We write about a number of things here at Lost to the Aether. Mostly video games and writing. That’s two things. Two’s a number. It seems to me that both my writing posts and my video games posts have their own audiences, and when I write about one it tends to alienate the other.
Well that’s not good enough for me! It’s inherently unfair! So with this post, in a move for equality, we’re going to alienate both groups equally and talk about movies! Besides, it’s so rare I get to talk about something topical. We’re going to review Iron Man 3, out in theatres for a couple of days now.
The original Iron Man movie was good, momentously so. It was one of the films that performed solidly enough to bring life to the superhero movie genre, and is one of the few superhero films to make an origin story entertaining. Iron Man 2 took all that momentum, and let it fly away. Let’s not talk about Iron Man 2. Following that, Tony Stark and Iron Man stole the show with the Avengers, leading the pack in one of the highest grossing films of all time. There’s some good legacy built up behind the franchise, is what I’m saying. So how does Iron Man 3 hold up? Is it a worthy successor to the films that have come before it? Is this the life changing movie of the summer?
The answer to all three of those questions is the same: Eeeeeeh. The film’s decent, no doubt about that. Some might even call it good. I enjoyed it. It’s not quite great, though. It gets up there. It’s like the film approaches the walls of Great City, but rather than going through the gate, it decides to find a nice spot in the shade outside and stay there.
Let’s start with the good first, shall we? The pacing in the film is excellent. Except for a few cases in which they linger on a lame gag too long, they’re always moving things forward at a speed that is still pretty easy to follow. The action sequences hit at just the right time, and are there long enough to give you that nice aggressive energy without becoming stale. The film makes use of its runtime almost perfectly, packing it full of events without ever seeming rushed.
The action sequences themselves are fairly strong. The quality pacing carries over to these, too, and there’s always a clear progression to the fights that really give a good sense of momentum. They also avoid being overstylized, which is a problem that sometimes pop up in these superhero movies and plagued Iron Man 2. Most of all, they’re all fairly creative. They make full use of the Iron Man armor, and are unlike any fight scenes you’ve seen before, aside from perhaps in earlier movies that featured Iron Man. Even then, I think I appreciated these combat scenes more than any of the earlier Iron Mans.
The dialog is also strong as well, and follows up well with what we’ve come to expect from Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. in particular goes a long way towards making Stark’s wit seem unaffected and natural. Conversations were entertaining, even when the subject matter therein might normally be a little dull, and the actors really pulled it off well.
The movie differs a bit from those that came before it in that its conflicts are a bit more cerebral. The villains of the piece have their big, multi-part schemes, and Tony Stark, rather than beating them with technology, instead has to figure out the leads and unravel what exactly they’re going to be doing next. Iron Man does not win fights in this movie by out-powering his opponents, he does it by using his resources in unexpected ways and striking with clever gambits. It really fits the character of Tony Stark, and made for a really interesting progression to watch Iron Man’s short term schemes go up against the villains’ long form ones.
I can never claim to have been the biggest Iron Man comics fan, but even what little I know of the comics lore gets played fast and loose with here. The character of the Mandarin, in particular, is so far removed from his comics counterpart that they only communicate with each other these days through yearly holiday cards. There are, of course, the few references here and there, but I imagine the fans that commonly rage at any minor changes in adaptations are going to be spurting blood out of their ears upon seeing this one. I liked it, though. I usually feel that an adaptation that sticks too closely to a source material wastes an opportunity to take full advantage of their adaptation, and Iron Man 3 definitely works it here.
You can definitely see that the writers and/or directors were picking up small inspirations from Avengers director Joss Whedon. The movie is full of very Whedon-esque moments where it would set up your expectations only to subvert them seconds later. For the most part, it didn’t work very well. While there were a handful of truly clever ones, most of these moments either seemed a little forced, or spent too long on the setup to the point where you could see the payoff coming. These moments work for Whedon because he’s able to get them to flow naturally. Here, that wasn’t so much the case.
There was also one factor that really brought this movie down in my eyes. They barely explain anything. Sometimes, that can work. A properly designed fiction can use a lack of explanation to let the imagination fill things in, or can give clues and let the viewer figure things out. Iron Man 3 really isn’t designed for that. Instead, it often seems that characters have no motivation for the things they do. Even major characters. I know what the primary villain was hoping to gain with his schemes, I just don’t know why. He didn’t seem to have much to gain personally, and no emotional fulfillment was at hand, he just seemed to be doing it for the evulz. Several times, the plot centered around Tony Stark having some sort of difficulty with his technology and going to great lengths to overcome it, only to have had access to something that would have solved his problems earlier, but held it in reserve for… reasons. Most of these characters just do things, without it being apparent why they’re doing them, and the movie itself barely has any explanation for it. It feels like we were watching something with a huge amount of vital scenes removed.
And… that’s my review. Iron Man 3: good as long as you don’t think too much about it. If you’ve got the money and time, you should go see it. Or not. Not like I care.