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Old May 4 2013, 04:47 AM   #51
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Re: "Iron Man 3" Review and Discussion Thread (spoilers)

I have very mixed thoughts on Iron Man 3.

First of all, I really enjoyed the first Iron Man. I thought it was the perfect mix of action, humor, and drama. Topped with Robert Downey Jr.'s fantastic charisma and you have one of the best superhero films of the past decade. I was less than thrilled with Iron Man 2, which I thought was thinly written and featuring far too many uninteresting characters, but The Avengers was so immensely fun and thrilling that I was excited for another solo Iron Man adventure.

With that said, I was disappointed by Iron Man 3. I was genuinely excited when I heard Shane Black was announced as director because I thought his directorial debut, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, was a really enjoyable piece of entertainment. I figured he could liven things up and his rapport with Downey would make for a fantastic film. While I think Iron Man 3 is very entertaining and full of Downey's now trademark charisma and wit, I don't think Iron Man 3 holds up very well. I actually think it has more in common with Iron Man 2 than anyone will ever care to admit, but the parts where Iron Man 3 lags are filled with humorous and genuine character moments, which is what Iron Man 2 was severely lacking. Still, even with that, it doesn't make up for the fact that Iron Man 3 feels like a very awkward film.

The one thing that caught my attention from the very beginning was the editing/pacing. I'm sure most didn't notice this, but I immediately picked up on that this was from a different director, writer, and editor. As much as I didn't like the second installment, at least it felt consistent tonally and pacing-wise with the first film. Maybe it's due to Shane Black's idiosyncratic writing/directing style, but I thought Iron Man 3 was very oddly paced. There are moments where we are suppose to feel for the characters but the humor comes too soon or too late. I don't think I'm explaining this properly, but the pacing felt all off. The first act sort of waddles through the story, and things pick up near the end of the second act, but there's a good chunk of time where it feels like the script doesn't necessarily know where it is going. It's strange, and I can't quite explain it, but it just felt odd and jarring.

Besides that, I had a big problem with the film's deviations from the source material. Now, I totally understand a film is a different entity than the comics - it's an entirely different medium - but the film takes some liberties that I thought hurt the film rather than help it. (Note: I'm going into spoiler territory here.) The reveal of The Mandarin was probably one of the most disappointing, if not the most disappointing, aspect of the film. The Mandarin is one of Iron Man's strongest villains because he's such a stark contrast to Iron Man (no pun intended). Iron Man represents technology, and The Mandarin is this weird guy with ten magical rings. During the era of Iron Man, I would agree The Mandarin would have felt totally out of place, but post-Avengers? The characters even reference Thor and how that changed everything. I really feel like The Mandarin could have worked in a post-Avengers Iron Man movie, but alas. Even the terrorist version of the character which was advertised and showcased in the first act of the movie would have worked, but what they did was just totally disrespecting the character. From a writing perspective, it was clever and fun, but beyond that, I felt it was very shallow and disappointing. It wasn't The Mandarin at all. I know people complained about Bane and his connections to the League of Shadows and Talia in The Dark Knight Rises, but at least Bane was a big hulking guy who broke Batman's back. It was true to the spirit of Bane's character. The Mandarin, on the other hand, was a total cop-out. It was a big disservice to the character in my opinion.

Yes, it was exciting to see Stark out of his element and having to do things on my his own without the assistance of the Iron Man suit, but at the same time he spends an awful lot of time not as Iron Man (which was a little disappointing in and of itself). I thought the villains, for the most part, were really tired and cliche. I love the Extremis storyline in the comics, but this didn't feel like that storyline at all. Guy Pearce was great as the villain, and I'm glad he finally has a leading role in a comic-book movie, but I thought Ullrich was one of the weaker villains we've seen in a while. I mean, even the airplane sequence felt kind of disappointing considering Superman Returns had a far superior sequence. I will admit the ending caught me off guard, and I'm really curious to see how Joss Whedon handles that in The Avengers 2, but I don't even really LIKE the ending. I feel like it sort of entirely misses the point of the character. It's like the writers and Shane Black wanted some twists and turns for the sake of it without realizing what it meant to the character and the series. Having a twist for the sake of having a twist doesn't make it worthwhile or good.

While I appreciate shaking up audience expectations, there's always the chance that when you do that, you might alienate those fans. Sometimes when you shake up audience expectations it can work - there are several moments in Nolan's Batman movies that spring to mind, or most recently Skyfall - but there are also times when you do that and it doesn't quite work. To be completely honest, I'm going to have to mull over Iron Man 3 more to really determine if those moments worked or if this is just my bias influencing my opinion, but at first glance I wasn't a fan of any of the "big twists" in the film. I did think it gave the series a nice sense of closure, but at the same time, I know that Tony Stark is going to be Iron Man again in The Avengers 2, so it almost feels fake knowing that ending will be negated in a few years.

That's not to say that I completely disliked the film, though. Far from it. I thought the action sequences were among the best in the series, and Shane Black's history of writing action movies definitely came in handy. Where Jon Favreau always seemed a little unsure of how to handle the action, Black shows he understands action and how to stage and build it. Brian Tyler's score is definitely the best in the series, and it's great that Iron Man finally has a theme (other than Black Sabbath's "Iron Man"). Pepper Potts and Rhodey definitely have more to do, and I appreciated that. Even though Stark "fixing" Pepper (which is totally glossed over) sort of defeats any purpose of doing anything progressively worthwhile with that character, but I digress. Even though Tony spends a lot of time outside of the Iron Man armor, I did enjoy how he had to use his wits and ingenuity to defeat his enemies. The sequence where he invades the Mandarin's "mansion" in Miami was probably one of the most entertaining and clever sequences out of the entire series, and I give Black and his co-writer props for that.

Overall, though, I think Iron Man 3 is a very mixed bag. Leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, it doesn't quite match the perfect blend of action and drama that the first Iron Man achieved, and its far from the endlessly entertaining movie that The Avengers was. Good, but not great. Entertaining, but not memorable. Enjoyable, but not satisfying. At least in my opinion.
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