Warning! Massive spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk!
I finally filled in the last gap in my Marvel Cinematic Universe viewing experience by watching Iron Man 3 Sunday night. I’m not going to summarize the plot. Instead I’ll just jump right into what I liked and didn’t like about this film. In short, I loved most of the movie, but hated the last act.
The best thing about this movie is that for most of its runtime it’s really not an Iron Man movie, it’s a Tony Stark movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with Iron Man, but it was neat to see it focus on Tony Stark and his investigative and problem-solving skills without the aid of his suit.
I also really liked the tone of this movie. It kept a good balance between the seriousness of the plot and the lightness that is sprinkled throughout most of the MCU films. Honestly, one of the things I give the MCU the most credit for is not succumbing to the post-Dark Knight temptation to make all superhero movies dark. I can see why some would find some of the humor in Iron Man 3 off-putting, but for me it landed right.
I really enjoyed Ben Kingsley’s performance. I already knew the twist before watching the movie and I kind of wonder if I would have had a different reaction to that part of the plot had I not known it in advance. I also didn’t read a ton of Iron Man comics as a kid, so I didn’t bring that baggage into the movie. In other words, it didn’t disappoint me that the Mandarin wasn’t who he first appeared to be. Kingsley was hilarious.
I liked the 70’s-style closing credits. Actually reminded me a lot of Ang Lee’s Hulk. I know, I know. We’re supposed to forget that exists. I actually kind of liked it. Speaking of the Hulk, I kind of liked the reveal that it was Bruce Banner that Stark was narrating the film to.
Throughout the film Tony Stark is seen to be suffering from panic attacks and sleeplessness in the aftermath of the Battle of New York as depicted in The Avengers. Though if that was keeping him up at night, imagine the nightmares he’ll have after having the wreckage of his house pin him to the bottom of the ocean. Man.
I had forgotten that director Shane Black was the writer of Lethal Weapon. The scene where Stark is tied, standing up, to a bed frame reminded me of the torture scene in Lethal Weapon.
As a Tennessee resident I enjoyed Tony Stark spending some time in my state. That said, it was mostly a typical Hollywood mischaracterization. For one thing, Tennesseans only dream of getting that much snow at Christmas. Heck, we dream of getting any trace amount of snow for Christmas!
Why did the little boy not recognize Tony Stark immediately? He would have been famous even before becoming Iron Man, but surely in the aftermath of New York everyone would know who he is. Not to mention the glowing arc reactor in his chest being a dead giveaway.
I really liked Don Cheadle in Iron Man 3, and he and Downey Jr. had some nice “buddy cop” moments.
With each movie it gets easier and easier to get into and out of the Iron Man suit, and that bugs me. I get that Stark is making improvements to his technology, but when you can leap off a platform and land in the suit it gets a little ridiculous. Also, apparently anyone can perfectly fit into the suit now no matter how tall they are as we see three different people all wear the same suit in this movie, not to mention Rhodes who first put on the suit in the second movie. Also, the suit pieces flying to him looked neat onscreen but was really pretty dumb, especially near the end when they had to fly at supersonic speed from Tennessee to Miami to break Stark out of captivity. Also, in this film it’s trivially easy to break apart the Iron Man suit… so long as Tony Stark isn’t wearing it. Too convenient. Like the light sabers in Star Wars that turn on dramatically slowly when people are facing off with them but activate lightning fast when someone gets jumped.
Any annoyances listed above aren’t movie-breaking. But let’s get onto the really bad stuff:
I like Guy Pearce. I really do. Unfortunately he’s not given too much to work with in this film. On top of that, his character’s a little too similar to the Sam Rockwell character from the previous film.
I do give this movie major props for not destroying a city or making Iron Man fight yet another guy in an Iron Man suit. Unfortunately instead we get Jarvis flying a fleet of forty Iron Man suits to fight the bad guys at the end. Again, looks neat on screen, but has a couple of major downfalls: first it makes Iron Man himself less special. If Jarvis can fly an army of remote controlled Iron Man suits into battle, then there no reason for Stark not to use that strategy in every Iron Man or Avengers movie going forward. It’s a case of the writers painting themselves into a corner. And don’t tell me the fact that he destroyed them all at the end gets them out of this dilemma. On top of all that, the whole ending was just boring. The movie was actually pretty interesting up until the point where it just adopted the big, dumb Marvel cookie cutter ending where the movie just distracts you with a million explosions and more action happening onscreen than your brain can process. This is why I love the first Iron Man so much. The stakes are high for the character, but it’s just two guys facing off.
My other major gripe really isn’t the fault of this film, but is a problem with the MCU in general. Every stand-alone film begs you to ask the question: why doesn’t the hero just assemble the Avengers? I get that Thor’s not exactly available by telephone, but why didn’t Stark call up his buddy Captain America? I mean, he’s going after a person he thinks is a terrorist and the president is kidnapped. This sounds like something right up Cap’s alley! Does Black Widow or Hawkeye really have anything better to do? How about Hulk? The Avengers established that Stark and Banner have a rapport. Heck, the after credits scene shows Stark pouring out his heart to Bruce. I get that Marvel can’t get these actors out for every film and you do want each character to have their individual moment. But the Avengers is another case of Marvel painting themselves into a corner.
The movie ties up all the loose ends way too quickly/neatly. I know it’s aping a Christmas movie trope, but the film just casually glosses over Stark saving Pepper from Extremis. Then, almost as an afterthought, Stark just decides he’s tired of having the arc reactor in his chest and has it removed in a twenty-second clip.