Iron Man movies suffered quite an unfortunate fate of being the first in the Marvel's bunch of superheroes movies, ultimately being compiled into Avengers. In other words, Iron Man was an experiment of an experiment. The problem here lies in the fact that, although the movies turned out better than anyone could've hoped, they are binded by their respective popularity and audience. What I want to say is that some people who enjoyed Thor's magical superhero adventures in his movie, would probably find Captain America's World War II setting overly realistic and brutal, while the audience who were enjoying Tony Stark's larger than life personality and lifestyle could easily think of Hulk, as a nerd with personal issues. Again, it doesn't mean that the movies aren't exciting and perfectly executed, but each one of them was betting on a formula, which was working for their first instalments just great, but is uncertain to work as well for their continuations. Well, sequels for Captain America and Thor are not far from their releases, so we're going to see how their directors pull themselves out of repetition, but what I'm almost certain about is that Iron Man is already lost inside of his own clichés and formulas. Then again, it could all easily be explainable through the bad direction, which is the main disadvantage of this movie.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is enjoyable. It’s not exactly as exciting as the first movies were, but it definitely works as a spectacle, and really, that’s what the Iron Man movies always were about. A little silly, a little extreme, and quite unbelievable – and yes, I am aware that I’m talking about a man in a power armour, shooting lasers. But that's when the problems are starting to show up. Let me list all of the issues that I found in the movie, in a handy list that people who don’t have time to read the whole thing, can easily enjoy.
Movie is okay. It’s not grand, but not bad. Here’s your review right now. The list and paragraphs below contain major spoilers. If you don’t like everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) about the movie spoiled for you, go watch it, first. Consider yourself warned. Okay? So, here's the list:
1. No avengers
2. No antagonist
3. No fantasy
4. No surprises
5. No focus
I think it’s fair to start with the general story. America is under the terrorist attacks from a mysterious terrorist, who calls himself Mandarin, who wants to “teach America a lesson”, by blowing up everything. In the meantime, Tony Stark is battling some problems of his own, secluding himself from the world and his wife, locking himself up in the basement and playing with his toys, i.e. constructing Iron Man armours, one after another. When one of the terrorist attacks leaves his ex-bodyguard on the brink of death, he quite literally tells Mandarin his address, and what do you know, his house gets destroyed at the most inconvenient time. While everyone is left relatively fine, Tony finds himself in the middle of Tennessee (or Illinois. I don’t remember and it isn’t important, really. It’s cold out there), almost hitting a car on his way down, and losing all the power in his suit, in the process. By the way, if it was an ideal world, the car would’ve belonged to one Logan, who would travel from Canadian border to New York, and probably tell Tony some inspirational words about personal strength and technology being nothing, but a tool in the right man’s hands, or something like that. Anyway, since it’s not an ideal world, he simply goes to some small town, befriends a boy mechanic, and finds out that terrorist bombs aren’t bombs at all, but actual people, who were tricked and used as explosives by some guys with super strength and regenerative abilities (you see how perfect Logan would be in this context?), all of them, as it later turns out, were made by a maniacal businessman, who was trying to create a world war, for some vague reason. In any case, long story short, they all return to New York, president gets captured and Tony, with the help of his friends, and his suits that he activated at once and controls through Jarvis, beat all the regenerating, exploding, super-strong bad guys. Oh, did I mention that the regenerative process was called “Extremo”? Yeah, it leads to absolutely nothing. Anyway, Pepper actually gets injected with this super serum and transforms into She-Hulk (just kidding. But wouldn’t it be awesome?), and smashes the main bad guy, almost with her bare hands. After that, Tony explodes all of his suits to show her he’s over his anxiety, and they all celebrate the New Year. Did I mention all of this happens on New Year’s Eve? It’s strange, since, you know, it’s May right now, so there’s absolutely no reason to tie everything to the New Year. Oh, and at the very end, Tony gets the shrapnel finally removed from his chest, immediately raising an old question, why the hell wouldn’t he do that in the first movie. Anyway, that’s about it. I’ve missed many small details, but really, most of them are character development and don’t play any role in the end. So, if you understood the general story, let’s find the Devil.
1. No Avengers
The first problem is somewhat surprising, but not entirely so. People who only enjoy Iron Man movies probably wouldn’t want seeing some other dude in tights showing up, stealing the show – or, at least, that’s what my take on it. On the other hand, it’s somewhat baffling, why we don’t even see anyone from the avengers, at any point. And I mean it literally: doctor Banner never shows up to help Tony when some mutant-looking people start showing up. When Iron Patriot enters the scene (by the way, quite anti-climactically), there’s not a single joke about Cap, commenting about someone, using his style, or anything. The only thing that reminds us of the grand events that happened in Avengers is the fact that Tony Stark now suffers from anxiety attacks, after those moments when he travelled to outer space – but obviously, the reason for this could easily be anything that happened in Iron Man 2, and nothing would’ve changed. There are absolutely no continuations of any subplots from Avengers, no Easter eggs – or at least, no obvious ones – and no characters from them. For Christ’s sake, there is no S.H.I.E.L.D., which played a major role in Iron Man 2, if you don’t remember. It was completely surprising for me, and minute after minute, I expected Nick Fury showing up, or Captain America helping Stark in some difficult situation – after all, one of the main stories of Iron Man 2 was Tony, coming in terms with his father, who loved Cap probably even more than him. It would only be obvious if the second part was actually coming in terms with Cap, who Tony quite obviously blamed for his problematic relationships with his father. My god, by the end of the damn movie, most of the problems would’ve been rendered non-existent, by a single call to Colonel Fury, yet no one even tries to justify, why the matters of national safety suddenly don’t bother the most powerful of all of nation’s agencies. Anyway, there are no Avengers, so if you bothered yourself with the question “how are they going to mix Tony Stark’s personal movie with all the other superheroes?” then the answer is “they are not”.
