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?


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.


Whiny Pepper

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.

  • Billy Tsik

    Finally someone who have the “balls” to say it. I Agree with you 100%.
    It was just a fun movie and not ans Iron Man movie.

    • Michael MacDonald

      It wasn’t that fun though. I left furious.

    • robbobjon

      no u jus 2 fukin stoopid 2 undrstnd d MSTRPEEC dat IRONMAN 3 iz! LOL!!! u shuld kil urself n do evry1 a favur!! LOL!!! or IRONMAN wil kil u!! LULZ!!!!!!r

  • Quinno Assoon

    I LOVE YOU. ’nuff said.

  • Ian Mayor

    The reviews of Iron Man 3 have been really rather weird.

    Its Rotten Tomatoes score started insanely high (and seems to have levelled off in the high seventies) but most of the people I know who saw the film before me warned me off it.

    There was a great deal of “meh” and some genuine hostility expressed by similarly geeky mates, this *perhaps* twisted my expectations to the point of being pleasantly surprised when I saw it.

    It’s a solid action film with a very distinctive voice and it’s genuinely surprising in tone and content, it delivers on its arc and it’s a lot of fun. That doesn’t make it The Avengers, heck, it doesn’t quite make it Thor. But it’s still really rather good.

    What it’s *not* is what I’ve come to expect from a Marvel film.

    I.M.3. may as well exist in isolation from the rest of the cinematic Marvel Universe, it’s *really* left-field in tone and resolutely divorced from the S.H.I.E.L.D. policed threads of previous films. This bends logic, slightly, but I can live with it.

    I agree that this is not what you might expect from an “Iron Man” film specifically… or from any version of Iron Man (comic or film) we’re used to. On a different day, or in a less entertaining film, I could see that as a negative. I.M.3 is very Tony heavy and this is a particularly whacky Tony, but I’m cool with that too… as someone who has a mental vision of Batman (and a few dozen other superheroes) I’ve never seen on screen, I can live quite happily with this performance in isolation.

    All told, I can’t remember the last time I was as surprised at the cinema without being crushingly disappointed.

    To address some specific criticisms, well, yeah… it was Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang-lite down to some *very* specific joke reuse, I’d rather have fresher content… but this particular brand of left-field, Hollywood-noir is very much the road less travelled in a blockbuster, and as such, it gets a pass from me.

    The pilotless armour is straight out of the comics, in fact, there is so much of Matt Fraction’s run in this film I was surprised to see him not get a thanks in the credits.

    Aldrich Killian’s stated plan was to engineer war and profit on both sides, does this plan stand up to much scrutiny? Not really. Can i buy it in context? Yeah, the same way I can buy Max Zorin’s plan to flood Silicon Valley in order to corner the global microchip market, for instance. I think Moore-era Bond has a similar silliness threshold to I.M.3… your mileage on this *tone* may vary.

    As for Pepper, she despaired of Tony, not because he worked so hard but because he’d withdrawn from the world, spent XX months in the basement (42 suits of armour worth) and had forgotten how to sleep. Was she whiny? I didn’t think so, were the final scenes kind of stupid? (and the armour disposal…kinda… odd) Well, yes, but again… I can live with that framed against the rest of the film.

    Although, undoubtedly, an easy enough film to unravel it’s also a new move for Marvel and something of a rarity in tent-pole filmmaking. For its many faults Iron Man 3 has a very distinctive voice, there’s an edginess here, an oddness that I found really rather winning.

    • Tracey

      Thanks for such a thoughtful response, Ian. I think if I’d seen this on DVD a lot of the silliness would have got a pass from me, as it had some genuinely entertaining moments; I think there were several things wrong with it that I could have forgiven (the lack of freshness, the non-Iron Man-y stuff) but in combination, were too much for me to let go.I was also, for long stretches, actually quite bored. And I’m afraid I just disagree with you on Pepper – there was no sense of her as a person, just a role. Maybe my expectations were too high after Avengers, which I adored, but this was a miss for me. That said I will probably watch again in DVD with a glass of wine inside me to see if it works better for me then…

