Usually when a genre film comes out, there is a disconnect in the reviews between the mainstream press and the genre press – the latter appreciates the film for what it is, the former tends towards the slightly sniffy (“it’d be good if it wasn’t, y’know, about something as silly as superheroes or spaceships”). Usually, geek that I am, I’m squarely on side with the genre press – but with Iron Man 3 I seem to be more in line with the mainstream reviews. Really, am I the only geek who thinks… wait for it… that it actually wasn’t that good?
CONTAINS SPOILERS! (OBVIOUSLY)
Don’t get me wrong, I love Iron Man, I love Robert Downey Jr, and though I thought the first two films were fairly patchy (2 being more patchy than 1, obviously), I was really looking forward to this. But I was, in the end, massively disappointed. At the risk of attracting vast amounts of ire, here’s why I think Iron Man 3 actually sorta sucked.
Shane Black doesn’t like superheroes
OK, maybe I’m wrong, but most of this film felt to me like Shane Black had written an action movie that he desperately wanted RDJ to star in, but then had to shove all this superhero stuff in to get it made. He then basically spent the entire movie dismantling who Iron Man was, right down to the arc reactor (and what, *now* he can easily remove it?). I’ve rarely seen a film about a superhero that works so hard to keep its main character out of the suit.
The RDJ/Tony Stark conflation
This leads in from the above. Now, I love RDJ and I think he was born to play Tony Stark, but I think the film-makers need a reminder that they’re not actually the same person. There were loads of good moments in the movie that, yes, were super snarky fun, but quite a few of them felt like RDJ rather than Tony Stark. Take, for instance, where he and Rhodey sneak on the boat. Are you telling me Tony Stark – weapons manufacturer – doesn’t know ammo isn’t interchangeable between guns? For a genius, Tony Stark actually came off in this film as not that smart. Sure, you get RDJ being cute, but really, that’s not Iron Man.
The cute kid interlude
What is this, the 80s? Didn’t films stop doing this? I am, I admit, slightly ambivalent because this gave Stark some of his funniest lines, but I’m against all cute kid interludes so this doesn’t get a pass from me.
I’m not the biggest Paltrow fan, but the Avengers won me over: in that film, she and Stark seemed to have a relationship that felt warm, real and had genuine chemistry and spark. Here, she gets to play out two annoying, boring clichés: the girlfriend who just wants her lover to be normal and the screaming woman to be rescued. Um, what? Isn’t Pepper Potts supposed to be running a multi-billion dollar company? Wouldn’t she actually be busy? Are you really telling me that she would spend all of her time grumbling that her boyfriend works too hard? And yes, there are a couple of moments of much hyped bad assery, but immediately afterwards these are undermined by her reverting to whiny / victim (“Oh, that was violent!”). And don’t get me started on the ending – WHY would he blow up his suits? How does that make him a better boyfriend?
The lack of SHIELD
The film was actually pretty good at referencing the Avengers – and justifying their lack of presence here – but really, couldn’t there have been some SHIELD involvement? What, they just vanished and ignored this massive terrorist threat?
The bad guys and the plot holes
OK, I’ll give it to Black, the Mandarin story is utter genius, and Kingsley is amazing, but the rest? What was Guy Pearce’s grand plan, exactly? I came out of the movie with no clearer idea that I went in with. There was also an utter lack of peril – maybe it’s because I’m a Brit but the film gave me no reason at all to care about whether the President lived or died (especially when Pearce pointed out he was in bed with Corporate America and had let execs get away with massive pollution), and when Pepper fell to her ‘death’ Downey’s reaction was so muted that I was convinced it was part of his plan and he knew she was OK all along. Also: they let Iron Patriot on Air Force One without checking who he was? Seriously, they wouldn’t have asked him to lift the visor? The film seemed littered with things that didn’t stand up to a moment’s inspection, like it expected you to be so dazzled, you weren’t supposed to think.
It felt like a dozen other movies
I like Black, I really do, but that felt like a positive handicap going in because, some clever stuff with the multiple suits aside, I felt like I’d seen most of this film already. The ‘blow up the boat’ (and the Vice President is secretly in on it!) finale felt oddly similar to the ‘blow up the truck’ (and the Secret Service is secretly in on it!) finale of Long Kiss Goodnight, and RDJ’s performance felt very Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and all of the Christmas stuff felt like… well, every Shane Black movie ever. Add in the fact that the final confrontation with the baddie felt like Terminator and the scene where Tony has the empty suit entertain Pepper is a fairly straight lift from Watchman, and I felt like I was watching a greatest hits reel.
If you’ve got a suit, suit up
This was, perhaps, my biggest disappointment. Yes, Black did some clever and funny things with the idea of remote controlled suits, but if Iron Man can be Iron Man by staying at home playing with a console, then what’s the point? You’ve turned a superhero into a gamer. There’s a certain suspension of disbelief in watching any special effects movie, but here you’re repeatedly reminded what you’re watching isn’t real: it’s someone throwing empty metal about. As my male companion for the movie said, it’s like watching a film where you’re supposed to be rooting for drone warfare. Gee, how heroic.
Of course, I’m not saying it was a terrible film – there were plenty of entertaining moments, and some smart stuff in there – but overall it felt flabby and unfocused and there were stretches where I was actually bored. Maybe we need to stop being quite so impressed with RDJ’s casting and expect both him and the story to work a little harder for our love?
What did you think? Let me know in the comments.