As the credits rolled for the latest installment in Marvel’s Iron Man superhero franchise, only one question rolled through the vast (and considerably vacant) corridors of my mind:
How much more Robert Downey Jr. could I possibly bear before making earplugs out of my 3D glasses?
To preempt any cease and desist orders from Mr. Downey’s lovely attorneys, let me preface what I’m about to say with the fact I actually think that the actor – who has donned the red and yellow tin suit for the Iron Man trilogy and The Avengers spin-off – has done a more than commendable job portraying the playboy millionaire Tony Stark, and in doing so has successfully made the character his own.
Before further travelling down the path of my personal criticisms, I’d like to touch on a few of the things I did enjoy about Iron Man 3.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead (and I mean it this time!)
Something is better than nothing
One of the cool concepts introduced in the third film is that of the prototype Mark 42 suit armor. Each piece has the ability to fly and be summoned by Stark after he painfully self-installs techno-implants into his own extremities. It’s the equivalent of your mom dressing you with the addition of super-intelligent butler named Jarvis, just minus the mom… well, not completely anyway. The new threads provide for some very impressive scenes where individual pieces of the armor function independently to help save his own life and in another scene where…
Pepper Potts gets something shiny to wear
With his internal remote control, Stark is able to protect Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) by instructing his new Mark 42 suit to protect his beloved girlfriend during a harrowing few moments. It was an oddly weird, yet fun scene seeing little Gwyneth don the heavy metal suit. (Speaking of, little Ms. Paltrow definitely looked as if she bulked up, err toned up a bit for this flick. My hat goes off to the still very sexy 40-year-old.)
War Machine gets a paint job
One of the running jokes of the film is the American flag remodel and rename War Machine undergoes. Call me patriotic, but I actually dug the new color scheme. While obviously not as menacing and testosterone driven, I didn’t feel Iron Patriot was that lame. On the other hand, that could having something to do with the potential lameness of my personal tastes.
I love a good tie-in
Regardless of my assumptions that there would be some reference to the fact that Stark was a major player in saving the world from a horde of universe hopping space aliens forcing us to add them as Facebook friends, I was very happy to see references to the events of The Avengers made on several occasions. The final credits bonus scene that we have all come to expect from Marvel movies provided a humorous end cap to the film, although it didn’t provide any hints as to what’s in store come for the next superhero team-up flick.
Actions (and special effects) speak louder than words
It probably goes without saying that the Iron Man franchise (with a transitional hand-off to The Avengers series) is Marvel’s money tree darling in the world of film. In that sense, you can see in the quality of the effects that no expense is spared. As a superhero movie should be, all of the action sequences were grandiose and over-the-top, but nothing looked cheesy or cut-rate. I happened to view the movie in 3D, but it didn’t have much presence for this specific movie and in all honesty, I probably would have been just as happy with a 2D showing, as would have my wallet.
Now that I have laid down a positive base, it’s time to air just a couple quick, but significant criticisms:
Humor, jokes and humor… and yes, more attempts at humor
In general, Iron Man 3 proved to deliver some funny moments and one-liners. One of my favorite scenes involved a quirky news van employee and Tony Stark that I won’t ruin for those whom still plan to take in the film. As has been the case through the entire series, Downey plays the quick-witted, snarky, and sarcastic Stark to near perfection. Alas, that’s where I feel the problem lies, in that those are the only things he brings to the character.
As a result, Stark continues to come across as a one-trick pony in the emotional range department, and in turn becomes as one-dimensional as the frowning mouth slit on the Iron Man helmet.
Not helping matters is the fact that there seems to be too much of an attempt at humor every 15 seconds. With the possible exception of Pepper, it felt as if every character, from the villains and their henchmen to Stark’s sidekicks, were all forced to deliver some level of humor during the movie.
Hell, this Outlaw loves a good joke as much as the next geek, but the end result of trying to inject all of this extra funny business on top of Downey’s all-sarcasm all-the-time approach, is a movie that loses any drama or weightiness that it was also attempting to deliver.
I don’t want to point fingers – *cough* Downey, *cough* writer Drew Pearce, *cough cough* director Shane Black – but when the most heart-wrenching segment of the entire film happens to be when one of the semi-evil (but very hot) co-conspirators played by Rebecca Hall gets offed, something is missing. The fact that Tony Stark looked more like he had a rotten serving of shawarma than being truly saddened after seeing the love of his life fall 200 feet into an oil rig inferno, should help explain what I’m trying to convey.
Again, it’s not that I dislike the way Downey plays his confident and one-lining Hollywood superhero alter-ego, I’m just saying it would be nice to present a little more heft and levity to the role. At least in The Avengers, Joss Whedon was able to balance out Stark’s ego-maniacal personality during with those of the other superheroes on screen during the full run-time.
In comparison, having Stark suffer from anxiety attacks due to the events of his stint from The Avengers storyline just didn’t cut it in trying to build sympathy for a character that still has no issues leaving a 10-year-old boy in the middle of the street after a few super-baddies almost killed him and leveled a town looking for his mom. After three major movies and a spin-off, it feels as though Downey’s depiction of Stark has grown about as a much as munchkins grow vertically in Oz during their lifetimes.
Ironically, there are a few notable scenes where Stark operates the entire Mark 42 suit remotely from a headset, leaving the iconic armor devoid of any human within, much like the film itself.
Maybe that’s why this will be Downey’s last solo film as the “mouth of steel”, possibly just sticking to the role for The Avengers sequels. That, or he has enough cash from Disney to create his own iron Mark flying suit that comes pre-built with a fridge, toilet and Twitter account.
That’s not to say Iron Man 3 was a bad movie. Au contraire, I actually found it more entertaining and humorous than the first Iron Man sequel. That being said, if I never see 3 again I’m not going to slip into sugar-induced depression over it. My grievances stem out of a more-of-the-same perspective. If you enjoy the status quo of your Tony Stark adventures with an additional layer of goofiness, then by all means you probably won’t be disappointed.
If on the other hand you are expecting significant evolution of the character and storyline of Marvel’s iron giant, then much like Tony’s latest suit of armor, you may want to wait it out until the next revision.