Iron Man Three is an extremely fun film. Let’s get that clear from the start. It is fun in a way that the other two films just aren’t. Of course, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark like a more highly intelligent and functioning version of himself, so there are plenty of gags from him as there were in previous two. However, while the other films toned down the gags as the plot got more serious, Iron Man Three is more likely to throw out a joke or some hilarious physical humour to lighten the mood.
For instance, Tony Stark is texting the Mark 42 Iron Man suit which can be controlled remotely via biochips implanted in his arm. Furthermore, he can also remotely summon the suit to his body over long distances. The humour from this is two-fold; first, Stark looks like an utter fool when he’s trying to summon the armour and secondly, the suit never arrives as it should. Whether it’s being knocked to the ground by the ass plate or half the armour arriving late, Tony Stark never seems to suit up properly in this film. It makes sense because it is a prototype but I expect to see a fully operational upgrade in The Avengers 2.
Maybe this sounds cool but you’re worried that all the humour ruins the drama and the suspense of the film? That is a valid concern and honestly in the third act, there were times that I wanted them to cut the jokes and just let the action play out. But it was only a minor irritation and even afterwards, outside of the cinematic atmosphere, I can’t say that it wasn’t highly enjoyable to watch. Furthermore, the film isn’t terribly dramatic anyway. There is are a couple of characters who are not what they seem or more than they seem but neither is terribly surprising. What is more surprising is the portrayal of The Mandarin.
Unfortunately, there is little to be said about the Mandarin without spoiling the film. So if you haven’t seen the film, you can skip this paragraph until you have seen it. Basically, the Mandarin isn’t really a villain at all. At least, not in the traditional sense. The movie leads us to believe that Aldrich Killian is selling the Extremis formula to the Mandarin, who is using it for terrorist attacks. It is very easy to see why this film was postponed in light of the Boston Marathon bombings. However, the Mandarin as comic book readers know him isn’t actually the Mandarin. Ben Kingsley’s character, Trevor Slattery, is just a figure head for Killian’s entire operation. Slattery is just a drunken junkie with some stage acting experience hired by Killian. Killian actually far more accurately represents the Mandarin with his advanced athleticism, genius level intelligence and plot to overthrow the government and assert himself in control. Killian has none of the comic book Mandarin’s honour and he has no alien technology rings.
That said, there are moments in the film where the film is serious and dramatic. There are no jokes made about the bombings or terrorism in general. Given how quickly this film came out after the Boston marathon attacks, I doubt Marvel had time to edit anything, so I imagine that would have come across either way. And when the explosions cause Stark personal loss, he becomes intensely serious about his regret for those involved and his intent on rectify things. The events of The Avengers film is also shown to have given Stark sleepless nights and anxiety attacks. So it isn’t that there is zero drama to be found in the film but rather that the main problem lies in the intensity of the threat. The film begins with a fairly high threat towards America and its presidency. Then the threat becomes directed towards Iron Man as well. And then Pepper Potts is targeted.
That seems like a steadily mounting threat but there is actually no danger at all. Though, they attack Tony Stark a number of times and gain the upper hand, on more than one occasion, it is revealed that Stark is piloting the suit remotely. So, there was never any danger towards him at all. It is understandable why they wrote the script that way because everyone knows Iron Man will appear in The Avengers 2, so no one is really going to believe that he might die in this outing. Not to mention, if he can survive an alien invasion of New York, losing to a bunch of gun totting terrorists and scientists is going to make him seem a little weak. Showing Stark remotely piloting the suit from a safe distance undermines the threat though. That said, he does spend much of the final fight without his suit so maybe the fact that a misstep and fall could have killed him was expected to balance things out.
Stark isn’t the only one to get out danger free. Killian’s master plan for motivating Stark into stabilising the healing factor of the extremis virus is to inject in into Pepper Potts. This, of course, gives Pepper a mild ability to heal herself, although nowhere near the level of say Wolverine. There is the potential that she might explode but there at least a dozen minions running around with same ability that aren’t exploding so the plan does seem kind of flawed.
Despite these criticisms though, I really can’t say that I didn’t like the film. I did like the film. It was funny and the action was thoroughly enjoyable. The remark about the current suit being the forty second model has an impact upon the third act which is especially pleasant to watch. Though it seems more like a comedy at times, the comedic format is well fitted for Iron Man in the same what that Captain America is a more traditional good guy verses bad guy comic book action film and Thor is more spiritual and mystical compared to Iron Man’s tech savvy characters.
This is one thing that I hope DC picked up on for Man of Steel. Just because a grounded, realistic style worked for Batman does not mean the same needs to be applied to Superman. Some characters and films require different approaches. The approach to Iron Man is unlike Captain America, Thor or even The Avengers but it works and because of that Iron Man Three is an incredibly fun and distinctive movie.