Why ‘Iron Man 3’ Should Have Been Called ‘Iron Meh 3’ – An Essay by Luke Hickman. [Warning: Spoilers ahead.]
For the first time since last November’s “Why I Thought ‘Skyfall’ Sucked” post, I’m back with another spoiler-filled rant dedicated to explaining why I thought ‘Iron Man 3’ is a mediocre three-quel and not even close to deserving the praise that it has been getting. If you haven’t seen ‘Iron Man 3’ yet, proceed with caution, because I’m about to blow every secret out of the shallow water in which they reside.
First off, let’s talk history. Everyone praises the first ‘Iron Man‘. Like the majority of the world, I love it too, but let’s not pretend that it’s perfect. You can’t ignore the fact that it has an underdeveloped villain thrown into the third act just to give the film a climax. Because the movie is an origins story – which it does very well – I’m willing to let that slide.
What I don’t understand is the trend of bashing ‘Iron Man 2‘. Sure, it’s jumbled with too much thrown-in ‘Avengers’ set-up, and the showdown between the heroes and the villain is extremely anti-climactic, but it’s still a fun blockbuster that features a lot of Iron Man destruction – which is something that you definitely cannot say for ‘Iron Man 3’.
When ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ opened last summer, a big complaint that I often heard was about how Bruce Wayne doesn’t put on the Batman suit for nearly an hour, then disappears for the middle section of the film. I didn’t have a problem with that, but I can’t say the same for ‘Iron Man 3’. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was actually doing something in Batman’s absence; it was building an intricate plot that connected all three of Christopher Nolan’s films. During Iron Man’s absence, ‘Iron Man 3’ still tries to include action while explaining a flimsy Swiss-cheese plot. And if Bruce Wayne had finally jumped into his batsuit only to take it off again – which Stark does repeatedly in ‘Iron Man 3’ – then I would have had a problem with it too. Each cinematic appearance of Iron Man leading up to this (including his role in ‘The Avengers‘) has warranted the writers to come up with supposedly cool and new versions of the Iron Man suit. In ‘Iron Man 2’, Stark had a briefcase that suited him up at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. In ‘The Avengers’, Stark has the nifty bracelets that allowed him to suit-up while falling from Stark Tower. Sadly, the emphasis on new suits is taken to an extreme in ‘Iron Man 3’, except that none of them are very cool.
That’s right, the suit concepts in ‘Iron Man 3’ are awful and over-used. They’re an unstable crutch for the unstable character to lean upon. His new suits have two purposes: They either highlight how fast Stark can get in and out of the suit or they emphasize that a pilot is no longer needed to man them. If you’ve seen the trailers, both surprises are already wasted. You already know that Stark can suit-up/disrobe quickly, and you know that he has a 40-something unit fleet of Iron Man suits that Jarvis can fully control. Because the would-be coolness of Stark’s latest inventions were revealed in the TV spots, the only worthy surprise of the franchise is non-existent. And the climax to the movie – the time that we’re depending on seeing Stark suit-up – is hardly entertaining when the Man of Iron doesn’t spend more than five consecutive seconds in a single suit. (Of course, I’m exaggerating about the five seconds.) It would have been nice to see Rhodey finally do some damage in his Iron Patriot suit, but no, he doesn’t get to wear his suit either. Instead, the two run around with simple handguns. All of a sudden, we’re teleported back to Shane Black’s ‘Lethal Weapon‘ days – only not as entertaining.
Perhaps a better title for ‘Iron Man 3’ would have been ‘Tony Stark’. After all, the emphasis of this third standalone chapter is entirely on Stark – not the iconic suited superhero that we’ve paid to see. I really enjoy Shane Black’s other films, but he’s stuck in a rut. ‘Iron Man 3’ is nothing more than ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘ with loads of visual effects. It pulls Stark out of the suit and places him in a buddy movie that’s needlessly set during Christmas. At first, Stark is briefly accompanied by Pepper – whom I’ll rant about later – then he’s aided by the first kid that he comes in contact with – whom I’ll also rant about later – and then he’s joined by Rhodey – whom I will also rant about later.
After the villain known as the Mandarin – which I’ll come back to – blows up Stark Manor, Tony and broken suit are rocketed to Tennessee, where Tony runs into a random kid who inspires Downey to rattle off quip after quip. The footage with Stark and the kid is funny, but it’s too funny. The comedy from this section of the movie takes precedence over the actual plot. Instead of letting us feel the tragic weight of a military soldier who spontaneously combusted against his will and killed four innocent people in the process, we see Stark riffing on some random kid in long, drawn-out rambling sessions that are comparable to any given Vince Vaughn movie. Twenty minutes easily could have been shaven off from ‘Iron Man 3’ by simply removing these pointless rants.
The kid (Ty Simpkins) may not annoy like Jake Lloyd from ‘The Phantom Menace‘ or Dakota Goyo from ‘Real Steel‘, but these scenes are given way too much emphasis. Truthfully, they should have landed on the cutting room floor. My belief is that they were injected into the movie just to give the heartless Tony Stark a soft moment in the end. Am I the only one who rolled my eyes when Random Kid fixed the destroyed Iron Man suit? This idea is ludicrous. In the first ‘Iron Man’, Obadiah Stane couldn’t even make an Iron Man suit without seeing the remnants of Stark’s destroyed original, but this little turd can completely fix Jarvis’ CPU and electrical system while Tony tracks down the Mandarin? Lame. Unforgivably lame.
