Iron Man 3 Review with Spoilers!
By Bret Dorman
Spoilers! for Iron Man 3.
If you’ve already read my regular review you know I like the movie. But instead of just saying, “Hey guys I like the movie I think it’s awesome” I thought I’d let you in on why exactly. Seeing as I don’t watch trailers, I thought I’d just save all the specifics for one review.The Story: Iron Man fights Extremis and The Iron Patriot is stolen and Pepper Potts is a badass at the end. You guys saw the movie I don’t need to explain it to you. Also, Bruce Banner cameo at the end! I know right?!
Iron Man 3 comes down to two words: suit hopping. Let’s get one thing straight, every time, every single time, Tony Stark gets in or out of one of his suits, its fucking awesome. Every. Single. Time. The movie expertly makes it easy for him to just walk into a suit or have a suit form around him piece by piece so we just get used to it. Later however, in the big finale, he’s going from suit to suit, sometimes MID AIR to fight Killian. This is absolutely brilliant work and it will be hard to top. No Iron Man movie feels like its predecossor, yet each one excels at what it’s trying to do (yes even the second). How else are they going to get Stark to fight his badguys now that they’ve introduced and perfected suit hopping as well as remote suit driving AS WELL AS making Tony Stark himself just as much a hero? I don’t know. I don’t envy the person in charge of Iron Man 4. But I have faith in Marvel and am looking forward to how they solve this puzzle, one that they seem very entirely self aware of.
Making Tony Stark just as much a capable hero (“You’re a mechanic, build something…”) is another genius move. We all know Iron Man is “Invincible,” so to take away the suit and make the man just as capable is super fun, especially given the McGuyver-esque execution. Anyone else notice the “Ant Killer” Stark buys? Nod to Ant Man? Woah!!! Stark also has expert martial arts skills as he is handcuffed and still able to hold his own, using the extremis henchwoman’s heated neck to cut his metal cuffs. And all of the hand to hand combat is fluid and well shot! Thank you! PLUS! The filmmakers try to spice things up from action scene to action scene to either limit Tony’s advantage or make it difficult for him so he’s not just blowing things up willy nilly (we got that via montage in the first). Case in point? Putting Iron Man in a non-fully functional suit and having him blast debris/throw missiles by hand at attacking helicopters. Awesome.When it comes to PG-13 movies, its tricky on how to handle violence. This movie does have some pretty violent things happening. A guy blows up in crowded area, a guy gets shot in the head (off screen), and tons of nameless baddies are shot and killed in bloodless fashion. One coworker I saw this with said after the movie “I didn’t like how Iron Man used guns. Iron Man doesn’t use guns.” To which I immediately replied “Iron Man himself is a giant gun! Besides… you’re thinking of Batman.” Tony Stark shows expert marksmanship although he does self-admittedly break character for a pretty funny joke when he bugs Colonel Rhodes for an extra clip after he runs out. That and his checking for badguys too fast the first time peek gets a great laugh. Again, I know most people complain about changing actors mid franchise story, but I am SOOO glad they went with Don Cheadle over Terrence Howard for 2 and 3. Nothing against Howard, who is good or bad from movie to movie, but Cheadle and RDJr. have way better chemistry together. But yes, while Iron Man 3 does feature moments of holding back the R-ratedness violence, the big payoffs are pure spectacle that are more about the craziness of the situation than the bloody aftermath.
As someone who doesn’t watch trailers, I’m very curious about the reactions to the villains. Having gone back to watch trailers after and just based on general knowledge, we all knew Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin would be a huge threat. I was also under the impression that Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian was a badguy right from the get go. And its no huge surprise that the two are in league together. I mean, every major superhero movie basically has two villains and they always team up at some point in the movie, whether its part of the plan or out of necessity. What no one saw coming of course was The Mandarin purely being a mascot for Killian.Now, I don’t read the comics so I don’t really know who The Mandarin is. It seems some people think he’s just a second rate stereotypical villain and some people think he’s one of the most important villains of all time. Regardless, in context of the movie, he’s a badass when it comes to the video taped segments. He’s just so… cool. The way Kingsley slithers around the English language showcases the danger behind the threat of his strikes. Great execution from an amazing actor. Of course… Iron Man is Iron Man and when the two eventually were destined to meet, it would be hard to make it much of a conflict. Apparently the comic version guy has rings (which he does in the movie) and superpowers. Superhero movies in general have been getting more “Scientific” based, so to dump the outright superpowers for a joke makes sense.
