A Droid Premiere – Iron Man Three (TwentyThirteen)

a-droid-premiereIn two thousand and eight, an ambitious superhero series was started. Over the course of five films, four main characters (and a fair few periphery one’s) were introduced. The quality of these films varied from fairly good (Thor, Iron Man) to staggeringly bad (Iron Man Two). Somewhere along the line the series became known as “Phase One”. It all culminated in TwentyTwelve’s ‘The Avengers’, which was over-enthusiastically cupped and stroked by slobbering hordes of fanbois worldwide. I had fun with the film, but really, it wasn’t particularly good. ‘The Avengers’ went on to become the third highest grossing film of all time. Five years after the first ‘Iron Man’ hit the screens and made Robert Downey Jr a Hollywood darling, Tony Stark returns in ‘Iron Man Three’ (the credits make a point of using “three” and I’m not sure why), the first film of “Phase Two”. The conveyer belt of mediocrity continues to chug along mercilessly inflicting Marvel movies on the all too willing public.

CAGED_008G_G_ENG-GB_70x100.inddIt’s some time after The Avengers showdown in New York and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is a troubled guy. He doesn’t sleep, and has started having anxiety attacks. As such, he buries himself in his work, creating a prototype suit that he can call to him remotely (a bit like The Force). What “burying himself in his work” also does is create a filter paper thin set up for what is essentially a third act dues ex machina. But I’m getting ahead of myself. A terrorist known as Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is threatening the USA via video messages and mysterious bombs are going off around the globe.

A flashback to New Years Eve, Nineteen Ninety-Nine at the beginning of the film introduces Maya Hensen (Rebecca Hall), a scientist who has been developing gene therapy for regenerative healing (I think), and crippled scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Twelve years later, they resurface as the company Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM). AIM has created the EXTREMIS virus, which indeed succeeds at regenerative healing, but also gives the person superhuman strength, speed and agility. They also burn red hot whenever they want to, and sometimes when they don’t. When your patient burns up and explodes at three thousand degrees, you might want to start tinkering with the formula. Unless, of course, if that’s your intention. So Killian is working for Mandarin, Stark tracks the source of the bombs, finds Mandarin and it all ends in an overblown barrage of special effects.

Iron_Man_Three_ThreeThere’s an enormous twist in this film. It’s better off not knowing, and they’ve done well at keeping it hush hush, so I’ll avoid revealing it here. I will say this though. It’s blatantly clear what the twist is about thirty minutes in. Despite the obvious nature of the twist, it succeeds because of how it’s delivered. Good comedic writing and acting sell it well enough that you can forgive it for its lack of surprise. And comedic writing and acting is clearly the best thing about ‘Iron Man Three’. Littered throughout the film are the clever lines of dialogue and amusing interchanges between characters that we expect from co-writer and director Shane Black. “His Lear was the toast of Croydon.” is a great line, but one that I suspect could be wasted on many.

So ‘Iron Man Three’ (mostly) succeeds as a comedy, and therein the problems lay. Tony Stark is always on hand with a glib remark, and he so quickly seems to get himself out of trouble (with or without the suit), that it’s impossible to fear for his danger. Therefore, it simply becomes a series of scenes that show Stark succeeding against the odds. The film never pauses long enough for Downey Jr to “act”, as when, late in the film, someone important to Tony dies. The film barely gives him three seconds to react before the next slice of action. If the film can’t be bothered showing Tony caring, then it cannot expect that I care. It’s no wonder that Downey Jr has come out and said he’s ready to move on from ‘Iron Man’. He owns the role, pretty much made Marvel Studios the success it is (or at the very least, kick started it) and has benefited handsomely for it (he made fifty million dollars from The Avengers). But as a character, Tony Stark has been found wanting and neither of the sequels have created anywhere interesting for the character to go. To be brutally honest, I’m rather bored of the character, as well as the visual depiction of Iron Man. There’s only so many times I can see a CG metal suit flying around before it becomes stale. The film tries to spice things up with some different prototypes and such, but in the end it’s still Iron Man, and I’m bored of it.

Iron_Man_Three_FourWhere the film really falls down is in the villain department. This has nothing to do with the acting. Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce are both quite good in their roles. The problem I had is that the EXTREMIS virus was never established properly, and the rules weren’t defined. Sometimes it’s unstable (leading to the human bombs). Why? Just because the movie says it is. How does it cause the human body to glow red hot? So hot that a man can place his hand on the Iron Man armour and melt it. At one point, a bad guy BREATHES FIRE! Of course, this is waved off with a glib remark, but I didn’t buy it. A guy just propelled a jet of fire out of his mouth. WTF? And why, if they burn so hot, do they have hair? I’d assume that would be the first thing to go.

