OK, I’m not a big fan of comic book movies — and the more they try to be serious and deep-dish, the less of a fan I tend to be. I did, however, approach Iron Man 3 with every expectation of a stylish amusement that I’d be entertained by for the duration of its screen time — even if I’d never think about it again. Instead, I got this lumbering half-assed attempt at self-seriousness with lots of stuff blowing up, a smattering of snappy repartee, one excellent sequence, and a brace of not very interesting villains. Without Robert Downey Jr. it would be close to unwatchable — unless you just want to see Shane Black pull a toned-down embellishment or two out of his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) bag of tricks. (Actually, all of the Iron Man movies are Downey dependent, if it comes to that.) I should also note that Iron Man 3 probably offers the most ineffectual use of 3-D I’ve ever seen. (I even took the glasses off to assure myself it was in 3-D.) In other words, if you’re going to see this — and if you haven’t already, you probably are — don’t bother ponying up the extra money for 3-D.
It’s hard to know just where to begin in cataloguing where Iron Man 3 goes wrong — in part because so much of it is wrong. And apparently, there’s even more wrong if you’re a fan of the comics. I mean, I just detested The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in one of his least engaging performances) because as a villain, he is strictly from herring. If he flies in the face of an established character — and seemingly he does — it’s probably worse. In fact, it’s almost certainly worse since the comic book character has to be more interesting than the dumb character — and the even dumber reveal. The sub-Osama stuff that’s supposed to make the film “relevant” only feels opportunistic and not all that interesting. After the reveal, it just becomes silly and preposterous. I guess it’s your standard issue world domination — like you find in a cheesy serial from the ‘30s or ‘40s, but with a less colorful villain. Actually, it’s probably not worth trying to figure out.
Of course, in our modern comic-book angsty hero world, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey) has all sorts of angsty problems courtesy of The Avengers — which the film assumes you’ve seen without ever explaining. In any case, Tony has gotten a bad case of super-powers envy since, unlike his Avengers compatriots, he has no real super powers and is just a “man in can.” This results in a marathon funk that, like most of the movie, isn’t all that interesting. His newfound realization that Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the most important thing in his life might play better if he didn’t just kind of shrug off her apparent death during the big, noisy, explosion-filled finale. It’s basically a tone-deaf mess. We keep hearing about Tony’s realizations of what matters — like his friendship with an even more annoying than usual Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who is blessedly sidelined in a hospital bed for most of the movie — but we see little actual evidence of those realizations.
Yes, Downey is good — especially considering what he has to work with — and there’s one really good action scene involving the rescue of a bunch of folks falling to their deaths from a plane. But it’s really not enough to justify the unfocused and slow moving bulk of the movie — unless all you want is for “stuff to blow up neat.” The film does its fair share of that, but it’s really nothing more than a slightly smarter Transformers picture when all is said and done. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande