So, Iron Man 3 finally arrived this past weekend, and well, public opinion is split to say the least. A lot of people, including our own Dan Seitz, liked the movie quite a bit! I, on the other hand, absolutely hated it. Like, in a way I haven’t hated a movie in a loooong time. Real, personal, I’d stab Iron Man 3 in the neck if I met it on the street grudge hate.
This isn’t nitpicky “it’s not like the comics” nerd venting either — I’ve read less than half-a-dozen Iron Man comics in my life. I have no emotional attachment to the character. No, I hated Iron Man 3 because as a movie, it was a sloppy, smug, inconsistent, incomprehensible hot mess.
I’m not going to do a traditional review, because hey, if Iron Man 3 can’t be bothered to be coherent, why should I? So hit the jump for 10 random, SPOILER HEAVY reasons I hated Iron Man 3…
Make Up Your Damn Mind About Pepper You Stupid Movie
Listen, I’m no great Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but I’m also very tired of the “damsel in distress” trope, so hey, if you want to give Pepper Potts more of a role, make her real kick-ass member of the Iron Man team, I’m totally down with that.
Unfortunately Iron Man 3 wants to have things both ways. In one scene Pepper puts on an Iron Man suit and saves Tony from a collapsing building. Okay, neat, so now Pepper can use the suits and will team up with Tony for the rest of the movie, right? Nope! Pepper is, within minutes, right back to being the powerless distraught girlfriend weeping over Tony (instead of, you know, popping on another Iron Man suit and searching the rubble for him).
The climatic action scene is even worse. She spends most of the time trapped under debris or dangling helplessly from high things just waiting for valiant Tony to save her, even though it’s established minutes later that she now has superpowers of her own. Superpowers she uses to beat the movie’s big bad guy no less! Which again, might have been cool if she hadn’t been depicted as a helpless half-naked token for Tony to save only minutes earlier.
That’s Not How Panic Attacks Work Robbie
I generally think Robert Downey Jr. is a pretty good actor, but man, was he ever half-assing the movie’s numerous “Tony has a panic attack” scenes. Downey’s method of depicting a panic attack is to furrow his brow slightly and add a few extra stutters to his one-liners. Panic attacks are not “momentarily getting a little weirded out about something”, they’re serious business that send people to the hospital. A major panic attack makes you think you’re dying.
There’s a lot of dramatic potential in a superhero prone to panic attacks, but Iron Man 3 just threw them in as a lazy shortcut. An easy way to push that Tony was mentally damaged by the events of The Avengers even though he never seemed particularly bothered by anything during The Avengers, and was his regular smug self throughout 99% of Iron Man 3.
Seriously, Where Are The Avengers?
I was fine with this not being an Avengers movie, but if you’re not going to have The Avengers in your movie, stop mentioning them every five seconds. No less than a dozen times people mention “what happened in New York” or “that guy with the big hammer” or whatever. They almost never outright mention The Avengers or Thor or The Hulk, but the very obvious references are constantly there, raising the question of why The Avengers never show up to help save the President from fire-breathing terrorists.
Ugh, the kid. I mean, what the hell was even going on with this character? On the one hand, he’s this totally tragic character — his dad left him, his mom neglects him and he spends all his time playing with junk in an old abandoned barn. On the other hand he’s apparently able to repair cutting edge technology using what looks to be a Speak & Spell? Also Tony spends most of the movie treating this kid like complete s–t — ordering him around, dragging him out in the middle of the night, putting him in danger, zinging him about his dead dad.
What was this kid supposed to make me feel? His backstory is too sad for him to be comic relief, but Tony spends all his time bouncing zingers off him, so I don’t think we’re supposed to care that deeply about him either. I guess marketing just wanted a cute kid in the movie, so whatever, Tony’s off to Tennessee!
The Big Mandarin Twist
Sigh. Okay, this is the big one. Halfway through the movie it’s revealed The Mandarin is actually just some drunken British actor. Named Trevor. With smelly poops no less! Ha ha! I have to give it to the makers of Iron Man 3 — it’s a ballsy twist. Unfortunately it’s also a fairly offensive and ultimately supremely unsatisfying twist.