As far as The Mandarin being an actor is concerned, its funny. If it weren’t for Ben Kingsley the move could have been a huge letdown. Here’s why… regardless of how much hype you put in the trailers (which some people seem genuinely upset about the fact that “the trailers lied to them”), the movie itself hypes up The Mandarin as the main badguy. There has to be a confrontation. This is an action movie. So by the time we find out Killian is more than just a suit and very capable to fight in his own right, the fact remains that there is still Mandarin residue left over that needs resolving. You told us there would be a showdown, promised us even… and then you sacrificed that for a joke. And unlike Stark not knowing the difference in gun clips for one or two lines, this is the entire third act we are dealing with. So, why am I not upset with the letdown of a lack of showdown between the two big titans of this action movie?
Two words: suit hopping.That’s right. Iron Man 3 wiggles candy in front of you, then pulls it away when you try to take it, and as you sit there pouting in chair, perhaps with your 3D glasses on, Iron Man 3 gives you a different kind of candy that tastes just as good. The fact that they pull out The Mandarin is a ballsy move, but at least they COMMIT to that decision. Then, they COMMIT to Killian being a more than formidable villain. Then they make it ALL ABOUT Tony Stark/Iron Man by having the big finale feature ALL of HIS suits and how STARK uses them to HIS advantage. Stark is a narcissistic guy and the finale showcases that in spectacular fashion. So in the end, yes, I’m okay with The Mandarin reveal (and yes technically Killian reveals himself to be the real The Mandarin, not that that makes it better).
I also love the move of renaming War Machine as The Iron Patriot. It’s a great move that plays on the current political atmosphere and even manages to keep War Machine’s name alive and relevant by using it as a punchline over and over. What I also love is how the suits are used as tools and transports. Stark keeps his parked out front of a restaurant like a car. Badguys disguise themselves in Patriot and then use it to deliver a Presidential hostage to a different location. Stark uses his to save people while he is safe and sound somewhere else. In the Air Force One scene, Stark himself is not at danger, he is trying to protect the President (too late!) and hostages falling to the ground. So the fact he is not in the suit is justifiable since the stakes aren’t about him. The punchline to the end of the scene, a truck hitting the suit, which is prone to falling apart, is even a good way to make the most out of this fact.
Guy Pearce as Killian is a great sexy badguy. I like how in Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is the business threat who turns out to be incompetent and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is the super awesome badass who gives Tony a serious beatdown or two. Here, the business threat turns out to be the physical threat and the proposed physical threat is just a dude. It’s interesting that for a movie where the main character has no alter ego, the writers have resorted to making the badguys full of mystery. Also, Rebecca Hall plays a great sexy but not bimbo-y science lady who succumbs to Starks charms but also redeems her ulterior motives. She adds a nice, dry humor while fitting in with everyone else’s high energy.The first act of Iron Man 3 deals with general set up leading to the big explosion. What’s remarkable is how Marvel & Co. are able to see the big picture and manage their stories on a macro and micro level. For instance, I’m sure they knew they wanted to wrap up the Tony Stark/Iron Man thread with having him blow up all his suits and not NEED to be a super hero anymore. But there are also smaller details like Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) being taken out of commission for the movie (most likely at his discretion, since he also stepped down as director) and having that factor into the plot. Although, nitpick here, why would Happy go on a stakeout/follow a mystery villain in his super obvious non-touristy professional suit? Come on man!
