Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Iron Man 3

So I've been putting off this review for a long time, but I think it's nice to have some distance between the initial hype of the movie. Iron Man 3 came out almost a full year ago, in May 2013. It returns Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Don Cheadle as Rhodey. New are Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley as the bad guys, and director Shane Black, who had previously directed only one other movie, something called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

This Iron Man movie follows two incredible Iron Man movies and the enormously successful Avengers movie. Marvel had been carefully building up their movie universe for this shared continuity world, and now that we're in the post-Avengers world, what would these movies look like? And how would these movies feel under the increased supervision of Disney? It came as no surprise that this movie grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, but does that mean this movie is any good?

I'll start by giving a point for the opening scene. It was great to start in 1999 with "I'm Blue" blasting away. Pre-Iron Man Tony Stark is a wonderful character, and the more we get of him the better. Plus, we got a fun quick cameo by the kindly heart surgeon who saved Tony's life after the accident. It would have been great to have also seen Pepper in 1999, but that probably would have been asking too much.

I'll raise the score to a 7 for the Mandarin's terrorist videos. The Mandarin used to be Iron Man's biggest villain, but has kind of grown out of favor lately because of his magical powers and potential racial undertones. But they had to use him in an Iron Man movie. He just needed a bit of cleaning up. And making him an Osama bin Laden figure was perfect. And getting Academy Award-winning Ben Kingsley to play him was even more perfect. These Mandarin videos were creepy and gripping.

Now I have to take a point off for the renaming of War Machine to Iron Patriot. There was absolutely no reason for this to happen other than giving the fan boys something to squeal about. "Ooo, Iron Patriot! He's from the comics!" But 90% of those fan boys know that Iron Patriot is actually a completely different character in completely different circumstances in a different and interesting story. Now that story is completely blocked off just because Marvel decided to randomly throw that name out.

I did, however, enjoy Tony's panic attacks. When you think about it, he really did have quite a traumatic experience in The Avengers. He battled an alien invasion, grabbed a nuclear warhead, and flew it into a different dimension, where he thought he was going to die. That's more than enough to mess with somebody's head — especially somebody who had previously only battled other people in suits just like the one he built. So I'll bring the score back up to a 7.

Now we begin the downward slope. I was very sad with what happened to Happy. He was played by Jon Favreau, who directed the first Iron Man movie, launching this whole movie empire. Sadly, he did not direct this one, and was relegated to a strange, annoying role that I guess was supposed to be funny, but really wasn't. He was then attacked, and it seemed like he was going to die. But for some reason, he didn't. Even though Tony kind of freaked out like he had died. Was he originally written to die in the script but Disney came in and said that's too dark? I don't really want to be making accusations like that and blame all the faults of this movie on the family-friendly Disney, but it really makes me wonder. Ultimately, to me, this movie felt like Happy needed to die. But he didn't. So I'll drop the score to a 6.

Never once did I say, "You know what these Iron Man movies need? Pepper Potts become an action hero." I'm kind of getting ahead of myself, but it really began when Tony put the suit on Pepper. I groaned in the theater. It felt unnecessary and unnatural. And then it only got worse at the end when Pepper actually became an action hero — gaining the Extremis  powers and suddenly the ability to fight like a trained martial artist. No thank you. Minus one point.

Now, the annoying little boy actually wasn't that annoying. But he was completely extraneous. Imagine this movie without him. Everything turns out exactly the same. The boy does absolutely nothing other than provide Tony an opportunity to crack some jokes. But he can crack jokes anytime with anyone. I'm not mad that a little boy was thrown into this movie — I'm mad that he was randomly and pointlessly thrown into this movie. It felt like a last-minute mandate from Disney, saying we need to throw in a kid here. Now we're down to a 4.

Rhodey is still a difficult character for me. Even though this is Don Cheadle's second time playing him, I still find myself longing for Terrence Howard. But that's neither here nor there. What really bugs me is this is the second movie in a row where the bad guy has taken over Rhodey's suit. You'd think he and Tony would put measures in place to prevent this after it happened the first time. But if anything, it seemed like it was even easier to get into the "Iron Patriot" suit this time. Yes, I know AIM oversaw the suit's redesign, but to be able to shut the whole thing down just by slightly burning its arm is way too easy. And then we had a weird thing going on, where a bad guy was able to hop into the suit and control, then they put the president in it, but he couldn't use it. Rhodey then saved the president, got him out of the suit, put it on and used it just fine. You'd think the president would at least try to free himself. He was, after all, trapped in one of the most powerful pieces of equipment in the world. I have to take off another point for this.

And now we fall to a low score of 2 because the MANDARIN IS A FAKE! How dare they waste Ben Kingsley like this! I kept waiting for them to show that the Mandarin was only pretending to be the goofy, druggy actor, or to be a body double or something. But no. The real bad guy was dorky Aldrich Killian, who got so mad about being stood up by Tony Stark on New Year's 13 years ago. By the way, why is this a Christmas movie when it was released in May? Anyway, when I found out the Mandarin was a fake, I became eternally embittered toward this film and lost all interest in it. They completely ruined the best thing going for it! Why should I keep caring?

Oh yeah, the barrel of monkeys scene. This was in all the trailers, with the truly spine tingling moment of Iron Man realizing 13 people have fallen out of an airplane, and he can only carry four. This was by far the best part of the whole movie, and the filmmakers knew it. One of the only bonuses on my DVD was a huge featurette explaining this scene in meticulous detail. They really did get a team of trained sky divers and jumped out of a real plane dozens of times to get all the shots. They only used CGI when absolutely necessary, and it really showed. It was an exciting, breath-taking scene that was very realistic and memorable. Unfortunately, it was almost too good. Everything else that followed afterward paled by comparison. I'll raise the score to a 3 for this scene, but the climatic battle won't get any points.

The final fight really wasn't so bad, although it was full of some annoying conveniences. Oh, so Tony's suits couldn't reach him earlier because of the rubble, and now, suddenly, when he needs them most, they just happen to show up. And during the fight, there were lots of weird little moments when he just happened to be able to get into a suit at just the right time, or when he suddenly found himself unable to locate one of his 40 suits flying around. Or the really weird part when his earpiece randomly fell out so he couldn't tell his suits not to attack Pepper. Don't worry, Tony, Pepper suddenly knows how to fight better than you ever could. And lets not even get started on how easily destructible these suits were. I thought he was supposed to be the invincible Iron Man. Now, I know I'm complaining a lot, but I won't take away a point, because the action was rather enjoyable and the special effects were very good.

But altogether, this was an incredibly disappointing installment in the Iron Man franchise and a poor way to kick off the second wave of the Marvel movie franchise. I think, sadly, it's time for Iron Man to stop having his own movies. Let's keep him in all the Avenger movies, and give him some cameos in other people's movies, but I don't want to see Iron Man struggle through another solo adventure like this one again.

Final score: 3

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