Offensive because they use all this incredibly potent imagery which mirrors real-life events and tragedies to build the guy up — suicide bombings, Al-Qaeda videos, Iraq and Afghanistan war footage, they draw from it all. Initially it feels like too much. Too much reality for a silly superhero movie. But eventually you start to come around! You think maybe this villain may actually be worthy of this edgy build — annnd then they pull the rug out. Turns out they were using these powerful images to build up a gag that feels like an outtake from a Naked Gun movie. The twist is ballsy and a complete cop out all at once.
Also offensive? The total squandering of Ben Kingsley. Seriously, if you haven’t already, go watch Sexy Beast — if properly motivated, Ben Kingsley could make Darth Vader piss his pants.
So, that’s why it’s offensive. Why’s it unsatisfying? Well…
The Real Villain Is Seriously Lame
So, if you’re going to make a joke out of The Mandarin, you better have somebody even better waiting in the wings! More sinister! More dangerous!
Well, all Iron Man 3 has is yet another smarmy rival businessman bad guy. It’s just Jeff Bridges’ Obidiah Stane and Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer all over again. I’d take friggin’ Fin Fang Foom over another boring duplicitous business guy at this point.
The Vice President Is In On It!
Really? The Vice President as a bad guy? F–k off. The Day After Tomorrow wants its script back. Dick Cheney hasn’t been Vice President for over four years. Movie Vice Presidents are supposed to be incompetent now, not evil. Gah.
The Aftermath of the Plane Scene…
The best scene in the movie involves Iron Man miraculously saving several plummeting people from an exploding Air Force One. The scene’s exciting, original and the effects are fantastic. Great stuff! Then Iron Man steps in front of a truck and explodes. Wait, what? Is Tony dead? Nope! For no reason at all he was controlling the Iron Man suit remotely!
And just like that, for the sake of a cheap sight gag, everything cool about being Iron Man goes out the window. Anybody can control Iron Man! Being Iron Man is basically just like playing a complex video game. There’s no real stakes, no real danger. If Iron Man gets hit with a truck, so what? There’s nobody in there! Oh, and it gets worse…
God, That Final Action Scene
So, we’ve finally made it to the big climatic action scene. The President is strung up on an oil derrick that’s swarming with invulnerable, fire-breathing terrorists! The stakes and danger couldn’t be higher! So of course Tony just shows up without the Iron Man suit on for no good reason whatsoever. Mainly, I’m guessing, because, as the Air Force One scene stressed, being Iron Man isn’t actually that fun.
Of course Tony immediately finds himself in trouble, so he calls in around 40 Iron Man suits to do his dirty work for him. Say huh? Why wouldn’t he have done this to start with? Who’s controlling these Iron Man suits? Why didn’t he call on the 40 Iron Man suits to help him out when he was stranded in Tennessee? Or tied up in the bad guy’s liar? Or being attacked at his house?
Oh, and don’t tell me this was the ultimate expression of some deep ongoing theme about Tony Stark’s identity. The final scene was the way it was for purely mercenary reasons. The multiple suits where there to a) sell toys and b) allow Tony to jump from suit to suit and thus remain maskless for as much of the scene as possible. The scene was over 20-minutes long and Marvel was afraid we’d all forget Robert Downey Jr. was in the movie and storm from the theatre if his face wasn’t on screen almost constantly.
Also, the scene, like most of the movie, totally missed the fundamental appeal of Iron Man. The first Iron Man movie, which I really enjoyed, totally nailed this — the appeal of Iron Man is that Tony Stark is just as vulnerable as you or I (even more so actually, due to his heart condition) but when he puts on this Iron Man suit he basically becomes an incredibly badass living fighter jet. The first movie did an incredible job of depicting how exciting, fun and joyful being Iron Man would be, while also emphasizing how frail Tony is outside the suit.
This movie, and this scene in particular got it completely backwards. Tony is a superhero even without the suit! He jumps, leaps and fights like he just got bitten with a radioactive spider! The Iron Man suits on the other hand are more of a bother than anything — they’re easily destroyed, and Tony can’t seem to get out of them fast enough. Tony isn’t an everyman (well, physically) who created this amazing suit through sheer ingenuity, he’s an action star who just so happens to own a bunch of crappy, easily breakable robots. Woo?
That After-The-Credits Scene
So, Tony was actually telling the story of Iron Man 3 to Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner all along! Bruce is totally confused and bored by the whole thing. Well okay, I guess they got this part right.