Heads up – sort of spoilers for Iron Man 3 ahead I guess.
So turns out The Avengers actually happened and it turns out The Avengers actually didn’t suck. Go figure. Marvel pulled out all the stops (a.k.a. Joss Whedon) and successfully pulled together four different franchises stemming from five different movies and arguably made a movie far better than any of its predecessors while simultaneously making so, so, so much money you guys. Like, more money than you will ever see in your entire life. Like, Tag Romney money. Like Avengers money.
But as daunting a task as pulling together four different franchises into one massively successful film juggernaut that doesn’t suck is, making the follow up to that massively successful film juggernaut is no small undertaking either.
Basically – “Iron Man 3 is the first Marvel movie to come out since The Avengers, so, be interested or something.”
The third (and/or fourth) entry in the Iron Man franchise is essentially what you’d expect from a third entry in a movie franchise; it’s something of a bigger, badder Iron Man movie that is vaguely conclusive and comes with its very own Cousin Oliver kid because when you’re out of ideas audiences always love kids. Right?
After watching the entire credits reel and standard Marvel post-credits scene I had a feeling similar, if not identical, to what I felt at the end of Iron Man 2: “That movie wasn’t that good.”
Robert Downey Jr. is as always a fantastic Tony Stark, arguably turning in his best performance as the billionaire Bob the Builder yet. Stark’s arc sees him dealing with PTSD after his brief pre-shawarma foray into space madness. It’s something of a midlife crisis and while it isn’t quite as fun as the prospect of watching him struggle with the Demon in a Bottle it does give Downey the opportunity to stretch his character a little further than in previous performances. Unfortunately a franchise can only survive on the shoulders of one superbly entertaining performance for so long.
The film’s two romantic leads, for instance, both fall flat in their own flatly flat ways. Gwyneth Paltrow continues to rake in a no doubt ungodly amount of money filling the shoes of the “every super hero needs some lady to get kidnapped and get saved by him and kiss him and get angry at him and then get kidnapped again and get saved again and kiss him again and maybe roll her eyes along the way” archetype. Does she do a terrible job of filling that archetype? No. But it’s a bland archetype that evokes not only a similarly bland performance but a predictable turn of events in the film’s finale.
Paltrow is, however, leaps and bounds more tolerable then her costar Rebecca Hall, who plays a magic botanist that Tony Stark wienered one time when Limp Bizkit was still in their prime because before Y2K we all did it all for the nookie. Rebecca Hall turns in a familiar performance as the same sort of pouty, pathetic, insufferably helpless female lead we see her portray in the likes of The Town or The Prestige. I couldn’t help holding my breath for the moment her character would sad herself to death.
Don Cheadle has an entertaining turn as James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, a.k.a. Iron Patriot, but The Cheads doesn’t get nearly enough screen time and War Machine gets almost none to the point where his only real action sequence is essentially comic relief. Say what you will about Iron Man 2, but the final shoot out in the atrium was a sight to behold and one that isn’t repeated, or even attempted, in Iron Man 3.
The villains in Iron Man 3 prove to be something of a mixed bag in that on one hand they are not carbon copies of Iron Man like the preceding entries in the Iron Man franchise but on the other hand none of them are Sam Rockwell. And on a third hand by the time the inevitable villainous end game was finally revealed I literally stood up in the middle of a crowded theater, hurled my empty popcorn bucket, empty zip lock bag, cutting board and credit card at the screen and screamed “no shit” at the top of my lungs while blood pumped out of my nose in rivers of fury-fueled ferocity.
But as I had time out of the theater to come down, blow my nose and think about what I’d seen, much like Iron Man 2, I found Iron Man 3 began to grow on me.
Is the villain’s end game ground breaking? No. But the motivations of the antagonist do serve as something of a counterpoint to Tony Stark’s own personal journey throughout the films thus far and while the inevitable big bad brilliant plan was pretty standard fare I can forgive the film that considering its adaptation of the villain The Mandarin.
Traditionally, the Mandarin is a stupid wizard with seven stupid power rings and I guess he’s supposed to be the stupid magical counterpart to Tony Stark’s scientifically granted powers or something. But at the end of the day he is at best the bad guy in a breakfast cereal commercial. What the writers of Iron Man 3 have done with Iron Man’s arch nemesis, however, fits perfectly into the world that has been crafted in the earlier Iron Man films and is arguably the most interesting aspect of the movie.
Additionally credit has to be given where credit is due – the directors Jon Favreau and Shane Black. Yeah, yeah, Jon Favreau, the director of the first two entries in the franchise isn’t helming the film this time around, but he’s still in for round three as Tony’s driver/bro-for-life Happy, and he provides solid comic relief.
Shane Black, the actual director, should also be credited for taking an interest in the hero Tony Stark is in his Converses and hoodie rather than in his Iron Man suit, which is clear to see when the finale approaches and neither Stark or Rhodes are in their armor. Had the rest of the movie gone for a more “Tony and Rhodie – Buddy Cops” vibe I can’t help but suspect it would have been the greatest movie ever made with the name “Iron Man 3.”
When all is said and done I’m definitely going to see Iron Man 3 again. It’s the kind of movie that’s destined to become a cable television staple on weekend afternoons because while it misses a lot of opportunities, at the end of the day, much like Downey and The Cheads, Iron Man 3 is charming. Not fantastic, mind you, but charming. Like when an ugly boy dresses up nice and asks a pretty girl out on a date.
I really thought by the time I finished writing my way through this Man of Steel would be out.