A follow-up movie of two already successful movies oozes difficultly. A follow-up movie of one of the highest-grossing movies of all time oozes near impossible. That’s Iron Man 3, acting as both the sequel to Iron Man 2, released in 2010, and Marvel’s The Avengers, released last summer. Set to be essentially the first movie in the “second wave” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3 has a lot on its apparent shoulders. It’s a sequel, an introduction, and a conclusion.
The film opens up ditching the AC/DC ‘rock’ sound and instead presents us with “Blue” a la Eiffel 65. Yeah…remember that? Doing the classic (if not at this point, cliché) “exposition flashback” to 1999, we’re given a quick insight of a project Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) was going to apparently be a part of, but instead opted to seduce one of the two project members instead, ditching the other on a rooftop.
Flash-forward to current day, Tony Stark still suffers the fallout from The Avengers, or as he words it, “New York.” Embedding himself in his work, his girlfriend/CEO of his company, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) begins to show concern over our protagonist. The first act’s focus is on the relationship between the characters, and the development of the looming threat. Pepper is reacquainted with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), the project member left on the rooftop. Killian insists on working with Stark Enterprises, but Pepper initially refuses it. Amidst all of the tension brewing between the characters (whether it’s Pepper/Killian, Tony/Potts, or James Rhodes (Don Cheadle)/Tony), there is the looming threat of The Manderin (Ben Kingsley), the leader of the Ten Rings organization (mentioned in the first Iron Man film). The Manderin (known for being the archenemy of Iron Man in the comic books) is randomly obliterating various parts of the world, and sending various video messages. While the “terrorist leader” approach to The Mandarin during this act felt ordinary, it thrived on so much unpredictability that the character was quite intimidating to watch.
It’s here where the second act begins to take a downturn for the rest of the movie. While the film had some typical, but good setup, it becomes muddled in confusing plot design and overall direction. Something like this isn’t to blame on the film director, Shane Black, but just the overall story structure (although Black is credited as one of the writers, my statement refers to pure direction). Tony Stark is forced to rely on a child for assistance in restoring his armor. But, as established in the previous two Iron Man films and The Avengers, Stark has a near-infinite energy source radiating from his chest, that one would think he would incorporate into his new suit model, but doesn’t. I believe the excuse for such situation would be to dignify Tony Stark as being someone who doesn’t need the Iron Man suit to secure a victory. This approach somewhat works, but still can’t capture the essence of Stark’s mind like the first Iron Man.
There’s then a part about halfway through that I was warned before viewing the movie that would “polarize audiences.” This statement proved quite true for me, as this point was a defining point that fed a real sour taste in my mouth. While this part can be viewed as ‘smart’, it dwindles down to preference. As a fan of both the comic series and the TV show (from the 1990’s), this part won’t please everyone.
The poster can sometimes be more exciting than the movie.
The third act of the movie is very similar The Avengers as there’s constant explosions and fighting. While this was needed in The Avengers, it really doesn’t feel needed here which can be credited to the apparent ‘threat’ from Iron Man 3. With the first movie, Tony’s threat was himself and his change in character. With Iron Man 2, Tony’s threat was knowing he could be emulated. In this movie, while Tony’s development is serviceable at best, there’s no defining threat except perhaps a clash of power, and the fact that someone is hostage. But perhaps the most questioning move was the antagonist’s idea to give his “insurance” the same power as he has. With a bit of visual effects display (and no doubt subliminal advertising for the movie’s toy line), the movie wraps to an anticlimactic conclusion.
For being the apparent conclusion of the Iron Man film series, a follow up to The Avengers, and the movie to trigger the “second phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3 doesn’t quite live up to the hype it initially gave. The real problem with the movie is the questionable plot choices, and the overall plot direction. While the movie benefits greatly from performances, visual effects, choreography, editing, direction, and a fantastic soundtrack; the overall plot just feels messy and the aforementioned elements cannot save the movie.
Poster image credit: Flixster.com/Walt Disney Motion Pictures/Marvel Studios