When you make a film as close to perfection as Iron Man, of course it’s going to be hard to keep up the quality for the sequel and the next sequel and maybe the other sequel and the prequel. The reviews for Iron Man 3 have been okay but certainly not the rapturous ode to joy of the original or the more measured praise of #2.
In other words, I had my expectations reasonably lowered. Even so, Iron Man 3 is a sore disappointment.
Everything looks the same as in the vivid world of Tony Stark we’ve come to love. The Malibu beach house right out of a James Bond fantasy. Flashy cars. Robert Downey Jr. doing his best suave, damaged Tony, managing to wrest a few funny and poignant moments from an overcrowded and unfocused script. (The interactions with the kid are surprisingly effective, compared to what usually happens when you add a supposedly cute, precocious moppet to the mix.)
Missing is the sense of gritty reality that marks the first two films. Yes, I know there’s no magical flying machine that turns billionaire playboys into one-man armies. But Iron Man the original totally made me forget that for a while.
#3 seems so intent on ramping up the action and pumping up the volume that it forgets the part where human beings are supposed to be more important than the suits.
What is it that makes sequels work again? One simple factor-did they recapture the spirit of the original? Did they remember why we fell in love in the first place? Shrek 2 did. Aliens did. The second Pirates of the Caribbean totally captured the spirit of fun and adventure of the original. Number three? Forgot all about the fun.
So why did we fall in love with Iron Man in the first place? Because it was a bad-ass superhero flick that never forgot its heart. No matter how fantastical events became, Tony Stark kept us grounded in reality–in Tony Stark’s and possibly Robert Downey Jr’s troubled, brilliant humanity. There was more man than iron, more character arc than hardware.
As IM3 proceeded, I felt as though whole sequences had been hijacked by Transformers the Movie-make that the second Transformers movie. (Hint: You never, ever want your movie to remind anyone of Transformers 2 in any way.) Way too much going on, zipping by so fast I couldn’t follow who or what was doing what to whom and I came to realize to my horror I didn’t really care.
I also didn’t buy the PTSD angle that was meant to give Tony his internal conflict. This is a guy held prisoner in a cave, deadly shrapnel pointing at his heart that might drop him at any moment, witnessing his savior die to free him, who survived the betrayal of his business partner-cum-father figure and numerous battles where he almost died and he’s wigging out about some alien-god figures who come through a wormhole? Why? Like a lot of the movie, it didn’t ring true.
Though all three movies had different writers, this is the first one not directed by Jon Favreau (who plays Happy in the movie.) Shane Black is at the helm here. Black will always have a special place in my heart for writing Lethal Weapon, one of the best screenplays ever. His name is on this one in the writing credits as well, though I don’t see many traces of his trademark character moments or sparkling dialogue. Black’s directorial focus seems to be much more about how to squeeze in one more extraneous element to the already overbloated action sequences than how to really make the moments resonate.
It’s possible to make a busy, noisy, overstuffed superhero movie and still maintain a sense of connection to the characters and the story. Joss Whedon, who directed the multi-story, multi-character The Avengers, I’m looking right at you. No matter how much was going on, Whedon never let the characters get lost or the central conflict or the humor or the humanity. I felt so disconnected from the characters and story in IM3 that nothing much had an impact, not even momentous events near the end. Not even the normally Oscar-caliber acting of Downey Jr. could infuse those flat moments with any real pathos or gravitas.
I wish I could call this an interesting failure, but it wasn’t even interesting. Much like watching Back to the Future Two, I kept wishing I was watching the original film. A movie becomes a Rewatchable usually because of great scenes strung together with solid transitions. There isn’t a single scene in this film I want to watch again.
Sorry, Iron Man franchise, but I give this a 2 out of 5 stars.
The brief Credit Cookie gets a 5 out of 5 stars, though. Stay for it.
Threequels That Didn’t Suck.
Dark Knight Rises
Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness
Exorcist 3: Legion
Harry Potter 3: The Prisoner of Azkaban
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock
Toy Story 3