  • Michael Moore

    It was more of a RDJ movie

  • vk at nyte

    i agree that Black did lift alot of 80s cliche’s from action films like Lethal Weapon and others however they were used in a great way and didnt make the film worse like other directors would have done..
    also if you’ve ever read any of the books- Stark started using remote control on his armors during the “Armor Wars” storyline and even afterward..
    Just because certain moments were put into the film doesnt make the film suck..yes i agree with the fact that SHIELD never made an appearance-however if you noticed the timeline of the film, everything happens fairly quickly and after his house gets demolished its under the assumption that he is in fact dead-and if you want the bad guy to think you are dead,why would you contact SHIELD?? How do you know that they’re not involved especially if THE MANDARIN is involved with levels of gov’t(which this was mentioned-hello)..
    Good article but next time you may want to re-watch the film before putting out your objections…

  • Captain Balko

    Completely agree with everything said in the article. Especially the part about the lack of S.H.I.E.L.D. Involvement and that Iron Man is barely in his suit. I also found that, unlike previous Marvel films, it did nothing to further the actual series. Every other film either introduced an Avenger or (in the case of Iron Man 2) pushed towards the idea of the Avengers. In 3, I felt like nothing much changed at all.

  • David Bishop

    Black allowed the following in Iron Man 3 … ‘just breathe Mr. Stark, just breathe’……’hang on Mr President, just hang on, hang on’ ROFL lame as any movie ever was.

  • Yes!!

    this movie sucked ass big time, horrible

  • matt

    movie sucked terribly. they used the same villian all 3 movies…eveil US businessman (yet having the Mandarin actually be Chinese would have been racist). I am really disappointed. The Mandarin story was crap as well. Hopefully they can put something better together for Avengers 2

  • DT

    Just say it: it was a terrible film. I hated it. It was a huge let down after Avengers.

  • Jorden Brahma Wangdi

    no ac/dc trademark music

  • Joe F

    Black just got on the gravy train. He trumped out all this racist BS about the Mandarin because quite frankly, just wasn’t up to the task of doing a villain of this proportion correctly. Just lazy writing and directing. Sure I got a chuckle out of Ben Kingsley’s wry performance. But like it was said, this was not a welcome twist. Too bad they squandered his talent.

  • SteelHayze

    Fully agree with you. He can FLY and has ranged weapons… WTF did he always run into hand to hand combat once he realised they could shut down his suit with a single touch. And not just once but over and over!!! Also, we went through an entire movie about his new arc reactor (iron man 2) and now he can’t use it to power his suits???? he has to recharge it from a fing BOAT BATTERY???? I think this was the worse superhero movie Marvel has produced. Good action flick yes, good superhero movie, no. I think it should be renamed “Tony Stark, secret ninja potato gun agent and his pathetic drones/suits”.

  • Michael MacDonald

    It was a steaming pile of garbage…

  • UncleTurd

    Joe Pesci could have played this Mandarin and I wouldn’t give a shit. Still a bad movie. The kid was like a model of a kid cast for a part by some team of douche bags looking through photos of kid actors trying to find The One. Wasn’t he suppose to be a hick with some sort of character? Who gives a shit? The script should have been burned before so many animators spent so much time making a movie that was going to suck because the writing stunk. The snarky lines were not funny and nothing was right about anything the characters said or did. The only thing that was mildly amusing was the Iron Man suit crapping out when he needed it the most but I predicted that from the parking lot before entering the theater. What a turd of a movie. The sound sucked also and the 3d was horrible and the script had bad breath. It stunk.

  • zombyxxx

    im with you 100% it was a very fun and a pretty good movie,,but it WAs Not a good iron man movie

  • OldnBusted Dan

    It’s a Comic book hero movie. It isn’t supposed to make sense, be perfect or stand up to reality.

  • axia777

    I just finished watching Iron Man 3. It sucked a Tijuana Donkey Show. Shane Black is an assh*le and who ever wrote that screen play needs to be fired from working in any form of media for the rest of their lame ass shitty empty pathetic life. The movie sucked balls. F*ck Iron Man 3. F*ck it with a brick right up its ass.