Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Iron Man 3”

iron man 3 poster


I’m not sure one can entirely, or even adequately, separate how one feels about Marvel’s latest bloated billion-dollar blockbuster, Iron Man 3, from how one feels about their last one, The Avengers — excuse me, Marvel’s The Avengers — since Joss Whedon’s flick has been positioned, story-wise, as a thematic and consequential lead-in to director Shane Black’s first crack at the cinematic exploits of Tony Stark and his super-suit. After all, it’s Stark himself who solemnly informs us that “nothing’s been the same since New York,” and the events he “endured” there are supposedly the catalyst for a new, darker, more somber and “mature” phase of his life that’s now begun.

Right off the bat, then, you’ll have to forgive me if I just don’t “buy in” to that whole scenario. I know, I know — I’m one of only about ten people on the entire planet who was less than blown away by Marvel’s The Avengers (got it right this time), but let’s leave that aside for a moment, because the fact is that even if I did love it to pieces, it’s essentially nothing more than a fairly light-hearted, superheroes-save-the-world romp. It didn’t even try to have some kind of “heavy,” far- reaching resonance. It was a popcorn movie. You might feel it was a particularly good, or even terrific, popcorn movie, but come on — if you think it was a work of lasting emotional depth and impact, I think you’re kidding yourself, friend.

Still, that’s the hook we’re being told to swallow in order to fully “appreciate” the baseline Iron Man 3 is starting from. And things only get more quasi-resonant from there, as we see Stark (Robert Downey Jr. doing a fine job essentially playing himself, as usual) inadvertently create a rival/enemy for himself in Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian before taking on a genuinely big menace in the form of mysterious international terrorist The Mandarin, superbly brought to life by a genuinely menacing Ben Kingsley. Flat-as-cardboard side characters “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, who as always probably deserves more to do), James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle, clearly in it for the paycheck) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) essentially aren’t given much to do apart from complicate things here and there for Stark/Iron Man, and help him out when he needs it in various forms, whether that be in the boardroom, bedroom, or battlefield (depending on which of the three we’re talking about), but Black and co-writer Drew Pearce are clearly interested in putting some of their eggs in the baskets marked ” Stark’s struggle against himself”  and “where does the man end and the armor begin?,” as well.

And hey, kudos to them for at least trying to give this superhero property some heft and gravitas of some sort — and if the Shane Black who gave us Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and scripted The Monster Squad were the one running the show here, maybe it would have worked out fine, but his work this time around hews more closely to his efforts as screenwriter on such middling testosterone-laced fare as The Last Boy Scout and the Lethal Weapon movies than anything else.  Which is to say that this is certainly a competent-enough film in terms of its execution, but doesn’t offer a whole lot beyond that, despite its director’s best intentions.

Maybe the die was cast from the  outset. Maybe the Iron Man franchise is such a juggernaut at this point that it’s propelled forward by nothing but its own apparently-unstoppable momentum and all attempts at interjecting some personality into things are bound to fail. I give Black points for at least wanting, apparently, to vary things up from the Jon Favreau/Joss Whedon formula, and for doing something radically different with the character of The Mandarin that probably not all fans of his comic book appearances will appreciate and/or approve of, but in the end it feels like he put up a fight for some kind of individualistic vision for a minute there, knew he was beaten, threw in the towel, and just decided to go with the flow. His bank account will surely thank him — as will, I’m willing to bet, the majority of viewers — but for my part, I was left feeling more than a bit underwhelmed by the whole spectacle.

For those who are only in it for that, though — for spectacle for spectacle’s sake alone — Iron Man 3 will probably have you smiling from start to finish, and that’s fine. It’s kinda what these summer blockbusters are all about, after all. But for those of us who were hoping for something maybe a little bit more radically divergent from the pre-set path, it’s pretty fair to say that this Black and company seem content to lead us on, then leave us hanging.

11 responses to “Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Iron Man 3”

  1. I’m a tad bit more on the glass almost full with my take on this film. LOL

    But then I am fully immersed in the Whedon and Marvel Cinematic Universe Kool-Aid. Not that I would give any of their films a free pass. I still think that Branagh could’ve done a waaaay better job with THOR.

    I will agree with you on the one-note character of Maya Hansen. The character and the way she was introduced then re-introduced spoke of a much more nuanced character but then somewhere along the way got trimmed, then cut and then just left as a barely there plot device.

