Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Iron Man 3 (I’ll refer to it as IM3 from here on out). After the general disappointment with 2010’s Iron Man 2 and the euphoria over 2012’s The Avengers, would this film be a keeper?
To my mind, yes…and no. No, no, no.
Robert Downey Jr. remains an absolute joy to watch and absolutely commands the screen and our attention with his continuing quirky characterization of Stark/Iron Man. This alone makes the film worth watching. Then again, Mr. Downey Jr.’s take on Tony Stark made the far more meandering Iron Man 2 eminently watchable as well.
While Iron Man 2 was meandering and felt out of focus, IM3 moves like lightning, hitting us with something new and interesting every few seconds while giving us plenty of Mr. Downey Jr.’s characterization. Thing is, as great as the ride is, the moment IM3 was over and you find yourself thinking about the story that just play out…the more of a mess you realize it is. Ironically enough, IM3 wound up hitting me almost the same way as fellow 2013 summer blockbuster Star Trek Into Darkness did: I enjoyed it while it played out, but afterwards was left decidedly less impressed.
Now, in the interests of not spoiling anything, I’ll stop here and get into story details in a second. The short review is this: Iron Man 3 is an incredibly entertaining “popcorn” film that most people should enjoy. Just don’t think -or focus!- too much about the story.
Still here? Ok, let’s get to this.
The movie begins with a flashback to 1999 and a science convention where a then much wilder/partying Tony Stark simultaneously meets up with an off-putting (and geeky) Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and a beautiful Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). Stark ditches Killian, who wants investors for some high tech he’s developing, while one-night stand bedding Hansen. But not before she reveals she is working on a formula to re-grow plant limbs. Naturally, these two elements are important for what follows…
Fast forward to today and a mysterious terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) appears on TV claiming credit for several mysterious -and gruesome- explosions he claims to have set off around the world. He is now targeting the United States and it is increasingly clear the Mandarin’s endgame involves the President of the United States himself.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark is an emotional mess and is experiencing anxiety attacks -or perhaps even post traumatic stress- related to his experiences in The Avengers movie. At one point, he tells his lover Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), he’s a “hot mess”.
Past and present collide when Killian reappears, much handsomer than before, still seeking an investment in his company. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is nearly killed in another of the Mandarin’s explosions while following one of Killian’s henchmen. This leads Tony Stark to personally call out the Mandarin through the media.
That day, Hansen shows up at Tony Stark’s home to warn him that she thinks her boss -Killian- works for the Mandarin. Stark’s home is assaulted at that moment and Potts, Stark, and Hansen barely make it out alive while the home is destroyed.
Ok, so the plot is a little convoluted to this point but it makes a certain logical sense. It is roughly after this opening that things start to go a little…bonkers.
I don’t want to go over every beat and element of the film that follows and assume those still reading have already seen the film. Thus, the problems start:
Why exactly were the badguys in that small town where the mysterious (apparently non-Mandarin) explosion took place? Didn’t the explosion happen a long while before? And if so, why didn’t they take away all evidence beforehand and not the very moment Tony Stark is there?
While in that town, Tony Stark winds up downloading some incriminating video over the net. Were the badguys really stupid enough to leave material accessible -though granted thanks to high level encryption- over the net showing their criminality?
While I don’t mind the reveal of who the Mandarin really was -on the contrary, I think it was a very clever bit- it also is hard to believe that there could be someone that dumb out there willing to go along with that plan, knowing their face would subsequently be public enemy number one. Seriously?
Then there’s the character of Maya Hansen. She’s good, she’s bad, then she’s good again. I don’t mind shifty characters, provided their allegiances/betrayals make sense. Hansen’s first “modern” time appearance, however, involved her almost becoming a victim of the Mandarin’s attack on Tony Stark’s home. But if, as we later find, she was bad all along (and was aligned with the Mandarin), why would she choose to endanger her life that way? Likewise, why did the Mandarin’s forces attack knowing she was there? Couldn’t they have timed the attack for the moment after she left the home and was away from mortal danger?
But all these above problems pale compared to this: Pepper Potts being kidnapped by the villain who sadistically shows off this fact, via video, to Tony Stark. Instead of simply torturing and/or killing Potts before Stark, the villain instead injects her with his formula…which makes her, like the other villains, a superpowered creature capable of kicking major ass.
Can you not see the…uh…wrongheadedness of doing this? Can the villain not see how a superpowered Pepper Potts just might –might!!!!– come back to bite him in the proverbial ass?! (Note: She does)
I could go on (trust me, there’s more!) but I really don’t want to engage in overkill.
My initial comments remain: IM3 is a fun “popcorn” film that whizzes by and entertains…provided you don’t think about it too much. Otherwise, your opinion may suffer.