2. No antagonist
Did you think I forgot about the Mandarin, when I wrote about the story? No, I did not. Because there is NO MANDARIN. I can’t stress this enough. This was the main twist in the whole movie, but instead of going all “Woah! That’s brave and original!” I went “What? You've got to be kidding me”. So, the dude you’ve seen in the trailers and who the movie was building up to become the most dangerous enemy Tony Stark had to face? He’s a junkie actor, who was hired by the main bad guy, in order to drive everyone’s attention from the fact that the actual bad guy is a white businessman in a suit, in his thirties. So, basically, just like every other Iron Man’s enemy. And no matter how hard the movie tries to pose him as a personal threat (he kidnaps, tortures and almost kills Pepper, all in front of Tony’s eyes, and he became evil when Tony made him wait for an hour on the roof of a hotel, in 1999. No, seriously), he simply isn’t threatening or charismatic to serve as an antagonist. Thus, I simply call him a bad guy, since I can’t even remember the dude’s name. Of course, antagonists never were a strong point of the Iron Man movie universe, but seriously. Again with the evil white businessman? It’s just tired. In any case, after Mandarin turned out to be nothing but a terrorist organization in the first Iron Man, here, Mandarin is simply nothing. And no, there is no one to count as an evil character. There’s a businessman, several of his superpowered goons, their small terrorist army, and that’s it.
3. No fantasy.
One of the main revelations of Avengers’ success was that you can, in fact, make a serious action movie with magic in real world. Not only magic, but mythical beings, ancient legends and powerful artefacts suddenly were fair play, and S.H.I.E.L.D. storage could be a great solution to the most difficult of problems, as well as a great McGuffin, if the writer would want it. But, as I said, nothing from the Avengers showed up in this movie, just as any technology or magic that was used, dropped or created in Avengers and all the other Marvel movies. Red Skull’s laser weapons? Not a mention. Alien army’s giant bugs? What giant bugs? Oh, so you want some vibranium for your suits? Stupid Iron Man, there’s no such thing. Unless you’re talking about that thing in your chest, which was told by Marvel themselves to be vibranium, which was kind of stupid, but whatever. So, there is no magic. The regenerating bad guys were entirely created out of a McGuffin technology, never mentioned in any Marvel movies before and Tony’s technological advancements never used anything, resembling the powers that we saw in Avengers. Of course, since I said that there’s no Mandarin, this means there are no rings of Mandarin, as well. The movie is purely technological, to the point where you sometimes wonder, if it’s set before any other Marvel movies.
4. No surprises.
Whatever fan theories were thrown around about Iron Man 3, are not true. Not a single person, important to the story, dies. Not a single great revelation is done. The bad guy isn’t controlled by Loki, Pepper doesn’t die to make a new spin on Tony Stark’s playful character. Suits don’t become intelligent and attack Tony Stark (You remember that night bedroom scene from the trailer? Forget it), and no, Tony Stark doesn’t get regeneration and his suit isn’t implanted into his skin, by a long shot. Although it may be reserved for Iron Man 4, or even Avengers 2, there’s simply nothing surprising about the story, whatsoever.
5. No focus.
You might argue that it’s the problem with all of Iron Man movies, but this doesn’t mean you should let it slip. The movie lacks focus, both in story, and in pacing. Action scenes suddenly turn into heart-warmers, philosophical scenes are suddenly funny scenes, and New York suddenly turns into some shit-hole, Illinois. The movie seriously lacks focus, and if there’s anything to blame the director for, it’s this. You never get enough time to fully appreciate whatever part of story that you are presented with, before it suddenly breaks into some other episode. Oh, and don’t let me get started on plot holes. I don’t even want to list the ones I’ve noticed on my first time, watching the movie, since there are so many of them, even if you only count Iron Man movies. Hell, even if you only count this movie. Besides, I’m pretty sure that if you see it, you’re going to notice everything yourself. Anyway, “consistency” is not a word I could apply to any part of the movie.
So, these are my issues with Iron Man 3 – or, at least, the ones I can think of right now, anyway. As I said, I don’t count it as a bad movie. It’s a weak one, sure, but not a flop, by any way. Although the director isn’t quite fit for anything that doesn’t count as action, he’s really good at action, at least. The action scenes are quite impressive, and really imaginative. The fact that most of the movie, Tony runs without his suit, creates surprisingly unusual action sequences and the choreography of it all is quite impressive and stunning. Other than action, well, the story itself is quite unusual. I think that the writers did their job alright, and I bet that the deleted scenes and commentaries will explain several quite baffling story turns (for example - there’s literally no explanation as to why Tony turned up in Illinois. It looks like the writers really wanted to change the location, and couldn’t think of any valid reasons for it).
Wrapping up, it’s a good action movie, but it’s far from a step up, from the previous Iron Man movies, and is definitely a step down from the Avengers. I really hope that Marvel won’t take it as a standard for their next movies, simply because the people will come anyway, but while it fades in comparison with the other Marvel movies (I’ll even go on a limb and say that it’s the weakest movie in the bunch), it’s still a great spectacle, in the midst of movie spring break. The next Marvel movie will show, if Iron Man 3 will end as an outcast, or being a start of a downfall, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a waste of money. Not until the DC Movie Universe starts forming, at least.