Iron Man 3 is good, but doesn’t live up to expectations

Iron Man 3 Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr

‘Iron Man 3′ is Disney’s next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But does the film live up to its predecessors? Clackers Ivey and Chuck argue the merits of Robert Downey Jr.’s latest romp as Tony Stark.


I could easily sum up the following review of the latest Iron Man flick in once sentence: It’s a damn shame it followed Marvel’s The Avengers instead of preceding it. There’s little to outright complain about Iron Man 3 (but don’t worry, I’ll get to that), but there wasn’t one moment in the entire film that I wasn’t thinking about how much more I would be enjoying it if Joss Whedon had written and directed instead of Drew Pearce and Shane Black.

It’s a damn shame Iron Man 3 followed Marvel’s The Avengers instead of preceding it.

Before we dive in the flick, a quick note: we’re going to be doing something different with this review. Fellow Clacker Chuck Duncan and I will both be weighing in with our thoughts on the flick. Also, considering the way the story works itself out, there are a couple of points that we’ll discuss that will live on a second page, with great big spoiler warnings for those who haven’t watched the film yet. Trust me; stay away until after you’ve taken in Iron Man 3 in its “full glory.”

If you’ve been living under a rock, we’ll start with a quick primer. Following the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. While things with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) seem to be normalizing, the stress of nearly seeing Earth invaded (and almost dying in the defense) is weighing heavy. The United States is now under a new threat, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), sort of an Osama Bin Laden/Kurtz mashup who has been taking credit for explosions across the country. Mix in a newly branded Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle as James Rhodes) and scientists Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian (Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce) and you’ve got a great cast and a fairly strong story.

Ivey: So, I guess my biggest problem is that this flick barely felt like it was in the same universe as the previous Iron Man flicks … heck, it barely felt like it was in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Sure, you had Iron Man and the rest of the gang from the first outing, but it didn’t feel the same thematically, but also from a story perspective.

I know Black and Pearce made a conscious effort to make the world a little smaller. There were references to S.H.I.E.L.D., but no cameos; Iron Man 2 saw the introduction of Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow, as well as appearances by Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. I understand why the story would go that way, as well as the historical context of comic books doing the same thing all the time. But I think Marvel and Disney have done a wonderful job of creating this intertwined universe, and to make things smaller I think is the wrong direction.

Ivey: IM3 felt different thematically than what had come before.

Again, IM3 also felt different thematically than what had come before. The previous installments always brought the funny, but it felt like this time around there was way too much of it. Don’t get me wrong, jokes and funny bits and Stark one-liners were all funny, but it was almost like they were trying too hard. I hate to go back to Whedon, but Avengers had an incredible balance between overtly funny moments and those that were more subtle.

Chuck: I believe you’re a little “misguided” in your criticism of the film. (Okay, you’re just wrong!) Everyone knows that from the first Iron Man through The Avengers, it was always considered Phase I of a story that had a beginning and end. Iron Man 3 (or Three as it says in the credits) is the first chapter of Phase II. I guess the biggest issue is that we really don’t know how much time has passed in Stark’s world since the events of New York, so we have to assume that it’s been a while and everyone has moved on since that battle. It’s certainly not just a week or a month, so I didn’t have a problem with there being very little reference to the past. Tony refuses to discuss New York because it wrecked his mind, but it’s acknowledged as is Thor when someone mentions how things changed when the guy with the hammer fell from the sky. I’m perfectly happy to see this really as a completely new Iron Man adventure (there were no appearances by any of the other characters in the first Iron Man either, aside from the post credits tease that was really the set up for what was to come).  I didn’t have a problem with the funny bits either.  I really didn’t think there was that much more than in any other movie, although you sat through the marathon recently so you have the advantage of having the preceding films more fresh in your memory. I think I was more taken aback by the violence and body count, bloodless as it was, than anything else. I would have serious reservations about taking a young child to see this movie.

Chuck: I think I was more taken aback by the violence and body count, bloodless as it was, than anything else. I would have serious reservations about taking a young child to see this movie.

Ivey: Wait, are you forgetting Agent Phil Coulson? He was in the first installment, and continues to be one of my favorite characters in the entire MCU!

It would be nice if Disney could figure out what the title is … 3 or three … just pick one! But I digress. I get that this is kicking off Phase II (I’d argue though, that the first Iron Man flick was a phase unto itself, and the much derided Iron Man 2 really kicked off Phase I). Tony Stark seemed to be dealing with the personal demons that followed him after New York, but the rest of the world didn’t. Let’s recap: aliens poured out of the sky and destroyed a great deal of Manhattan. If that happened in the real world, you can bet that even a couple months after it would still be massive in our collective consciousness  I don’t think the story respected just how game-changing those events would have been for society.

That being said, there was a great deal I liked about the movie. It felt like there were larger roles for both Cheadle and (former series director) Jon Favreau – albeit in spurts. The film clocks in at over two hours, but is paced well, balancing the big set pieces, and the time in between them, well. The effects and such were solid, though a little too much of the slowmo for my tastes. I caught the 3D, non-IMAX version; I thought the 3D didn’t necessarily add or distract to the experience which, in this day and age, is a win … but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend paying the up-charge.

Chuck: The real surprise for me was Gwyneth Paltrow. I usually find her presence grating but I liked her performance.

Chuck: Yes, I did completely forget that Coulson is in the first movie, however I was going to say that I thought Iron Man 2 was the technical start of Phase I (but then there was that Nick Fury tease at the end of the first one, so …). And just because within the framework of this story the events of The Avengers don’t seem to have an impact, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t. The little kids is constantly wanting to know what happened and Tony just doesn’t want to talk about it … and the films can’t keep dwelling on that if we’re moving forward with a new story. I’ll bet the next Thor and Captain America movies don’t dwell on it much either.

Cheadle was great as always, but a little Favreau goes a long way for me. It was nice to see that he got a promotion of sorts. The real surprise for me was Gwyneth Paltrow. I usually find her presence grating but I liked her performance and how important Pepper was to the plot this time around. The effects were excellent, and I have to give a shout out to the Air Force One air rescue scene. I know my heart was pounding through the entire sequence of events, and I sat there wondering if that was green screen or real, and came away even more impressed when I read that the action was performed by a real parachute team in a totally real environment. Truly a stunning, breath-taking celluloid moment. I’m a huge fan of 3D when it’s used to good effect by a competent director. This is yet another conversion from 2D, so there’s really nothing special about it to justify the extra cost of the ticket unless you’re seeing it on an IMAX screen. Unfortunately, at my screening the presentation was not IMAX and was also pretty crappy with a dark image made even darker by the glasses. From what I could see, however, it was nothing special.

OK, folks, a reminder: Big Honking Spoilers appear on the next page. We recommend reading there only if you’ve already seen the flick.

Photo Credit: Marvel/Zade Rosenthal

6 Comments on “Iron Man 3 is good, but doesn’t live up to expectations

  1. The guy built like 42(ish minus a couple before) suits.. it was a long time since Avengers!

  2. Too bad you guys hated it so much — I thought it was pretty good! Loved the buster and postcredits scene.

      • So what’s going to happen in the Avengers 2? That’s the real question. SPOILERS

        • I can only guess that maybe AIM and Extremis will play into maybe the next Captain America movie, but if any of that carries over to Avengers II is anyone’s guess.

          • I would love to see AIM in Winter Soldier. However, I wouldn’t use the AIM business card in the Phase 1 briefcase as proof of their importance. You can tell they were just trying to tease IMT(;o3).

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