‘Iron Man 3’
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Guy Pearce
Rated: PG-13, for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content
Runtime: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Bottom line: A divisive, underwhelming entry in the Avengers canon
“Iron Man 3” is a fine movie as long as you turn off your brain completely. If, however, you view it with even a casually critical eye, you will see a movie full of choices driven by commercial goals rather than what serves the story, characters or even its devoted fan base.
Moviegoers who merely want to hear Robert Downey Jr. spout a new batch of Tony Stark quips and see the suit used in new ways will likely enjoy the movie, even though this is the least comical of the three “Iron Man” movies.
Viewers who know the comics and expect a little more from the franchise, however, are going to be disappointed — not because it’s a bad movie, but because of the choices the screenwriters make.
The filmmakers bring one of the Marvel universe’s great nemeses, Advanced Idea Mechanics, or A.I.M., onto the big screen in the form of scientists Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). A.I.M. was destined to become part of the Avengers movies, and “Iron Man 3” accomplishes that deftly.
On the other hand, comics fans should be prepared to hate what this movie does with The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). His character arc is not grounded in the comics, nor does it grow logically out of the movie franchise’s ongoing storyline.
Disney and Marvel’s efforts to market the movie in China and achieve co-production status there have been widely publicized. Producers are even releasing a different cut of the movie there.
What they do with The Mandarin is obviously motivated by a desire to avoid offending Chinese viewers.
No one should be deluded into thinking the Iron Man movies are anything but money-making entertainment. Even so, the story in “Iron Man 3” is so egregiously driven by commercial concerns that it’s a letdown.
Parents should be aware this is a violent PG-13 movie. Most of the action is of the superhero, fantasy variety, but there are numerous realistic gun battles, a point-blank execution and disturbing footage of terrorists at work.
Like “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Iron Man 3” is grounded in a harsh, violent reality rather than the unmistakably fantastic world of “The Avengers” or “Thor.”
The previous two Iron Man movies definitely earned their PG-13 ratings, but this is the most violent of the trilogy.
It also reminded me of the Dark Knight movies in tone. This movie kicks off the summer season with a brooding, somber atmosphere that has Tony Stark battling insomnia and self-doubt more than he battles baddies.
And for all of the CGI pyrotechnics the filmmakers build around the Iron Man suit, we see Tony fighting without the suit nearly as much as he does with it.
One of the filmmakers’ goals was clearly to break away from the Iron Man formula. The third act hits us with a steady stream of franchise-changing revelations and character developments that will divide the audience.
Whether you like those developments or not, though, it’s undeniable this is the most awkwardly scripted movie of the Iron Man franchise and possibly the entire Avengers series.
Time after time, the movie sets up certain plot devices as monumentally threatening and virtually insurmountable. To specifically name those devices would spoil the movie, but suffice it to say that the things you have been led to believe are life-threatening to Tony or a threat to the entire world ultimately can be overcome or defeated with a magical wave of the screenwriter’s wand.
Dilemmas that have provided the foundation for the entire franchise and even the character Tony Stark will be resolved not in climactic, dramatic fashion, but in a brief, single shot that flashes by in a montage.
I understand the producers want the franchise to evolve in new directions, but the final 15 minutes of “Iron Man 3” are a deflating experience that will leave many wondering why we were supposed to care in the first place.
Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.