Oh, Iron Man 3, you had so much riding on you.
Iron Man 3 isn’t just a movie. It is the third (and presumably final) installment of the Iron Man trilogy, it is the first Marvel film to be released since The Avengers and it is the kick starter to Marvel studio’s highly anticipated phase two. It is a film that was made with enormous precision and thought and will serve as a litmus test for all other post-Avengers Marvel films. Too bad it’s not very good.
Iron Man 3 stresses that it takes place mere months after the events in The Avengers. This may, in fact, be the film’s greatest strength because it exposes the audience to an aspect of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that we’ve never really seen before: his vulnerability. Tony has not recovered from his suicide mission through the wormhole during Loki’s siege on New York City at the end of The Avengers. He has insomnia, he whimpers in his sleep from nightmares and he suffers crippling anxiety attacks. Such vulnerability adds complexity to Stark’s otherwise, confident, smooth-talking facade which, after three films, was beginning to get tedious. It’s an interesting component of the film. Unfortunately, it is also the only interesting component of the film.
For all the effort put into Stark’s characterization, it seems that very little was put into the plot. The film suffers from poor pacing and villainous overload. The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and an army of Extremis-enhanced henchmen are crammed into a plot so disjointed that for over half of the film we’re left bored and wondering what on earth is going on. To be fair, the loose ends of the plot do tie up coherently at the end. The reveal that Aldrich is the true Mandarin is a clever twist (though Aldrich’s villainy is obvious from the moment he appears on screen). I also appreciate that, after Kingsley’s Mandarin is built up as a foreign terrorist stationed in Pakistan, the true villain turns out to be an American in Miami hoping to profit from America’s war on terror. Despite all this, though, Aldrich fails to be a compelling villain. Pearce’s performance is bland and Aldrich’s climactic plot to kill the president is so bitterly cliche that the climactic battle to thwart him is also uninteresting- despite a fantastic fight scene between Aldrich and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Iron Man 3 isn’t a bad movie. It maintains the humor and cleverness of the previous Iron Man films while introducing a degree of darkness and depth to the franchise. The film could have been something special if it had put more effort into creating a worth while villain. Iron Man 3 is a prime example of how a poorly written villain can mar an otherwise decent film.
Watch my friends’ responses to Iron Man 3
Listen to my commentary on the Thor: The Dark World trailer