Wow! Look at this trailer! Shocking images of Tony Stark’s house destroyed, interspersed with an ominous monologue delivered by none other than the legendary actor Ben Kingsley while epic music plays in the background. It seems the witty, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek Iron Man 2 has been replaced with a darker, edgier entry that might just be the new Dark Knight.
Iron Man 3 has one of the best trailers in recent memory. It also has one of the most misleading. In fact, the trailer is so grossly misleading that it’s almost unethical. Just about every single thing in the trailer is a lie, or taken so grossly out of context that it might as well be. About two-thirds of the dialogue spoken by Ben Kingsley in these two minutes doesn’t even appear in the film.
Everything I just said also applies to this trailer.
I’m here to set you straight as to what you can actually expect from Iron Man 3, which is basically a poor man’s Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang. Shane Black even goes so far as to borrow the “the whole movie is a narrated flashback told by Robert Downey Jr.” shtick that made that other movie so successful, and, just like Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, the plot of Iron Man 3 revolves around Robert Downey Jr unexpectedly reuniting with figures from his past.
The movie is as far from the grim, dramatic tone of the trailer as it could be. Taking Iron Man 3 seriously is just about impossible. Even the characters in the movie don’t really seem to be taking it seriously.
Before I saw this movie, a friend of mine informed me that since the film included the Mandarin, Tony Stark’s nemesis famous for his use of magical rings, it would doubtless include an element of magic. I laughed at him, sure that I knew better. Magic might have (sort of) worked in the Avengers, but it wasn’t going to work in this new, epic, serious Iron Man movie. It would feel out of place with the Iron Man trilogy. These were movies, after all, at least ostensibly grounded in reality, however far that reality might be stretched. Iron Man 3 would steer clear of magic rings, just as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise had eschewed the Ras al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit of resurrection. We made a one-dollar wager about it.
After the film was over, I turned and handed my friend a dollar. The path Iron Man 3 took was not what I’d expected, nor was it what he’d expected. Gone is the magic-ring wielding Mandarin from the comics (a fact which will no doubt upset and alienate many die-hard fans), but also gone is the sense of science-fiction that gave the earlier Iron Man 3 films their charm–this new movie is straight-up fantasy, filled with pseudo-science so absurd and impossible that it might as well be called magic. It’s a jarring change of tone, and while it may be in keeping with the feel of a Marvel comic book, it feels very little like an Iron Man movie.
Despite the movie’s laughable premise, it remains entertaining, in much the same way that the Avengers did. The dialogue is sharp, and the movie is almost worth watching for the one-liners alone. Robert Downey Jr. pulls out all the stops. He does his usual Iron Man routine, but with more heart and intensity than ever before. The action scenes are (with the possible exception of about half of the climax) expertly choreographed and executed. And, at the very least, the cheesy subplots that dogged Iron Man 2 are pretty much absent from this third (final?) installment. It’s a wild, thrilling, and above all hilarious ride of a summer popcorn movie. It’s not the Dark Knight; it’s the Avengers mark two, with everything that worked in that movie working here as well, and everything that didn’t work…working even less.
What I mean by that is that some of the novelty and charm of the Avengers, which allowed me to overlook many of the that movie’s flaws and just go along for the ride has worn off by now; I can see what Marvel is up to. They’re convinced hat to make a popular, critically and commercially successful superhero movie, they don’t need a reasonable plot or even any sort of comprehensibility. They don’t need to try and compete with the serous fare their rivals at DC are churning out. Marvel is convinced that its films can survive on the strength of their dialogue and the charm of their heroes alone. But this trick is getting old–how long is Marvel going to keep doing this? Iron Man 3 is filled with dozens of little inconsistencies that slowly add up to make a baffling whole. How is it that the same sort of enemy that was defeated by Tony Stark while he was without of suit is evenly matched with him while he is dressed in his full Iron Man armor? How is it that the same foe that Tony had a five-minute long duel with in one battle sequence is able to fully incapacitate his friend, Colonel Rhodes, by a mere touch of the hand in another? The powers and abilities of both the heroes and the villains change from scene to scene, depending on the needs of the screenwriter, and it’s almost insulting to imagine that Shane Black thought that no one would notice.
If I’d been told, a week before this movie came out that the final installment in the Iron Man trilogy would feature the titular hero going toe to toe against an army of virus-infected, fire-breathing zombies, I would have laughed in their face. I suppose, if I had to sum things up, put a red ribbon on it (to quote Tony Stark) what I’d say is this. I forgive this movie its sins because it made me laugh, and because the action scenes were so damn excellent. I had a lot of fun watching Iron Man 3, but boy, is it stupid.