Iron Man 3
Time/Place: 4:45 showing at Foothill Ranch yesterday with James, Katy, Jim, Edna, Jessica, Chad, Robby, Clay, and Amy
Well, just as with the last Iron Man movie (as well as The Avengers), I had a long list of viewing-party names, and this is, once again, for the same reason – James’ birthday (Hi, James!). I wasn’t a fan of Iron Man 2 (and even less a fan of the first one), butI loved The Avengers, so I was curious where this movie was going to rank.
Non-spoiler spoiler: It fared pretty darn well :).
This is the first Marvel movie since The Avengers, and up until that movie came out the only Marvel movie I’d liked was The Incredible Hulk. The big green guy is in good company now, though, because this new movie is a great segue between the large, ensemble world set up in The Avengers and the titular character’s storyline. You won’t see Avengers swooping through this movie, and though I was slightly disappointed by that fact, I get why they didn’t. This is Iron Man’s story, Tony Stark’s story, and bringing other big-name characters into things could definitely diminish his strength as the focal point. Of course, there’s the flip-side to that coin, because The Avengers (along with its build-up in the previous solo-character movies) was almost TOO successful in expanding and connecting these characters’ universes. By the end of that movie, they were a team.. so it almost felt a little empty to see Iron Man going through all of this without any of them even making a cameo. It would’ve been pretty great to see Captain America or Hulk pop in during one of the big action scenes – just to lend a buddy a hand :).
Mostly, though, everything else I have to say about the movie is pretty positive. Tony is still a prick, and he always will be.. but especially for the first half of Iron Man 3, he was very humanized. This movie picks up after the events in The Avengers, and we get to witness Tony Stark dealing with those things in ways that I thought were absolutely wonderful to watch. There was a gravity to things that just wasn’t present in the first two movies, and while I’m sure that was due to the new director and his choices, it was an obvious reflection of what went down in that big ensemble movie last summer. Even though I haven’t really liked the previous movies, I can still see how Tony Stark has grown as a person.. but in this new movie, it felt as if he did so by leaps and bounds.
The villains, the action.. it was actually all secondary (I’ll talk about specifics in the Spoilers below), and that’s what really felt engaging to me. The action was actually really good, but I was smiling through the end credits, satisfied, because Iron Man 3 dealt with the character of Tony Stark almost in the same way that Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies dealt with Bruce Wayne. These two characters share their similarities, but they’re obviously from very different worlds.. but in this movie, for the first time, I cared about Tony and appreciated a lot of the choices the story made – just like I did with Bruce Wayne and his recent trilogy. Not only did actions and plot points make sense to me, but I was engaged in the character’s arc, and because of that everything else just worked better for me.
Iron Man 3 isn’t perfect, but it not only holds its own against it’s predecessors – it tops them by a huge margin. It was a satisfyingly fun movie that was more than mindless spectacle, though, and dealt with this now-iconic character in a fascinating way… with a personal conclusion that wraps up this part of his story in a way I wasn’t expecting, but absolutely enjoyed :).
Warning: There be spoilers below…
I’ll start with the good things.
Tony Stark’s acceptance of the idea that he IS Iron Man is wonderful, but to get to that point, I really loved that he spends half of the movie dealing with panic attacks inflicted from the chaos and trauma of the things that went down in The Avengers. For as cool as he always plays it, it was a real treat to see him as a human being dealing with his own fragility. This is a Marvel movie, so it doesn’t delve TOO deeply into dramatic waters, but it was pleasant to see what was there. The best moment of the movie is also the darkest, but as Tony lays in bed whimpering from a flashback nightmare and his suit storms in and almost attacks Pepper.. it’s an amazing reinforcement of the idea that this man is struggling not only with the stressful events that he’s gone through, but with his own identity – this suit is stalking him, threatening his life with it’s restraints on who he thinks he can be as a man. When Tony calls his suit during the attack on his house, the expectation is that it’ll be a cool hero moment… until he uses it to protect the woman he loves and gets her out of harms way first. From that point on, especially, I was very much looking forward to the kind of man he’d end up as by the end of the movie :).
I’ll continue with the mediocre.
I’m not a reader of comic books, but I could imagine many fans being rather upset that The Mandarin ended up being a false character. Sure, he got a lot of laughs once his true identity was revealed, but if I was a fan of the comic, and had been looking forward to a great incarnation of this well-known character… I might be kinda bummed that he was just a ruse. For me, personally, I didn’t mind it at all. It’s very similar to what they did in Batman Begins with Liam Neeson, but I understood that as an effort to induce reality into a character that was originally a little too mystical. Reading about what The Mandarin is like in the comics, though, makes it a little confusing as to why they decided to not use him as he is.. because the Marvel movies have already dealt with aliens and gods and their universe hasn’t worried about grounding itself in the same stark reality as Nolan’s Batman did. While I found that a bit confusing, it didn’t really dampen my enjoyment. It was a bait-and-switch on all of us (audience and characters, alike), and that worked well, but for how great he was set up in the beginning of the movie, it’s too bad there can’t be an alternate reality in which Ben Kingsley took his character to complete fruition and sincerity.
I’ll conclude with the bad.
Some may complain about the super-powered humans, but it all worked for me. Some may complain about the actual villain being uninteresting, but he wasn’t why I was invested. Some may complain about Pepper Potts’ ending moments.. and, well, that I’ll kinda agree with. When Tony fails to catch her and she falls, there was an inkling in my heart of “Would they actually have the guts to kill her?” I had a similar inkling in The Dark Knight, with Gordon, but they played that idea for much, much longer than was done in Iron Man 3… and I actually wouldn’t have been surprised if Nolan had done such a thing. Here, though, I didn’t believe they’d kill her. Especially since she’d been injected with this body-repairing element, it was hard to feel very sympathetic to the idea that she was dead.. because she obviously wouldn’t be. Having her come back, again, during Tony’s last struggle with the wonderful Guy Pearce, felt like a moment that might’ve better belonged in one of the previous Iron Man movies. It just didn’t sit right with me, and while there were minor detractors throughout the movie, this is the only one that stood out as something I really wished hadn’t been in there. Of course, it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me, but I still could’ve happily done without it.