My other problem with the villains is that I am utterly flummoxed as to their intent. The big scheme is muddled to say the least. I think it’s something about a coup, with the Vice President as a puppet President. But they go a long way to kill the President, and then just hang him up ready to be plucked up and flown away to safety. Even if they’d succeeded, I have no idea how they would benefit from it. The whole plan is a hot mess, and the twist doesn’t help because the film spends a great deal of time and effort in the first half on subterfuge. I don’t expect strict adherence to reality in an action film, but I expect at least a minute nod towards logic.

Iron_Man_Three_Seven‘Iron Man Three’ also features the bane of any action film, the annoying kid character. You can see Shane Black frantically trying to work his magic and make the kid funny and likeable, but it’s all for nought. The moppet doesn’t have the comedic timing necessary (not his fault), and the film spends an inordinate amount of time with him. It grinds to a screeching halt in these middle section scenes and while it may have worked with a really talented kid in the role, it just seems like it was a bad idea. The film ends in what could easily be a sign off for the character, at least in standalone features. While the best aspects of ‘Iron Man’ (primarily Downey Jr) have made two of the three films watchable, I truly hope they end it here.

As always, there is an after credits sequence, but it’s not worth sitting through an extra ten minutes to get to. ‘Iron Man Three’ gets a completely unjustified two loony Sir Ben’s out of four. This is a very generous rounding up from the intended one point five because I’m too lazy to make a one point five rating.





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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

13 responses to “A Droid Premiere – Iron Man Three (TwentyThirteen)”

  1. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Mostly non-spoilerish reactions of mine to IM3. Nothing other than what Droid has already mentioned above. Tread with caution though.

    Honestly, this was an odd one for me. I liked it a little more than you–I’d round up, not down, to 2.5– but I tend to enjoy the Marvel movies more than you generally. Avengers was my fave of the bunch, but I also think the first IM and Thor were good too. Iron Man 3 was more enjoyable than Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man 2.

    Without knocking your review—or discussing some of the obvious hard to discuss stuff—I do think some of what you mention won’t bother your average fan of the series. In truth, the thing most likely to rile up IM or comic fans is the thing you didn’t seem especially bothered by; the twist.

    My thoughts: Downey was the most fun in this one, and I think he was most at ease in the character, although there’s not much of an arc for him and all the potentially juicy development is glossed over. The kid was fine, from an acting standpoint he was serviceable although he’s obviously an agent of the plot—like a band-aid to hold the middle and the third together, although it’s not very successful because there’s no real emotional wound to heal; there’s no room for Stark to feel much internally.

    The comedy is more exciting than the action stuff and there’s very little that’s innovative or interesting outside of a one-time watch. There are haters, but I had a lot of fun with that battle at the end of Avengers—even if the Chiutari are the most easily bested army ever. I never got as involved with the battles here. Just big skirmishes really, although visually well done. Part of the issue is Extremis, while pulled from the comics, is like a Saturday morning cartoon villain idea. Stuff happens here because it does, plain and simple. In a less defined universe, I might be able to run with that, but Iron Man 1 was grounded in a semi-plausible reality, or at least one that observed very basic and concievable concepts of physics. Even after the interdimensional dragon-whales I’m still flummoxed by the sloppy efforts to make Extremis and the Mandarin arc feel like they belong in this world. Honestly, given how ‘realistic’ the lava men seem, I’d just as soon have had the big green dragon fighting Tony. At least that might have been a fresh image.

    All of that, though, I can sort of live with and probably would have liked this one best of all if it had sold the central promise of the movie; Stark vs. a formidable villain. I can’t even say why this doesn’t work for me yet. I, like you, am not especially bothered by plot developments, but when said plot development is a nakedly obvious FU to a previous summer blockbuster, I question the motives for doing it. IM3 is primarily a comedy, but it should have gone further or routed over for some more grounded drama. The fx turf wars don’t mesh as well with some of the very self-aware things they were doing.