Once Stark lands in Tennessee, the movie shifts gears a tad. We have all the elements of a good mystery, finding The Mandarin, that now we get to see Stark do the groundwork while he is Jarvis-less and basically Suit-less. Again, Stark treats his new young sidekick buddy Harley (Ty Simpkins) like total garbage, which is a risky move. I know you are allowed one (or is it two) “F-bombs” in a PG-13 movie depending on how they are used, but to call a little kid a “pussy” because his dad left him? And then leave him in the cold to walk home? And to flat out ignore the kids super hero based questions? Stark shows a bit more tact when he meets Gary, the news guy, when it comes to handling flattery.Shane Black (writer director of the amazing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight) is a perfect choice to bring in to handle the mystery based elements of the story. He is able to misdirect the characters (bombs/people) while also letting them slowly figure things out without having to have them explain to us what stage they are at in the process. Leading Stark to the Tennessee bombing leads him to AIM which leads him to Extremis being used as an accidental weapon. Actor James Badge Dale and Actress Stephanie Szostack are good enough to provide a little bit of flair as Extremis Hench(wo)men. Also, Stark name checks Westworld when referring to the baldness and indestructibility of his adversaries. That’s a good movie. Also, in regards to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang… Stark calls a plant a ficus (Val Kilmer had a bit about a monkey from the future who could only say “one word”) and Stark calls the tattoo on Gary’s arm a “hispanic Scott Baio” just like the game RDJr. plays with Megan Monoghan at the bar. And RDJr. has panic/sad attacks while kneeling/leaning against a car in both movies. So yeah. Both movies are great is my point I guess.
Finally, Stark getting kidnapped leads to the third act, which is one giant action scene after another as the elements start to clash and pay off. From Stark’s escape to Air Force One to the oil rig, each action scene highlights a different aspect of Iron Man while keeping Stark’s humor in tact (barrel of monkeys used as directions while hostages are free falling). Again, I understand that The Mandarin reveal might sap some of the umph from the third act, but they start with that information and keep the action nice and tight, so at least they didn’t use it as an excuse to not have fun or anything.Lastly, I want to say I have a major movie crush on Pepper Potts. Gwenyth Paltrow? Meh, she’s okay as an actress. But Pepper Potts? Super sexy! I love her look, including her hair and costumes, as well as her role in the movie and her chemistry with Stark as she spars with him verbally and is able to get under his skin. Based on the previews, I saw one moment where she looked to be in the Iron Man suit and I have to say, the moment in the movie, as the house crumbles around them, and Stark flings the suit on to her to save her, is awesome! I love it so much! And even when she saves him back he still takes credit for doing it first. What a great movie! And as soon as Pepper fell into the fire you know she was going to be okay because of Extremis, but you don’t expect her to turn into a total badass! Granted, the fact that Extremis “casuses aggression” is a bit of a stretch to provide some false tension when Pepper charges Tony, but Pepper gets to take on an Iron Man suit and dispose of the main villain! All in a sports bra and lookin’ hot! Nice! Again, the movie shows its meta-side by acknowledging how violent of a turn that is for her character.
The final little bit, as Stark explains he ‘just solves’ everything from Potts’ Extremis problem to his own trademark heart problem is a bit hastily done. I like the cocoon metaphor and its interesting to see how Stark will play into The Avenger 2 and the rest of the Marvel Movie Universe. I like how we are getting some sequels (Thor + Captain America) but also a bit worried about Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man and how they will approach the “Origin Story” aspect while keeping up and building the momentum. It’s also nice to see Bruce Banner get some cinematic screen time, since he’s not getting a movie of his own. Its not funny JUST because of his presence or even the report between RDJr. and Ruffalo, but ESPECIALLY because of the “temperament” line. Yay Marvel!
In Conclusion, I understand how people might be a bit nitpicky on Iron Man 3. The movie ain’t perfect. But it continues a solid streak of Iron Man movies (yes, even the second) and the bar raised by The Avengers is maintained. Its the best Iron Man movie, the best stand alone Marvel flick, and hopefully a sign of what’s to come. If every superhero got as much thought and effort put into their movie as Iron Man did his, as well as some genuine twists and turns, no matter how infuriating they may be for fanboys, I’ll be a happy movie goer. As for the moment, I’m still giddy with joy over suit hopping.
Final Grade: A
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