They should have kept the little kid out.
I watched Iron Man III the other day. I’m catching up on the Marvel Universe in anticipation of the new Avengers movie. Yeah, I know. The Avengers got released this weekend. Well, it’s not going to get to the small town theater we go to for another month. I’ve got time to watch the last Captain America movie, work my way through several Agents of SHIELD, and get everything sorted out in my head.
Though if you need a spoiler alert for something with an expired shelf date like Iron Man III, you probably need to go back to watching Castle reruns in a Snuggie stained with ice cream and Cheetos dust.
Tony Stark is suffering for something sorta like PTSD after the experiences in the Avengers, which is understandable. I don’t know if the depiction of PTSD is that accurate. His spells of anxiety seem a little short to me but then again, I’m no expert on such things. Still, it was interesting seeing Downey spend a majority of the movie working without the suit. Robert Downey Jr is one of the most charismatic actors working these days. While Depp slumps into irrelevancy, RDJ still manages to maintain his magnificence, utterly owning this character right down to the last hair in that perfectly trimmed goatee. This whole movie is on his shoulders and he bears that weight with ease.
There’s a lot of weight to bear. I was excited that Shane Black, who had masterminded Downey’s great comeback in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was directing and writing this leviathan. Black has a knack for writing the kind of dialog that actors like Downey can riff on with ease. It’s snappy, sardonic, yet not without substance. And there is a delicious twist to the plot. All along we’re told that the barely glimpsed Mandarin (played with zesto by Ben Kingsley) is the movie’s Big Bad. But it turns out that the Mandarin is really just a wasted Brit actor playing the part for a terrorist’s videos. The real Big Bad turns out to be Guy Pearce and that twist is played really well.
What isn’t played well is the big climatic action sequence, when Tony Stark and Rhodes (Don Cheadle) attack Pearce’s lair, a big supertanker ship in a FL harbor. Stark’s gal pal Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Whatshername) needs rescuing. There’s explosions galore, improbable physics, characters taking on mayhem that would shatter bones and tear muscles, and it goes on and on and on. I’ll give credit to the plot that Pepper Potts ends up doing the job the boys can’t get done: killing Guy Pearce in a moment of cathartic violence, thus turning the rescue-the-girl scenario on its head. The trouble is that halfway into the big climatic action sequence, Pepper had fallen to her supposed death and instead of being invested with righteous rage it seemed to me that Stark was barely affected. There’s a point where the witty repartee needs to cease and that was it.
The other sticking moment is that goddamn kid. Stark is taken in by a young boy midway through the picture. Kid is kind of mechanically minded and no doubt intended to remind Stark of his lost innocence or some goddamn thing. That’s the trouble. It’s a plot device that’s been used too many times and despite some decent acting and more witty repartee, it just feels like it was created by a note from a producer. “Hey, put a kid in there so the kids watching can have something to relate to.” No. No. No. It weakens the whole middle of the movie. They could have at least made it a little girl, give the stereotype a little twist. But nope, it’s a goddamn little boy and it nearly sunk the movie for me.
The de rigueur post-credits scene was a hoot despite it being a little bit of fan service for the shippers. Stark is slumping in a chair, concluding the narration of the story that began the movie. We find that he’s telling all this to Bruce Banner, who has fallen asleep. Yay, the Science Brothers! A bone tossed to the shippers is done while Banner protests “I’m not that kind of doctor”. Despite it being fan service, it still went down well, partly just due to the fun Downey and Mark Ruffalo have with it.
In conclusion, III is better than II but still not as good as the first Iron Man. I don’t know how many of these RDJ is contracted for but to me he does better in the Avengers atmosphere now, bouncing off Chris Evans and Ruffalo and Scarjo, etc. Unlike the Captain America movies, which appear to be taking all the risks and propelling the story forward, the Iron Man and Thor projects seem to be diversions, little sideshows that are entertaining enough but lack the depth and resonance of their deeper brethren. Let’s hope someone at Disney/Marvel has the vision to straighten this out.