Early Reaction: ‘Iron Man 3′ is Not the Superhero Movie You’re Expecting, and Why That’s a Good Thing
Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
After getting out of Iron Man 3 I was inundated with text messages from friends and colleagues asking not only how it was, but more than not how it compared against the first two films. This seems to be the question more and more nowadays. When I saw Monsters University at CinemaCon, people asked how it compared against the original and more than not, how it placed in my ranking of the Pixar filmography. I can’t even tell you which Pixar film is my favorite, never mind asking me to rank them. I understand people want context, thats probably why film grades, rotten tomato and IMDB scores are so massively popular.
I could tell you that Iron Man 3 is a much MUCH better movie than Iron Man 2, but what does that really say? While I don’t think it tops the original, many aspects of this film are better than the first film.
But what does that even really mean? That’s comment without context. For me its hard to compare because, as it turns out, Iron Man 3 is much much different than the first two films in the franchise. After the jump you can watch a spoiler free video blog I recorded with Steve from Collider after a recent screening, along with a few written thoughts.
Watch a video blog I recorded with Steve from Collider after the screening, giving a spoiler free reaction to Iron Man 3:
Iron Man 3 might be the first Marvel feature film which actually feels like it could have been a real comic book. It feels like a comic book in every sense, and this includes all the great and bad aspects of that medium. At it’s core, its a detective story. In a brilliant bit of screenwriting, Shane Black has engineered a way to get Tony Stark “back in the cave.” Thats to say, for a large portion of this film, Stark doesn’t have his super friends, or his armor and fantastic technologies. He must work alone to unravel a mystery with only his MacGyver-like know how.
To me, Iron Man 3 almost feels like when you’re reading a continuing comic book series and a new writer (in this instance Shane Black) jumps aboard to try to do his own strange one-shot mystery arc.
And thats another thing about this film — it doesn’t feel like set-up for another Avengers film. In that respect, it doesn’t suffer from the same issues as Iron Man 2, because it is a one shot story. Yes, Tony is affected by the events that happened in New York City (in The Avengers), and yes, this is a sequel which continues and concludes some story-lines in the Iron Man movie franchise. But at its core, this is a standalone story.
The story is fun, but completely unexpected. Sure, you’ll get everything you want from an Iron Man movie: Robert Downey Jr cracks some hilarious one-liners, and there are awesome action sequences. But the story is decidedly different. And this is likely part of Marvel’s plan to hopefully prevent superhero film burnout. From what I understand, they are trying to use their larger than life characters to tell stories in different genres (for example, Captain America 2 is set to be Marvel’s spy thriller). And I’m glad to see that Disney is allowing Marvel to take some chances and not just repeat what has worked in the past.
Running a movie blog usually means that I have a lot of films spoiled for me. Be it by leaked information we read or report, or even the overzealous marketing departments with their dozens of photos, clips and trailers. It’s probably the same for a lot of readers. I’m happy to report that Iron Man 3 packed a bunch of surprises for even lil’ overexposed me. I’m glad I found myself surprised by the places this adventure took Tony, especially with the mystery construct of the story.
One of my favorite parts of this movie is also something completely unexpected: Tony Stark’s team-up with a young child. It’s a plot point that is impossible to read as a great idea. In the hands of any other director, it would’ve probably been horrible — but Shane Black is maybe the one guy in Hollywood would could pull it off.
As much as the Iron Man films have had their share of cool action moments, the franchise has struggled to fulfill some viewers’ idea of the third act quota of cool action. Iron Man 3 delivers an insane climactic battle sequence bigger than anything in the last two films, maybe even too large for the movie (or future Marvel movie universe movies).
I remember reading that Joss Whedon praised this sequence in some interview, and commented that he now doesn’t know how to top it in The Avengers 2. I wonder the same thing. As the theatrical one-sheet movie poster teases (thus, its not a “spoiler”) the sequence involves a battle featuring an army of Iron Man drones. How can Avengers compete with that? How big does the next threat need to be that Iron Man and his dozen robotic pals couldn’t handle it without the help of Cap and Bruce?
The film isn’t without complaints, and I do have a handful of nitpicks. I’m not sure why Tony Stark doesn’t call in his friends at SHIELD or The Avengers at some point in this story. I feel like this could have been easily explained with one line of dialogue, but instead many fanboys will be left wondering the same thing.
There are a few things that happen in the final 20 minutes which bother me, but would be spoilers, so I will not discuss them at this point. I will say they feel very much like plot points I would cringe at while reading comic books.
One thing that didn’t hugely bother me, but I think might bother others is the fact that this franchise is sliding so far away from the reality grounded premise. Thats not to say that a man with a technology-enhanced flying metal suit is necessarily “grounded” but it is compared to most other superhero titles. Iron Man 3 introduces a type of nanotech that changes humans into people with almost X-men-like mutant powers. We’ve certainly come along way since the first Iron Man film, and I think most audiences are willing to go along with these plot evolutions.
I would highly recommend seeing this film in 2D rather than 3D. I use to be very anti-post conversion 3D, but the process has gotten much better in the last year or so. But for some reason Marvel can’t deliver a good post converted 3D picture. I’m not sure if its that they aren’t delivering the footage/assets to the post conversion house in enough time to do a proper post conversion or if they are just choosing the wrong houses to complete these post conversions.