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There’s a strong feeling of déjà vu around Iron Man 3.  Yes, it’s the third in its franchise and also addends last year’s superhero ensemble, The Avengers, but there’s a whole other pervasive sense of been-here-before in this chapter, that besides its high-powered, cinematic bombast spotlights an incredibly emo Tony Stark.

Tony Stark can’t sleep.  Whatever happened to the zillionaire industrialist during the earth’s invasion a year ago hasn’t left him.  In the few moments when his eyes are closed, he’s besieged with nightmares and waking hallucinations centered around in his time in a dimensional wormhole during the alien battle in New York City.  Now as the world’s richest shut-in, Stark turns his madness into mechanics and works on his metal suits; the ultra-high-tech pieces of armour that enable him to right the world’s wrongs.  Endless upgrades and improvements follow with absolutely no sign of Stark ever wanting to wear one again.  His internal issues could not have arrived at a worse time; a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin has committed daring and unthinkable attacks on the United States, arresting the airwaves and threatening the President himself.  What does any of this have to do with Tony Stark’s roué past as a callous, love-‘em-and-leave-‘em playboy?  Stark’s nightmares invade the daylight as careless acts of years ago are more involved with the terrorist threat than anyone, especially the billionaire himself, could ever imagine.

Iron Man 3 is very silly.  The Mandarin doesn’t exactly strike terror in the hearts of the viewers with his weird, multi-regional American accent, and, however charmingly acted by Sir Ben Kingsley, the character’s big reveal nearly took me out of the film altogether.  The Mandarin not actually being Chinese reeked of political correctness with the filmmakers opting to present him as vaguely Middle-Eastern.  He’s like a grubbier Bin Laden instead of the elegant Eurasian from the comic books.  Following film one’s cool holographic tech and film two’s clever-Iron-Man-in-a-suitcase; Iron Man 3’s ‘wow’ inventions are the remote-controlled armour that can fly across distances a piece at a time to cover their owner - even in midair - and the ones that require no actual human inside while Stark calls the shots.  Both devices wind up overused and provide some of the most unnecessary punking in the film.  Some very obvious heartstring-yanking is meant to demonstrate how important and wonderful Pepper Potts is in Tony’s life, however in the previous chapters she hasn’t been particularly impressive as a character (She’s no Peggy Carter, or even a Betty Ross), and this film goes above and beyond to raise her profile by giving Potts skills and qualities heretofore unseen and completely unbelievable.  Not even her scene in a belly-baring sports bra - apropos of nothing and in complete discontinuity with the script – convinced me otherwise.  When The Mandarin’s forces make a blitz on Stark’s cliffside mansion with the ever-endangered Potts inside, I felt more emotional distress at the peril of Stark’s long-suffering robotic assistants, who’d completely won my heart back at the first movie.  So, too, did I reckon Stark’s New Year’s tryst of many moons ago, Dr. Maya Hansen, played by Rebecca Hall, far more engaging than the one-note Ms. Potts.  A genius in biogenetic science, Hansen’s not only combatted Stark’s roguish behaviour, but the perpetual underestimation of being a woman in her field.  Iron Man 3’s got an awful lot of dropped storylines or moments so undercooked, it made no sense to include them; like the revelation of what happened in the wormhole that’s been haunting Stark so badly.  Since it was such a major part of The Avengers’ climax and important enough to jump start the story here, I kept waiting for the resolution, or at least a hint, and there were none forthcoming.  Even the motivation of The Mandarin seems rather petty for such a high body count.  Iron Man 3 feels very long, with its three main set pieces; the attack on Stark’s mansion, the patently ridiculous “barrel of monkeys’ aerial sequence and the final big rescue going on for ages.  The mansion attack was one of those moments that felt reminiscent to me of another film: The same type of wholesale destruction by an over-equipped army attacking a hero’s home brought me back to the second Lethal Weapon film, where Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs’ beloved beachside trailer is blasted to smithereens by bad guys in helicopters.  So it goes here when an airborne battalion of The Mandarin’s men spare no ammo to drive the perilously perched Stark house into the sea with the expectation that the man himself is inside.  The cinematography is very close to that strangely grainy, slightly pan-and-scan look of the Lethal Weapon films.  Stark’s psychological struggles and inability to relate to the outside world also has a very Martin Riggs tortured, emo feel that will have the viewer wondering how far his insomnia-driven crazy is going to go?  I had actually forgotten that Jon Favreau did not direct this film and wasn’t shocked at all to see Lethal Weapon’s writer, Shane Black, listed at the helm.  Déjà vu totally answered.

What seems to be lacking most in Iron Man 3 is the sharp slickness of the previous films - including the Avengers - and the post-modern awareness and love of the comic’s mythology that never quite leaks into parody.  While the past films are referenced, there’s nothing for those craning their ears for clues about the next Avengers film, or even the upcoming Thor to look forward to.  The aforementioned overlong action sequences are fairly dull and creaky considering the obvious amount of pyrotechnic effort.  What Black makes the most of is Tony Stark’s - aka Robert Downey Jr.’s - way with a pithy quip and the “buddy” aspect prevalent in all Black’s projects.  Stark’s relationship with his former assistant, Happy, is the impetus for his involvement with The Mandarin, his friendship with brother-in-armour, Col. “Rhodey” Rhodes may save both himself and the woman he loves, and there’s an unlikely alliance with an adorable, young Tennessee boy (So down on his luck he can’t afford a Southern accent.) who comes to his rescue when all seems lost.  There are some genuinely funny moments, most of them due to Downey Jr.’s impeccably droll delivery (A necessary counterpoint to some of the script’s clumsy, sappy clinkers.), and once in a blue moon there’s a tiny subversive note; such as Robocop’s Miguel Ferrer as the Vice-President, patting the back of the robotic War Machine (Announcing his new, friendlier tag, Iron Patriot, with a Captain America paint job to match).  And yes, there’s an Easter Egg that’s not only a good laugh, but may be the most inspired moment in the whole picture.  The excellent supporting cast all suffer from way too little screen time and the goofiness of the script, but do the best with what they have, including Guy Pearce as yet another rival zillionaire genius scientist, who, unlike Stark, was a bit of a late bloomer.  The flip side of going so far into the psychology of Tony Stark means one must guard against the movie turning to mush.  I felt like a lot of this story was already hashed out in the first film, where the trauma of Stark’s kidnapping and the origin of Iron Man set about a change in his wastrel, playboy ways.  Using the wormhole as another way to dredge up the same emotions, then dropping the premise altogether felt like a throwaway device; an excuse to make Iron Man 3 more of a love story and I wasn’t feeling it.  The tied-up-with a bow ending felt false and forced, and one particular development is sure to have viewers asking, ‘Why didn’t he do that five years ago?’  Another explosive resolution is cheesily sentimental, unnecessary and incredibly expensive.  Iron Man 3 is weighed down by an overabundance of schmaltz where inspiration and novelty is needed.  The movie relies almost solely on the talent of Robert Downey, Jr. and its excellent supporting cast to lighten the proceedings and make them entertaining.  While not a complete failure as visceral eye-candy and as a pure popcorn movie, Iron Man 3 is the least engaging of the trilogy.  It’s disappointing that what appears to be the last chapter in the Iron Man franchise goes out not with a bang, but with a shrug.

Well, there’s always The Avengers 2.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 3rd, 2013

 

Click here for our review of 2008's Iron Man

Click here for our review of 2010's Iron Man 2

 

 

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Photos

Stills Courtesy of  Walt Disney Pictures

 

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