. He brings the goods as a worthy adversary. Guy owns the screen when he's a scene.
Looking back, Iron Man 2's sophomore effort fell a bit short of the stunning introduction of Iron Man in the first film. Yet even Iron Man 2 had more energy than Iron Man 3. I'm no fan of Jerry Bruckheimer's over the top action films but Shane Black could in fact learn a thing or two about action in that this a comic book movie and the level of action, not the action itself, but the level of action in Iron Man 3 is subpar and flat. If he wanted to be as dramatic as Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, he wasted a big budget on a weak story.
After the Iron Manwe get in the Avenger's, the expectation of Iron Man 3 is a rock solid story line married to the expected increased action in a third installment. Instead it's convoluted in a pace that is more like a B-grade action movie with an antagonist we all expected to impress us but turns out to be a lie in every way.
TRIVIA: Tony unknowingly meets the good doctor that saved his life in the cave in Iron Man (2008) in the opening year 2000 new year's eve flashback scene of Iron Man 3. Yes, there is an Easter Egg at the end after the credits. It has no connection to any future Marvel film but fun to watch. Tony Stark references Westworld in Iron Man 3. It is film made in the early 1970's cult film starring Yul Brynner as a robot Cowboy gone wrong.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Ironman/Tony Stark) Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) Don Cheadle (War Machine/Iron Patriot/Rhodey) Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin) Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian)
Written by: Shane Black, Drew Pearce
Directed by: Shane Black
Run Time 2 hr. 15 min