2.5/4, 2010s, Action, Marvel, Review

Iron Man 3

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#14 in my Ranking of The MCU Phases 1-3.

This movie has large sections of it that work quite well in isolation, but the movie as a whole doesn’t really come together like it should.

I realized something was wrong pretty early. Tony has been tinkering ever since his close encounter with a nuclear weapon in New York, losing himself in his work and developing dozens of Iron Man suits. When confronted by the events of that day, he has anxiety attacks. Meanwhile, a terrorist called The Mandarin has been setting off explosions around the world and delivering messages to the American devil. One explosion occurs in Los Angeles and Tony’s former bodyguard Happy gets grievously harmed because of it. This is where I realized something was off. Tony has an emotional reaction that is way too much for the situation, and his unveiled threat to The Mandarin in response is too angrily directed at The Mandarin himself.

Wait, that doesn’t make sense, does it? Happy has been at Tony’s side since the beginning of the first movie. Of course an attack on him is going to piss Tony off. And here’s where the difference between the intention of a movie and its actual execution becomes important. Happy is barely a character. He was largely a source of mild laughs in the middle of light sequences. He had never developed an emotional connection with Tony or with the audience, so to see Happy in danger and to have his injury drive Tony’s next series of actions that are meant to be powered with high emotion feels unsupported by what’s actually come before. Injuring Pepper, Tony’s girlfriend, though, would have done it. For all the faults of the first two Iron Man movies, they did manage to sell the relationship between Tony and Pepper well enough so that if Pepper had been injured and Tony had delivered the exact same speech it would have landed emotionally.

The reverse of that are ideas that seem curious but end up being executed fairly well all while feeling isolated from the rest of the story. Tony getting isolated in Tennessee with the plucky kid is an example of this. The plucky kid is a trope of movies, especially sequels, in order to artificially heighten stakes and create a new dynamic for the characters to explore. The kid here, though, gets treated like an adult by Tony. He doesn’t soften at the kid’s doe eyes, nor does he learn his lesson in abandonment through him, he’s there to help Tony in a time of need, and I think it largely works. However, it’s done in isolation and feels extraneous at best.

The other major element that I really like on its own but doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the movie is The Mandarin himself. Now, fans of the comic hate this interpretation of The Mandarin because it turns a terrifying and evil character into a joke, but I am not a fan of the comics, I think lack of adherence to source material is a junk criticism, and I quite like him. The subversion of the big bad being the main target, leaving the guy we’ve thought is the bad guy as the actual antagonist, is a fun one, and I think it’s handled well. The Mandarin gets built up very well throughout the movie with his video messages to the world, and the sudden deflation of that image to find out that he’s a drugged out cockney actor named Trevor is really funny. However, it feels like just extra stuff, like material you could cut without much trouble.

So, yeah, I have some problems with how the movie’s constructed. There doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong throughline for the whole story, though by the end of it, it becomes obvious that Tony’s supposed to be learning to say goodbye to the suit. I think the movie largely supports that, though. He doesn’t have a full working suit in the whole movie. In fact, he spends most of the movie having to solve his problems without a suit. From the moment he lands in Tennessee to when his suit flies to him in Miami (which is about an hour or so), Tony is just Tony. He has to solve his problems without the high tech gear he encases himself in all the time. In fact, he has to go out and get analog in finding ways to beat down badguys by running into a hardware store and collecting a couple cartloads of stuff to make offensive weapons. He’s learning that he can live without the suit.

However, that core idea is hidden behind a bunch of other stuff (like Trevor, the kid, and some political talk that never goes anywhere). The movie looks fantastic, though. This is the first standalone Marvel movie that got seriously huge wads of cash thrown at it, and it shows. The attack on Tony’s cliffside mansion is one of the most beautiful scenes of pure destruction I’ve seen. The final battle with the few dozen Iron Man suits flying around it detailed and inventive.

There’s great fun to be had in this movie, but the movie as a whole is disjointed and full of distractions. In terms of construction, I think a couple more drafts might have smoothed out the whole experience and created something more successful.

Netflix Rating: 3/5

Quality Rating: 2.5/4

6 thoughts on “Iron Man 3”

  1. I really enjoyed this one a lot more than most people. I agree with the points you raise, and especially thought the handling of the Mandarin was refreshing.

    What people don’t seem to get is that this isn’t really an Iron Man movie. It’s a Tony Stark movie.


    1. I really like that aspect, that it’s about Tony and not an iron suit flying around. I think Shane Black had the right idea for how to approach the material, but the execution just feels rushed and incomplete.

      I mean, at the end of the first movie, Tony says, “I am Iron Man,” in that moment that everyone flipped their shit for, so where’s the delineation? Is Tony Iron Man without the suit? Or is the suit Iron Man without Tony? It wasn’t a bad thing to explore at all, gosh I just wish he had smoothed everything out with another draft.


      1. Actually, I think it’s not Tony having to do without the suit, it’s Tony having to do without Jarvis. Jarvis really ran things in the suit, Tony just sort of pointed. IM3 was Tony Stark having to do his own work without a super-computer in his ear.


  2. This is the worst movie in the canon, according to some of my friends. I won’t go that far, but it does go in the ‘pisses me off’ column instead of the ‘yes, let’s watch it over and over’ column.

    It’s not all bad.

    It feels like Tony Stark is figuring himself out in this movie. And some of who he is deserves admiration and some of who he is deserves a hard smack. I like that he doesn’t give up. I like that he is able to function heroically even without his suit. He IS a mechanic, an inventor and this movies shows that. I like that he has PTSD after the events of the Avengers, I like that he, and the movie, acknowledge the events of other movies. It makes both seem more real.

    There’s some really funny Shane Black dialog, especially with the kid. (“I’m cold.” “I know. You know why I know? Because we have a connection.” and then he drives off, leaving the kid in the snow.)

    I’m in the hate camp for the Mandarin. Not just because of the comic deviation, but because it undercut it’s own storytelling and ruined an opportunity to have an interesting bad guy. Instead of…boring Guy Pearce corporate bad guy. Pisses me off what they did compared to what they could have done. Plus I don’t appreciate the whole ‘terrorism as a racket for controlling people’ theme. I get enough of that bullshit from Liberals in real life, or did back when people actually cared about killing terrorists.

    There’s a LONG laundry list of what didn’t work for me besides the Mandarin:
    Pepper Potts.
    Pepper Potts getting superpowers.
    Pepper Pots getting superpowers and saving Tony.
    Pepper Potts getting superpowers and then nothing is ever mentioned about it again.
    Blowing up all the Iron Man suits in the end.
    Issuing a personal challenge to a terrorist org and then doing NOTHING to get ready for an attack.
    Lack of hot naked chicks. Or least hot chicks getting banged by Tony.
    The bad guy
    The bad guy’s powers
    Tony spending most of the movie without his super suit.

    I could go on but I won’t. But I could.

    The movie is a wasted opportunity and a fuck up with some funny moments. Forgetable and avoidable. Not the worst, but mostly because I like Shane Black dialog and Thor 2 exists.


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