    But, you know, without giving the movie a free pass, I did enjoy it. The general pacing is fine, it’s fun, the fx are impressive and the action is plentiful and some of it is even exciting. Kingsley is quite good, and I thought Pearce was decent too. It’s an undemanding and entertaining summer movie that’s going to make fans of the character happy. What Im finding is that—like you—I’m not as interested in the film version of Tony Stark. He’s not as frail or complex or internally ruptured as the comic’s iteration. He was headed there at the end of Iron Man 1, but he got hijacked by franchise cops on the way and now he’s a stand-up comic in a CGI suit.

    • Judge Droid says :

      Heh. Skip over my review and just read Jonahs comment. A better review of the film. Kudos, you bastard.

    • Judge Droid says :

      I initially thought 2.5. Then after about an hour, thinking about it I thought a 2. But reviewing it, and really trying to judge why it didn’t work as well as it should have, I judged it a 1.5. Maybe harsh, but it just had too many problems for me. It may be that I’m really tired of these movies that deliver wham bam FX scenes without trying to connect with an audience. I’m getting old. I concede I’m very far from the target audience. Neither a marvel fan, nor a teenager.

      I did wonder about how the twist would be viewed. But I decided that… Christ, I can’t think of a way to say it without spoiling it.

  2. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    also, of course as always, good review. Nice job of talking about it without giving stuff away. Ill try to put up my new slate of reviews at PCN. Go see Mud when you can, it’s pretty darn good and MM is excellent.

  3. Continentalop says :

    As a comic book fan I can already tell what the problem is – it is based on a modern comic story line. Anytime they take stuff from modern (anything from the last 20-years) it sucks.

  4. Jarv says :

    I have virtually no interest in this at all outside of Shane Black. This review hasn’t done anything to persuade me otherwise.

  5. ThereWolf says :

    I like the Iron Man films, but not enough to ever budge outside of a rental.

    Good review, Droid.

  6. tombando says :

    Haw I liked this better than you did Droid, though am a bit, urm, Disappointed shall we say at Gandhi’s character arc. Highly Entertained, mind-but you can see why. I also liked the kid. They don’t need more IM flicks, but he’ll no doubt be in the Avengers sequels.

    I thought the VP’s role in the scheme of things was a big Huh? at the end too.

    The Ringo line is fun.

  7. Toadkillerdog says :

    So, um I sawr IM3.
    Well, where to begin?
    How about I state that IM has been my favorite comic book character since childhood. And that I am one of the few ..the proud…the IM2 fan! yes, i truly enjoyed IM2.

    The Avengers is the greatest comic book movie of them all. You can disagree, it is a free world, but that’s how i view it.

    I am an unabashed, make mine marvel lifelong fan.
    There have been some great DC books, but in my mind marvel is just bees knees.

    If you did not get why the Avengers was so great then you are probably an Archies or Dc fan.
    Or both!
    Nothing wrong with that. It takes all kinds and no fanbase is better just different

    All of that was preamble .

    I went into IM3 with high hopes, but tempered by the reality that the third movie always seems to underwhelm.
    I am not a shane black fan -he is alright, but just as nolan is ridiculous slobbered so is black.

    A buddy who i trust sawr it a few weeks before gen pop and told me not to get my hopes up, still i make my own decisions.

    It started off fantastic, and midway through iwas thinking this could be the best IM movie of them all.

    Then..good gravy, the whole Mandarin thing, which showed me once and for all that shane black was only interested in being cute to enhance his rep with his fan base,because it was stupid and pointless, and needless.. A fucking twist just for the sake of it, ‘hey look at me im shane black’, just like the worst of m.night.
    Still, the flick could have survived, but the the plot holes!
    Holy frijoles! I rake nolan over the coals for the unjustly slurped BM trilogy, and that train wreck of a finale TDKR, because of the unholy amount of plot holes, so i cannot let IM3 off the hook for its howlers.

    Good Lord, did this movie not have an editor or a writer or was black just interested in one liners?

    And the fucking ending?
    The titular hero needs to be heroic!
    I loved that Stark was not in the armor during most of the flick, and that he was doing all kinds of detective and investigative and action shit, because in the comic book, that is how Stark behaved, especially when his armor was compromised.
    But the fucking finale filled with empty suits just was…nothing.
    And i wont spoil, but the big moment that was not sucked.

    With all of that said, i still found the movie entertaining, and find echo’s review closer to my own sentiment, and i would recommend it be seen. But my standard for a great flick is: would i pay to see it again?

    The answer sadly is: probably not

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