Ok, short, sweet review (and possibly damning it with faint praise) I will say this: this movie was head and shoulders better than Ironman 2. Which isn’t hard, IMO; Ironman 2 suffered a great deal from sequelitis and “too many bad guy syndrome”. “But, Matt,” you may say, “weren’t there only really one and half bad guys in Ironman 2, since Hammer only counts as half a bad-guy?” Yes, and that movie didn’t even do enough with one and a half bad guys.
Any way, this isn’t a review to go into Ironman 2, because why talk about old crap, it’s a review of Ironman 3.
Just as a warning, I will try to make this as spoiler-free as possible but will give away certain, non-essential details in order to discuss what I liked and didn’t like.
Ironman 3 opens up with Tony talking about how we create our demons which is pretty much the theme of this movie in a variety of fashions. We’re given a taste of old Tony from 1999, the womanizing, drunk mega-rich kid who is convinced that he’s the smartest, handsomest guy in the room. His interactions in these scenes, with Maya Hansen, a genetic researcher/botantist, and Aldrich Killian, a mega nerd who is a inventor of his own who is setting up a think-tank and wants to get Maya and Tony involve, set up the major conflict of the movie in some ways.
Once this scene concludes we come back to present day. This story takes place soon after the events of The Avengers, which haunt Tony. He can’t sleep and he can’t get the things he experienced, i.e. fighting aliens and gods from another dimension, out of his head. His need to tinker, to create, has gotten away from him to the point where he spends all day and all night creating newer and newer version of the Ironman armor, only to seal them away once they are complete and not wear them. Not only is he tortured by what happened in New York, he’s also afraid, now not just for himself but more for Pepper because, as evidenced by the fact that she was the one person he tried to reach out to when he was flying into the wormhole to end the alien threat, he realizes how important to him she is. I think this is an interesting aspect of Tony’s personality to see him so out of control in this way because, when it comes to Pepper, it’s something he has no control over. When it came to giving up his alcohol and his partying lifestyle he could do that solo because that was his life; with Pepper, she introduces a variable that he can’t change or manipulate and that leaves him uneasy, unsettled. Throw in the occasional panic attack and you’ve got an even more unwell Tony on your hands.
The main threat of the movie is the Mandarin, a terrorist of unknown origin who rises up out of nothing and begins threatening the world. Tony becomes involved when Happy Hogan, Tony’s assistant/body guard/best friend, is caught up in one of the Mandarin’s attacks. Tony gets even more involved when he, in typical Tony Stark fashion, levels a challenge to the Mandarin to come to his house and take him on, giving the Mandarin his address.
And, well, if you’ve seen the trailers you know what happens from there on out.
From there on out the movie is, in part, about Tony taking an active hand in dealing with his demons. There are explosions and good fight scenes, Tony snarking pretty well, a Short Round (my term for an inexplicable child assistant without whom the ever-capable hero can’t succeed), and a pretty good twist that I won’t give you any details about.
Things I didn’t like about this movie? At one point Pepper Potts becomes a bad ass. Not that Pepper wasn’t already a bad ass, because you’d have to be to put up with Tony’s shenanigans as a boss and then later as a boy friend and lover, but in the “I’m going to scarily kick some mega ass” sort of fashion. It doesn’t make sense. Pepper hasn’t been a coward by any stretch of the word, and certainly isn’t in the earlier parts of the movie, but it doesn’t really make sense of why she would suddenly develop martial arts prowess and a fighting instinct/style that she never possessed before.
The bad guys’ super powers were also very…varied. Without going into what causes it, we see the bad guys be able to
A) cause explosions that can vaporize people,
C) cause them to generate extreme amounts of heat from their skin so as to melt steel girders without damage to themselves,
D) be able to leap/fall extreme distances,
E) and one point even breathe fire (this was, IMO, the lamest and randomest bit of the entire bucket o’ powers, especially as it happens exactly once and NEVER WHEN IT WOULD’VE ACTUALLY MATTERED).
Considering the way the powers work, it doesn’t make much sense that the bad guys, in the final fight, would die so easily, especially considering how much trouble Tony, in and out of a suit, has to go through to kill just one of the bad guys. And yet, the final fight, as cool as it is, just seems kind of lame, like the bad guys’ abilities suddenly got down-graded.
The Colonel Rhodes character, again, is basically regulated to the side-kick. They could’ve made Warmachine/Iron Patriot so much better in this film and yet I can’t help but shake the feeling that Rhodes was completely wasted in this film.
Things I liked.
Tony. Pretty much everything about Tony in this movie is something I enjoyed. He’s clearly, as he tells Pepper at one point, a mess and it’s interesting to see the always-in-control Tony Stark very much out of it, to the point where when people just mention New York he starts to hyperventilate. Seeing his transition away from that, and also his transition away from his need for the suits (in what becomes a very touching scene with Pepper) is pretty awesome.
Pepper? Pepper rocks.
There is a pretty significant twist that I kind of enjoyed. The motivation for the twist was a bit cliche but, for once, it was a twist I didn’t really see coming (which I think is an accomplishment since I called The Village half way through).
This movie was also more focused than Ironman 2. Having one bad guy made a big difference, but also the story felt more streamlined and direct.
With this as the kick off for Marvel’s Phase 2 of the Avengers universe movies, I definitely can’t wait to see where they take things. With the second Thor and Captain America movies due out in the next year and change, it’ll be interesting to see where the Avengers are with themselves by the time they re-assemble.
I’d happily pay to go see this movie again in the theater, even at full price.