Iron Man 3 review

Banana Rating: 3 out of 5

There was a time when DC Com­ics were the big boys of the movie world. After a resound­ing suc­cess with the first two Super­man movies (the next two weren’t so great, espe­cially the fourth one), and then Tim Bur­ton’s Bat­man and Bat­man Returns, fol­lowed by Chris­topher Nolan’s rebooted tri­logy, I got the feel­ing that char­ac­ters from the DC Com­ics world were just more eas­ily trans­fer­able to the big screen. Or at least, their big two, Super­man and Bat­man, were.

Mar­vel had a whole raft of her­oes that they should’ve taken advant­age of. Most attempts at live action ended up look­ing cheap and cheesy. Stuff like the Spider-Man TV series, and the Cap­tain Amer­ica movie from 1990. Sure, there’s a lot of love for The Incred­ible Hulk tele­vi­sion show, and the late Bill Bixby as Doc­tor Ban­ner, but that too had its fair share of crappy moments, not least the TV movies which also starred Thor.

Why it ended up this way, I don’t know. Prob­ably hav­ing movie and TV rights for dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters scattered across vari­ous stu­dios and TV net­works just scuppered Marvel’s real plans for a more cohes­ive and qual­ity con­trolled super­hero uni­verse. Indeed, the rights to The Fant­astic Four and Spider-Man are still entrenched deep in the stu­dio vaults of Fox and Sony respect­ively. They don’t look as though they’re let­ting go of them any time soon. Just how often will Sony reboot Spider-Man before decid­ing to let the rights go back to Mar­vel? Prob­ably when the comic book cash cow has been milked so utterly dry, it tumbles on its side, fart­ing noth­ing but stale air from its withered teats.

Phase 2

How­ever, in recent years, enough movie rights have ended up back under Marvel’s roof, lead­ing to what’s known as “Phase 1″. A series of indi­vidual super­hero movies, fol­lowed by The Avengers, where all the her­oes get together for a world sav­ing scrap, before grabbing a few beers.

Iron Man 3 marks the begin­ning of “Phase 2″. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, but he’s a changed man after the events of The Avengers, prone to night­mares and panic attacks. “I’m just a man in a can,” he says. Quite right. He’s no super sol­dier, or ham­mer wield­ing god. He’s a nor­mal guy, reli­ant on his tech, and the pit­falls that come with such a thing.

Mind you, Scar­let Johans­son is just a girl in a cat­suit. I won­der if we’ll end up with scenes in later films where she too has panic attacks? I doubt it. We might get a scene where she gets stressed out by strug­gling to pull her cat­suit zip­per up over her boobs, but that’s about it.

All jok­ing aside, I do like these slightly darker ele­ments. In the com­ics, Stark has a big prob­lem with alco­hol addic­tion. The film doesn’t plumb those depths, but it’s still inter­est­ing to watch a hero bat­tling his demons just as much as he’s bat­tling the villains.

Fruit based terrorism

This time, Iron Man is up against one of his most dan­ger­ous foes so far, The Man­darin. No, he’s not a fruit based ter­ror­ist, with a lesser known brother, The Tan­ger­ine, but a vil­lain with years of comic book his­tory behind him. Most of that his­tory is giv­ing Iron Man the runaround.

Ben Kings­ley cer­tainly gives it his best shot, enun­ci­at­ing every other word of each sen­tence in odd ways. In the film, he’s por­trayed as a shad­owy har­binger of death, a pup­pet­eer work­ing from the side­lines to cause chaos. He hijacks TV sta­tions to make boast­ful broad­casts of his suc­cess, impend­ing or otherwise.

He’s the instig­ator of two of the film’s best action scenes: a huge assault on Tony Stark’s home (small tip: if your enemies are mega­lo­ma­ni­acs with vast fire­power at their dis­posal, don’t build your house on the edge of a cliff), and an attack on a plane which segues into a thrill­ing mid-air res­cue by Iron Man. I’m always a fan of scenes where the super­hero uses all his strength and wits to inter­vene in a cata­strophe, and save ordin­ary people. It shows a more altru­istic side to them. They’re not sav­ing people because it’s “per­sonal”, but because they can. Because they have the power. Those, for me, are the real air punch­ing moments in super­hero movies.

The twist (no spoilers)

And then there’s a twist. I won’t say what it is, but when it hap­pens, it’s a real “What the fuck?” moment, unlike any­thing I’ve seen in other super­hero movies. It’s also pretty funny. It’s the sort of thing that’ll have hardened fans of the comic spit­ting their soft drink over the per­son in the row in front of them, and oth­ers chuck­ling at the auda­city. I fall some­where in the middle, as I think this is where the film’s prob­lems really begin.

The twist, strange and funny and sub­vers­ive as it is, near enough kills the movie. Not quite enough to make the action that fol­lows unen­joy­able, but enough to make me not really care any more. Before this, there has been a slow build of sub­vers­ive one liners and clev­erness that, after a time, starts to get tire­some (in a way that it didn’t in The Avengers). One joke almost des­troys the excite­ment of the last ten or so minutes that pre­cede it. Jokes for the sake of jokes. So, the big twist, when it hap­pens, is the last straw. Very neat, very clever, very funny, but ulti­mately very hollow.

As a res­ult, when the action cli­max arrives (as is the way), I actu­ally found my mind wan­der­ing a bit. I think there was even a few pre­cious seconds where my eye­lids fluttered and closed for a little power nap, such was the bore­dom that I was begin­ning to feel, as Robert Downey Jr. leapt in and out and on top of vari­ous Iron Man suits like a Stark-in-the-box.

Over­all, the first three-quarters of the film are dif­fi­cult to dis­like. Shane Black’s know­ing humour is all present and cor­rect. But even­tu­ally, it just wears the film down. Recom­men­ded view­ing, sure, and it’s another example of just how far — in terms of pro­duc­tion val­ues — Mar­vel has come since the bad old days. They’re tak­ing the fight to DC Com­ics, no doubt about it. I left the cinema feel­ing that I’d maybe had a good time. But there was also a sense of dis­ap­point­ment that I found hard to shake.