Review: Iron Man 3

2013-05-23 by . 1 comments

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I finally saw Iron Man 3.  Better late than never, right?

I’m actually not so sure.

The movie wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t good.  I really liked the original Iron Man, and felt that Robert Downey, Jr. had really nailed the character of Tony Stark.  Iron Man 2 was a bit of a disappointment, but Mickey Rourke’s performance was a redeeming factor.  Iron Man 3, however, had no comparable standout performances.

I don’t mean to detract from Ben Kingsley’s acting abilities; indeed, he did an admirable job.  Similarly, I cannot fault Guy Pearce in his portrayal of Aldrich Killian.

Rather, I place the blame on the characters themselves.

While I admittedly am not intimately familiar with the comic book series, I know enough about the franchise to have been very interested in seeing The Mandarin introduced as Tony Stark’s latest nemesis.

The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley

Nice shades!

The Mandarin, as depicted in Iron Man 3, is a total dud.   To say the character lacked depth is a massive understatement.  The buildup of mystery and menace the movie endeavors to enshroud him in is deliberately and intentionally sacrificed as a major plot device, yet the result of that sacrifice is the revelation of a far lesser menace.

It is clearly supposed to be a surprise twist (I am trying to avoid spoilers), yet the only surprise seems to be “hey, guess what?  The situation is not nearly as interesting as you thought it was. Bet you never saw that coming!”  Yay?

The other major character introduced is Aldrich Killian.  He’s intended to be a brilliant mind in his own right, and the very beginning of the movie clearly shows that the character is supposed to be a foil, and potential antagonist, to the flamboyant genius and showmanship of Tony Stark.  However, the character turns out to be remarkably one-dimensional, and his motivations and overall role turn out to be decidedly generic.

The titular character also lacks the depth seen in the previous titles.  Clearly there is intent to add depth, by highlighting Tony Stark’s insecurities and emotional sensitivities, yet it seems that either the true character-building elements were largely cut from the final production, or what exists was tacked on as an afterthought.

Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, it is established that Tony is having some residual problems from the events at the end of The Avengers.  These problems crop up a couple of times during the movie, yet are never actually resolved in a meaningful way.  Instead, it’s just “stuff he’s dealing with”, and doesn’t really accomplish anything towards adding depth to the character.

Indeed, it feels like it may be tacked on strictly to provide some links to The Avengers, which appears to be a common theme in Marvel Studios’ recent titles.  It seems like they are trying to bring the same breadth and depth to the Marvel Universe on screen that the comics enjoy.  However, instead of meaningful cross-over appearances and side stories that play integral parts of individual story arcs, as seen in many of the printed titles, they are peppering the movies with just enough references for someone who has seen the other films to say “oh, yeah… I know what they’re talking about.”

Unfortunately, this also means that those who have not seen the other films will just find the references confusing or uninteresting.

The movie itself does have some redeeming qualities.  In particular, we are treated to lots of explosions, and some eye-catching special effects.  The confrontation at the conclusion of the movie attempts to incorporate some of these special effects in a meaningful way into the plot, but it doesn’t really make up for a somewhat anticlimactic battle.

The basic plot, however, is somewhat interesting, and we do see some interesting characters along the way.    Harley Keener, played by Ty Simpkins, was perhaps the standout of the movie, and I found the scenes with him better than most of the dialogues with the more prominent characters.

The fight scenes were well-coordinated, and the abilities of the protagonists are both eye-catching and distinctive.

All in all, I found the movie to be a significant disappointment.  It failed to achieve the appeal of the preceding entries in the series, and certainly fell far short of the bar set by The Avengers.

Tony Stark sitting next to his Iron Man suit.

Yeah, it’s that exciting.

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