    As for, Rhodey, I thought Cheadle was starting to get a better handle on the character. I actually like him better in the role than Howard. Cheadle actually can pull-off playing a no-nonsense AIr Force Colonel while in the first Iron Man it looked as if Howard was trying too hard to be one.

    But in the end, you’re right, no matter what you and I think this franchise and pretty much the established ones in the MCU have become, to use an American parlance of epic bigness (yes, thats a word and you all know it), “too big to fail”.

    I think it will be with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man that we’ll see just how much of a Living Tribunal the Marvel Studios and its people are when it comes to planning and coordinating the Ego-sized MCU they seem intent on destroying all competition.


    • Ooohhh, love how you name-drop some great Marvel characters in there towards the end, nice work!


  2. “It was a popcorn movie. You might feel it was a particularly good, or even terrific, popcorn movie, but come on — if you think it was a work of lasting emotional depth and impact, I think you’re kidding yourself, friend.”

    Now if only we can convince people that the above phrase is also an apt summary of “The Dark Knight”, a film that people have been deluding themselves into believing that it’s much “deeper” than it really is.

    I think of it as “Woodstock Syndrome”. We’re all told how great Woodstock was, what a world-changing event it turned out to be, how unfortunate it was that we weren’t there, and envious of the nostalgia of our parents (or grandparents, as the case is for the newest generation of teens and twentysomethings), we attempt to manifest our own “history-changing” cultural phenomena, hence people rating “The Dark Knight” a full ten stars from ten on IMDB even before they saw the film, and calling it “best film of the year” etc prior to its release.

    The same level of hype doesn’t surround the “Iron-Man” saga, obviously because Tony Stark’s alter ego isn’t as popular as Superman and Batman. I prefer it this way, as it subdues the level of hyperbole (relatively speaking) surrounding the film. I can enjoy the film as a film, without getting caught up in the laughable amount of “Woodstock Syndrome” that plagues everything from “The Dark Knight” to “Twilight” films.


    • I get your point, I’m just not so sure it applies in this case anymore. In order to fully get on board with the supposedly more “somber” vibe of “Iron Man 3” you really do sort of need to think that “The Avegers” was as heavy and serious as some folks think “The Dark Knight Rises” was and have a sort of “Woodstock Syndrome,” as you call it, in relation to your view of the Marvel cinematic “universe.” And the hype-machine surrounding these flicks is getting to the point where it rivals that of Superman or Batman films.In fact, nearly all blockbusters are reaching this point of, as Arleigh puts it, “too big to fail”-ness, and all are commanding rabid legions of thoughtless fans who are willing to call it the best thing ever made before they’ve even seen it. Even the “Transformers” franchise has fans like that these days. It’s pretty sad, but Hollywood’s laughing all the way to the bank.


      • I’d say that its not even exclusive to event films anymore. You saw this with the Harry Potter and Twilight novels. Gaming itself has gotten to the point that it rivals film fandoms. I mean just look at the brouhaha that came up with the Mass Effect 3 ending and how in the end BioWare capitulated to a certain level by releasing an extended cut of the ending to try and explain exactly what they were trying to do with their so-called controversial “endings” for the title.

        Hell, we had a prime example of it this week with the reveal announcement of the Xbox One. Yes, it wasn’t handled well by Microsoft, but the way fans and some critics reacted one would think that they were personally targeted to be offended by the announcement or, if one was a Sony fan, reacted with such glee at the mishandling of the event.

        I’m actually interested to see how the reaction to Man of Steel will be once it comes out.


        • Great point. Personally, I find it extremely disturbing that there even is such a thing as “fans” of a corporation. Apple fanatics are the worst, of course — it’s very nearly a cult at this point — but the idea that anyone could be naive and foolhardy enough to actively cheer on or root for a company shows how dumbed-down and sedated we as a populace have become. Giant corporations and their huge political economic power is something we should be on guard AGAINST, not something we should be be clamoring FOR. It’s a pretty far-gone world when it’s come to this.


  3. Pingback: “Iron Man 3″ | F*ck You

  4. Haven’t seen any of these. I sort of want to, but also don’t really care, guess best way to put it if I see it on and not bush I’d watch it, but won’t go out of my way.

    I am so out of touch with Hollywood. Last film I saw in cinemas was Dark Knight Rises!!!


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