I finally got to see Iron Man 3 yesterday after a series of mishaps, and it was great fun, totally entertaining, and hurrah for Shane Black who gets to make movies again, and sometime Beat penpal Drew Pearce, who also gets to make more movies, and hooray for Robert Downey Jr. for being able to sell almost anything. The superhero genre has finally delivered a truly great acting performance, although it’s not that much greater than everything else RDJ has ever done, and it shows why people stuck by his talent through dark times that were truly dark. It also presented, in Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin, the greatest Marvel movie villain of all times. Genius, and a nice break from the Older White Man string of villains in Many Many Marvel Movies, like Jeff Bridges, William Hurt, Sam Elliott, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Brian Cox, Hugo Weaving, etc etc etc.
As entertaining as it was, it did leave me with some lingering questions—I am not trying to be a spoilsport but these kind of nitpicks can ruin my enjoyment of a film.
#1: What the heck were the villains trying to do? They glowed, they got red hot, they regenerated and they were hatching a huge plan to kill the president in order to…kidnap Pepper Potts? Glow and get hot? Grill up some burgers? I dunno. It was never explained and though it didn’t really need to be to drive theplot, it was still kinda sloppy. Or just a joke. Villains gotta ‘vil, it’s just taken for granted, as shown by Guy Pearce’s evil gelled back 80s hair, and Miguel Ferrar being Miguel Ferrar.
#2: Where was the US government all this time? While the main theme of Iron Man 3 may have been masking and identity (thank you AC), the subtext was that government is useless and industrialization is good. Not to be crass, but the timing of the movie after the Marathon bombings—with their fairly comprehensive (after the fact) investigations and use of intelligence and vast show of governmental power—made many things in IM3 particularly unrealistic to me. Like, in the real world we sadly learned that a relatively dinky pressure cooker bomb will shred people’s legs off, but Jon Favreau’s Happy survived at ground zero with a bloody nose? Right. Also, with a murderous terrorist at large threatening Tony Stark, the Army decides that having Stark’s house under surveillance isn’t necessary, especially when three unknown choppers laden with heavy armament are headed for said house. AND that when Iron Man in #42 escapes the destruction of his house, no air surveillance can track him. We can track Santa for God’s sake!
These are all things that would not have made for a good story, but they annoyed me.
#3: Why were there no people from Tennessee living in Tennessee? Has anyone ever watched the news? When an 10-year-old Tennessee child confronts an intruder he does not use a potato gun, he carries a real gun. That was Flaw #1. Also he had no accent, nor did anyone else in the small town of No Responsible Adults, TN. Except for the ubiquitous Dale Dickey (above) who plays the Redneck Woman in countless movies and TV shows and is actually from Knoxville, TN. Why couldn’t the Disney kid have a Southern accent? Would it have offended people? I have a friend from Tennessee who ran down a litany of other problems with this sequence, from the availability of tech in the area to the inaccurate depiction of the bar, so suffice to say, this did not pass the local sniff test.
#4: Are the Marvel movies going to get more and more Disneyfied? Tony Stark teaming with a 10 year old moptop was just the visible part of the Disneyfication iceberg that’s drafting into to the Marvel movieverse. Marvel Studio pictures have always had a pretty familiar formula, from the wifebeaters all the heros used to wear, to the kinds of villains, to the chugging music that plays while the hero stares at a computer to track down the villain, to the grey-blue color scheme, to the fight at the warehouse at the end. With the Avengers and more so IM3, a more glistening sheen has begun to slide over the surface, a little more big-eyed, a little more schmaltzy. I love Shane Black but this was in no way a Shane Black movie—it was safe and comfy like a pair of brand new $200 running shoes. Tony Stark abandons the kid Harley because he’s a user: just as he did with Killian 13 years earlier. But now he has to send him a science lab to be warm and cuddly. I know that the end of Stark as Charming Bastard User is character development we had to see, but doing it in relationship to an adorable moptop who lives in Tennesee and carries a potato gun was too much for me. Not that a Marvel Studios movie will ever be “dark and gritty” or look as pretty as a Legendary superhero movie, but the tone is evolving. Just you wait until they get to Rocket Raccoon.
#5: Why was this movie set at Christmas? Granted, it makes it a nice holiday film so you can watch it over the holidays, like Die Hard, and sets it apart from other Marvel movies, but it makes me think it was supposed to open at Christmas once, even though that isn’t the case.
#6: Is this the most toyetic Marvel Movie yet? 42 different Iron Man suits plus Iron Patriot and Rescue!
#7: Is Jon Favreau being both “Foggy” and “Happy” the most alarming double superhero movie casting ever? Discuss.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.