Iron Man 3: A Disappointing End to a Strong Trilogy

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Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man was perhaps the strongest of the Marvel franchises, but Iron Man 3 turned out to be a disappointing end to an incredibly strong trilogy that was tremendous because of the depth of characters and strength of Tony Stark’s conviction. Those things are gone, and we were left with a mediocre finale.

Spoiler Alert For the Remainder of the Review

It turns out, in Iron Man 3, that Tony Stark is no longer the cocky capitalist that we’ve grown to love, and that he’s a shadow of his former self. It’s not well explained, and Stark’s bouts with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are more a convenient plot device than a character in flux. I’m going to draw heavily from Kyle Smith’s review of this film:

There’s so much dumb stuff in “Iron Man 3” that I expected the credits to say, “Written and directed by Thor.” The villains are all wrong, the motivations are muddy, even the gadgetry is off. And the swaggering genius at the center of it all has become a preening fool. It’s like watching a great company switch CEOs from Steve Jobs to Donald Trump.

Tony Stark, still jumpy with post-traumatic stress from his “Avengers” visit to New York City (I guess this town ain’t for California cream puffs, pal), challenges a terrorist (Ben Kingsley) called the Mandarin who murders Americans on live TV. Meanwhile, an inventor-turned-magnate (Guy Pearce) whom Tony once insulted has developed a system for regenerating human limbs. But that has the side effect of turning its beneficiaries/victims into human bombs. There’s also Tony’s scientist ex-girlfriend (Rebecca Hall), who can’t seem to make up her mind whether to be good or evil.

The film follows Stark battling to find out the origins of the Mandarin. He gets particularly upset when he loses a relatively close friend to one of the Mandarin-Killian (the inventor) bombs. Instead of, however, laying an intricate trap and plan like Stark is prone to do, he bumbles through a public threat that ends up destroying his home and putting everyone he loves in danger.

Gone are the kickass Iron Man suits of ‘ole, and we’re left with Stark buzzing around alongside a bunch of disposable half-suit half-drone creations that turn into a pile of legos every time he makes contact with anything. It’s a cheap plot device that diminishes Stark’s strength and serves more as a mechanism for getting Downey Jr. on screen without the suit.

Things get even worse when a kid is introduced into the mix for no good reason:

Previously the series has been one of the more grown-up superhero franchises, but “IM3” is aimed straight at middle school. Gone are all of the actual ideas (such as Tony’s robust defense of capitalism), gone is the witty dialogue, gone is anything like character development (Tony and Rhodes barely share any screen time and when they do they’re ducking and running). Instead we get about 20 minutes of adorable kid. What next, a little Chihuahua in Tony’s pocket?

The plot moves on with Stark mostly neutered throughout the film, facing foes that seem to infinitely regenerate except when it’s convenient to end the film. The Mandarin turns out to be another cheap distraction, played for comedy as opposed to villainous depth. This is another massive mistake, as the franchise seemed to play off well-rounded and properly motivated villains. In Iron Man 3, our villains are motivated by a paycheck and apparently a social snub.

I have to agree with Smith’s sum-up of the film:

By the time the climax arrived, I had lost interest, but it disappointed me anyway with its senseless clutter. What is the president of the United States doing in an Iron Man suit? There’s also a platoon of remote-controlled Iron Men randomly showing up to save the day and just as randomly disappearing before being randomly blown up. Tony’s suit pops on and off, in pieces, for no reason except the director likes the way the special effects look, even the 10th time around.

This movie has a bad case of Iron Man inflation: When you’ve got a hundred disposable ones zipping around, they start to seem as special as Aluminum Dudes.

The movie is only “worth seeing” for the special effects, but if you’re an avid fan of the franchise, it will leave a sour taste in your mouth for days to come. The depth is gone, the action is contrived and the plot is engineered without plausibility. It’s a terrible end to the trilogy.

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