Although no specific word has been released, it sure seems like ‘Iron Man 3’ is the closing chapter on Stark’s standalone trilogy. The suits are gone, along with his home, workshop and chesty arc reactor. He gave his word to Pepper that he’s done, so the only thing that might make him put the suit back on is Pepper’s death. (I’m currently reading the ‘Bourne‘ novels, so this idea is fresh on my mind.) Not only that, the closing credits feature shots from all three ‘Iron Man’ movies like a recap of all events. Instead of saying “Iron Man will be back in The Avengers,” like the other Marvel movies have done, the credits of ‘Iron Man 3’ close with something like, “Tony Stark will return.” If this truly is the end to his standalone saga, the story is a fizzling closer.
‘Iron Man 3’ tries to pull a ‘Dark Knight Rises’ by bringing the story full circle, but it’s an incoherent waste. First off, the big Mandarin reveal is a joke. The Mandarin is Tony Stark’s nemesis, so I felt robbed when he turned out to be some non-threatening dopey British actor. It’s like watching Julia Roberts play Julia Roberts within the plot of ‘Ocean’s Twelve‘ – absurd creative-less crap. The fact that the leader of the Ten Rings wasn’t really the leader of the Ten Rings was even worse. When Aldrich Killian offers the expository dialogue saying something like, “I am the Ten Rings. It was always me. I made you,” the tale of this entire trilogy is undermined and bastardized. It makes no sense why he would be behind Tony’s original kidnapping. Yes, the Ten Rings were behind the kidnapping, but under the orders of Obadiah Stane. Aldrich’s involvement is unbelievably forced and unnecessary. In fact, it’s not even really explained, just glazed over. But for me, that’s not even the worst part about his involvement.
I hated the villain aspect of ‘Iron Man 3’. It’s hard to have a villain on the same level as Iron Man, but the best the writers could come up with were evil ‘Captain America‘ “supersoldier serum” knock-offs – people who were given a treatment that makes them heal instantly and fight in a fashion that the Iron Man suits can’t keep up with? This concept sounds like another Blonsky backfire (from ‘The Incredible Hulk‘), only instead of turning into Hulk-like beings, these henchmen glow red with fire and occasionally explode and / or breathe fire. When you’re placing a comic book into a mainstream medium, this is the kind of corny crap that you have to adapt or remove. Only making matters worse is the moment that the kidnapped and infected Pepper Potts transforms into a sports bra-donning fiery supersoldier. The last thing that anybody wants to see is Pepper do a slow-motion back-flip while punching a hole through an Iron Man suit. Horse crap.
As if it wasn’t stupid enough watching Random Kid single-handedly fix an Iron Man, I couldn’t believe the unexplained power that the villains were given. They could not only take out an Iron Man suit like it was nothing, they could touch a suit and render it immobile. One henchmen grabs Iron Patriot’s arm and, all of a sudden, the suit is unmovable while still functioning otherwise. Rhodey could easily hop it out, but chose not to. When he finally does, it’s nothing. The bad guys immediately have the suit running perfectly again – good enough to get the president off of Air Force One.
Speaking of the Air Force One rescue, between ‘Thor‘ and ‘The Avengers’, how many times have we seen Loki fool people with his holographic replicas? In that exact same fashion, how many times were we fooled by a Stark-less suit in ‘Iron Man 3’? At least the same amount of times – only Joss Whedon’s ‘Avengers’ script was smart enough to make a joke about using the same gimmick again. In ‘Iron Man 3’, we not only get the apologetic reference, but we’re tricked for no reason at all. What was the purpose of not having Stark in the suit during the Air Force One rescue? Was it just so that the suit could be dismantled by a passing diesel? If so, how is it that the suit didn’t completely fall apart one of the other many times that it was hit by a blunt force throughout the movie? Again, this is just another citation showing how the emphasis of ‘Iron Man 3’ was placed foremost on comedy – not plot, not characters, and definitely not action.
Despite all of my bashings, ‘Iron Man 3’ isn’t terrible. It just isn’t very good, and it’s certainly not worth all of the praise that it’s gotten. ‘Iron Man 2’ is a much better installment than ‘Iron Man 3’. When you realize how close their Rotten Tomatoes scores are, that bold statement doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch. (‘Iron Man 2’ is at 73% and ‘Iron Man 3’ is at 79%.) If this is indeed the final chapter of the ‘Iron Man’ saga, it surely isn’t a satisfying way to go out. I still look forward to ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier, mostly because they aren’t made with egos behind the ‘Iron Man’ trilogy and ‘The Avengers’. Yes, I’m not a fan of the inflated geek-centric minds behind them. Their geekiness is getting the best of them and we’re at risk of seeing Marvel’s movies slip into comic book hypernerdy obscurity.
Coming straight off the heels of ‘The Avengers’, ‘Iron Man 3’ has some huge iron rocket boots to fill. When Christopher Nolan finished ‘The Dark Knight’, he said that he wouldn’t do a third Batman film unless he could write something that was even grander. It took several years, but he lived up to his word. Like it or not, there’s no denying that ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ took Batman to a new level. Now, if only we could get Marvel to take a page from Nolan’s book of integrity and make similar promises.