Iron Man 3

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

The Iron Man series of movies has a couple of key strengths that put it ahead of other superhero movies: Robert Downey Jr, the character of Tony Stark, and snarky banter. Downey Jr is delightful to watch as Stark, quipping his way through life, cracking bon-mots, and generally being effortlessly cool. He’s a lot more fun to be with than brooding tortured souls like Batman, Spider-Man or the Hulk.

The producers of the series know this too, and so in the third installment of the franchise they give the audience exactly what we want; lots of Tony Stark being glib and charming. Bringing in Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and writer/director of Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang – another Downey Jr quip fest) was a great decision in this vein as the man knows how to deliver good banter.

But whilst the dialogue was always the best part of the previous films, it wasn’t the only aspect necessary to make Iron ManIron Man 2 and Avengers Assemble work. Fast-talking he may be, but Tony Stark as a character has depth. He’s a conflicted man, using his bravado to mask feelings of inadequacy, fear of losing control of his life, and fear of death.

This film seems aware that it needs a character arc for Tony, but it forgets to have one.


It starts well. After the events of Avengers Assemble, Stark is having trouble sleeping, kept awake at night by nightmares of how he nearly died stopping the alien threat, and haunted in the day by hallucinations & anxiety attacks. With his best weapon – his mind – seemingly fracturing, two threats emerge. One, a terrorist with unclear aims but seemingly immense power named the Mandarin, and the other a mistake from his past in the form of a biomechanical virus named Extremis. Tony is stripped of his home, his supporting cast and even the Iron Man armour. Now the only tool he has left to fight back with is his mind, and he may be slowly losing that too.

That is a brilliant first act, but it has with two problems.

Firstly, that’s the set up for the first Iron Man film. Tony gets kidnapped and forced to use his wits to escape. Spoilers, he builds a suit of armour and kicks ass. Further spoilers, that does not happen in this film.

Secondly – and more importantly – all of that set up gets tossed away in the second act. Tony gets a pep talk from a cute kid and suddenly decides, okay, no more PTSD. There isn’t any pay off. It’s like the film knows it has to get rid of that stuff so we can have our big fight in the third act, but unable to think of a satisfying way to do so, it  just drops it.


The psychological set up isn’t the only thing that’s jettisoned either. The most glaring example of this problem is the Mandarin. Ben Kingsley is fantastic in the early scenes; a terrifying and enigmatic presence that literally interrupts the film to deliver ominous warnings of doom. He’s tremendously scary and the audience is eager to learn more about him. Then the second act undercuts all of that with a reveal that – whilst hilarious – leaves a gaping hole where the antagonist should be. Guy Pearce’s mad scientist character, Aldrich Killian suddenly has to step in and be the bad guy, but he doesn’t have the charisma or the personality to carry it. That’s no slight on Pearce by the way,  as the fault is with the script. We just don’t get enough time with Killian to care when he suddenly becomes the big bad.

The suit is another problem. In the film’s set-up Tony gets separated from his Iron Man armour, and has to make do with a malfunctioning prototype. Now, unlike the aforementioned problematic aspects, this one does build on the set-up. Tony has to use improvised weapons and his fast mouth to deal with physical threats until his armour is repaired. All of this builds up to Tony getting back in the suit and kicking righteous butt in the third act. And it does.

The problem is they then proceed to do it again, and again. Tony gets suit, loses suit, gets suit. In fact the final battle is literally Tony getting into one suit after another as each breaks down or gets destroyed in turn. I know that the aim is to reify the theme of Tony having to rebuild himself, but the effect is just one big cinematic tease. Your film is called Iron Man; a significant part of the appeal of said film is seeing the man in the robot suit hitting things – get to the money shot, people!

Despite my complaints it’s not a bad movie. I enjoyed it more than Iron Man 2 (which was a bloated, overcrowded mess) and there’s a lot to like. I loved the banter. I loved the multiple armour designs in the final fight. I loved the stunt with the people falling from the plane. I really, really loved Gary (you’ll know when you see him). It’s just frustrating that there’s one third of a truly great film here that gets sabotaged by its own plot twists.

The content above is written and owned by Richard Adam Halls but originally appeared on the Simply Syndicated website at all pictures are copyright their respective owners  


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