Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 07 – Iron Man 3

Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 07 – Iron Man 3

I often find myself in somewhat heated conversations with fellow geek friends who enthusiastically sing the praises of Iron Man 3.  I clearly remembered when I first saw it in the theater, I really didn’t like it much, so I was looking forward to diving back into it for this recap so I could finally maybe see what my friends see.

Nope, still don’t see it.

Movie poster image for IRON MAN 3 starring Robert Downey Jr.
Movie poster image for IRON MAN 3 starring Robert Downey Jr.

Even the second time through, Iron Man 3 is a strange, almost nonsensical, jumbled sprawl through Iron Man’s recent history, trying to cover too much ground and not doing any of it well.

I’d like to say it’s merely the representation of the Mandarin that bugs me, but it goes way beyond that.  It goes to the fact that in this third film it felt like Marvel tried to “tick off” a bunch of different check boxes.  Iron Man “drones”?  Check. Iron Patriot?  Check.  AIM?  Check.  Extremis?  Check. Mandarin?  Check.  Pepper as “Rescue”?  Check.  It felt like it was frantically clamoring from one fanwank to the next to the point where long stretches of the film simply did not make sense.  In a blockbuster like this, occasionally the big action set pieces will save the day, but in this case, Tony barely ever even dons the Iron Man armor, and when he does, it’s generally turned into a farce by some “cheap pop” body humor which involves him getting unexpectedly hit by something.  One of the main focused action scenes involved Iron Man saving 13 people from falling out of the plane, but the climax of the whole sequence feels so silly and unrealistic that I just don’t buy how it could possibly work, even in a comic book universe.

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Iron Man 3 leans very heavily towards humor, so heavily that way in fact that events in the film that are supposed to have emotional impact have none.  Stark’s vehement outrage at the Mandarin feels so artificial and forced, even though his best friend is in a coma (is Happy really his best friend, we barely see him throughout all three films).  His sudden spill over into reckless rebel just doesn’t feel like Tony Stark.

I will say Gwenyth Paltrow is great in this film, as she is in the other two, all at once playing the damsel in distress as well as the ass kicker who has to save Tony at the end of the day.  The moments with Rhodes and Iron Patriot are relatively successful as well.

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As for the crux of the film, the whole Extremis/Aldrich Killian angle, I’ve now seen the film twice and I still don’t even understand what “Extremis” is.  I know Killian talks to Pepper about this “slot” in the brain, so that makes me think that these are genetic enhancements, but why would these genetic enhancements give people heat powers?  And why would heat powers heal limbs?  And what makes them explode or makes the process unstable?  None of this stuff was adequately explained, and the people “infected” with it seem to run the gamut from a little tougher than normal to damn near indestructible, with no particular reason why.

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Ben Kingsley makes an excellent Mandarin, when he’s actually playing that character and not as Trevor Slattery, a soccer loving drug addict.  I know the Marvel One Shot “All Hail the King” delves into that whole angle a little bit, and I will talk about that next.  It takes some steps to salvage the Mandarin character, but does nothing to save Iron Man 3 as a film.

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At the end of the day, I excitedly popped the Blu Ray for Iron Man 3 in the player tonight, anticipating that I would finally see what my friends see, and that I’d get over my irritation with the film, but in fact, the opposite happened, and my frustrations were magnified, as a result, catapulting Iron Man 3 to my least favorite Marvel film, even topping Iron Man 2.

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Which is a shock really, when you look at it.  Considering the role that Stark plays in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fact that 2/3 of his solo films register so poorly with me is a testament to just how great his first film is as well as his roles in the other group films, to the point where I still enjoy Iron Man in spite of being somewhat annoyed with 66% of his film adaptations.

Ongoing Rank:

#7 – Iron Man 3
#6 – Iron Man 2
#5 – Thor
#4 – Incredible Hulk
#3 – Captain America: The First Avenger
#2 – Iron Man
#1 – Avengers

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