Again I’m hopelessly late to the party (at least I got that Pacific Rim review up in the first week). Iron Man 3 is a spectacular mix of comedy and both large and small-scale action with a couple of annoying weaknesses. Spoilers follow.
I liked the proliferation of villains: Chase from Day 3 of 24 as Eric Savin, Ellen Brandt out in Tennessee, Guy Pearce undergoing quite the transformation from the prologue, the ambivalent Maya (whose role really isn’t that clear), and Ben Kingley’s ultimately hilarious interpretation of the Mandarin that fits the more realistic movie universe. I liked the references to PTSD from the events of The Avengers movie (though Stark’s flippancy made it difficult to take seriously), Stark’s interaction with the kid, the skydiving sequence, and the attention paid to Pepper (who deserves it). I liked how the scale of the conflict varied from aerial acrobatics to bar fights, and I particularly liked it when Stark found himself without his suit and his gadgets.
Despite Iron Man being defined by his inventions, I think the movie is strongest when it places them to the side. The segmented suit is a bit too much deus ex machina when Stark is captured, and I really disliked the multi-suit ending battle. It drains the tension and danger when dozens and dozens of autonomous suits with all sorts of weapons and special powers turn up to fight for Stark. Who cares if one suit is destroyed, when five take its place? Rather than a desperate final confrontation, it’s a fireworks show, and I was cheering every time Aimes smashed one of the suits – not a good sign.
Finally, in a throwaway montage of images, Stark turns his back on the Iron Man gig – I liked that it wraps up the franchise, but with more Avengers movies on the way, how seriously can we take this?
The original Iron Man was fresh: Robert Downey Junior’s method acting of a rich, narcissistic playboy hit the mark, and the movie was fueled by Stark turning over a new leaf. Iron Man 2 was a retread of the elements of the first movie, but lacked an emotional centre and didn’t go anywhere new (the racetrack scene had me on the edge of my seat though). Iron Man 3 covers a lot of territory, but it’s a movie of things happening – Stark’s character is mostly static, and he never really confronts his treatment of Aimes or Maya even though that would have been a great conflict.
During the end credits the screen is blotted out by several screens of visual effects artists – I suppose this is what modern film-making has become. Iron Man 3 made over $1.2 billion at the box office, so this combination of franchise, star power, and visual effects definitely worked for it. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work for me.