By the time an action film franchise hits its third film, viewers have a built-in history with its characters and world. It is not the duty of any movie boasting a title that ends with the number three to be anything but an invitation to spend time with some old friends, see some new stunts, and of course, boo and hiss at some newly concocted villains. As such, I will assume anyone interested in reading this review has not only seen earlier episodes of the franchise, but enjoyed them enough to be interested in a third go-round. For you Tony Stark lovers out there, have no fear – though this film presents truly little in the way of plot, it presents more than enough spectacle and humor to be a worthy popcorn-munching flick. The film’s lack of innovation or thematic weight make it easily forgettable, but it nonetheless is a brisk adventure and provides another dose of the cheap thrills and wit fans of the franchise have come to love.
As with most summer blockbusters, this is undeniably a minor affair, relying largely on CGI-laden set pieces, well-timed quips, angsty glares, and harrowing scenarios. As a result, the majority of its half-hearted attempts to build emotional ties to its plotting fall flat, as they are simply used to provide excuses for the next battle. These battles are fun, but not necessarily gripping, as we are not invested in the characters enough to hold our thumbs at their apparent demise, and the central villain is too broadly drawn to be spurned. Yet, as with the first film of the franchise, it is the charisma of Downey’s Tony Stark that carries the film, and while it is a much more vapid experience than our introduction to the character five years ago, it provides enough variety in its action and plot twists to be eminently watchable. (Including one sillier plot twist that is altogether unexpected and thoroughly entertaining.) You may not remember Iron Man 3 for long after the viewing, but as you watch, you will find yourself smiling.
*** out of ****
One of the most remarkable things about Iron Man 3 is the way it incorporates many of the elements from the past two films and especially The Avengers. Although there is not real carryover plot-wise; there is a lot of acknowledgement regarding Stark’s past adventures and how they have affected him now. If nothing else, the people behind these Marvel films will be remembered for building a world and a franchise that is absolutely gigantic. It will be extremely hard to imitate.
And it’s fun. Contrasted to Nolan’s Batman franchise, which is wonderfully dark, gripping, and serious, this movie is sugar-coated candy pop. And you’re right, a lot of this has to do with Robert Downey, Jr. who plays this character to an absolute tee, managing to inject humor and timely one-liners into every situation he is in. He’s been perfectly cast, and he’s quite good in both the big and small moments. The pacing is effective, and there is plenty of exciting action to be had. I enjoyed it, yes, and I smiled quite a bit. And, of course, it is light years better than Iron Man 2.
*** out of ****
One has to wonder what the lasting impact of the Marvel universe will be. These films are intentionally difficult to understand without having experienced them as a whole. For example, there are many references to the events of The Avengers in Iron Man 3, and without a frame of reference, some of the plot points would not make as much sense. In this way, Marvel tells stories much more similarly to television, in that you must “catch up” and see the last episode before moving forward. It is, if nothing else, a brilliant marketing move that will sell many movie rentals. (It is also why we see so many sequels to begin with – people have an innate compulsion to see what happens next.) This may cheapen the experience, as it guarantees some level of formality in plotting, but in the case of Marvel, it also allows for the creation of a much deeper world than one film, or even one franchise, could allot. In this way, Marvel’s films have preserved much of what makes Marvel comics popular.
Perhaps we can learn something from comparing this film to Iron Man 2, which I also found to be a trying experience. Weirdly enough, I found that film to be weighed down by too much plotting and subtext. Its attempts to crescendo into a final battle felt drawn out. Conversely, Iron Man 3 presents a very simple conflict at its center and fills its plot to the brim with twists and turns. In this way, the film subverts its thematic hollowness and avoids being boring simply by presenting viewers with enough shiny things to look at. When a film’s characters are broadly drawn, there must be enough spectacle to pick up the slack, and unlike the weaker aspects of its predecessor, Iron Man 3 doesn’t try to be anything but a thrill-ride, and it is a more enjoyable film as a result.
It is exactly like you said – long-form storytelling that has become quite commonplace in this modern age of television, but is mostly unexpected when it comes to film. And I kind of love it, regardless of if it was simply a marketing ploy. Iron Man 3 was basically a return to form for Tony Stark after the heavy, kind of boring Iron Man 2. Since the film is essentially a long string of action sequences, I must ask: which was your favorite?
That has to be the almost entirely superfluous skydiving stunt. There is no reason for this scene to take up the time it does in the film, yet it is such a ridiculous setup that it manages to subtly mock the superhero genre while also maintaining a high level of excitement. Great stuff. How about you – what was your favorite?
I think that was probably my favorite stunt too – not only was creative and exciting, but it also didn’t rely as heavily on CGI as other sequences. Of course, there were a lot of really great set pieces in this movie, and one of my other favorites was near the start – the attack on the Stark home. Also great is Ben Kingsley’s villain, The Mandarin. I had more fun watching him than I have had with almost any super hero villain in recent years. I think he’s my favorite superhero villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Did you love this character as much as I did?
Two-as-One Rating: *** out of ****