J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Iron Man 3: Creator vs Creation

Much like the rest of the blogging universe, I figured this movie was big enough and topical enough to merit discussing.* I’m a huge comic book fan, even if my area of expertise typically lands more in the Batman and X-men area moreso than most of the Avengers. That being said, I still adore these stories and these characters. It should be noted that for this review, I will probably bring up minor spoilers, but I will not discuss aspects that give away major plot points.

*I got to my local theater half an hour early, and all the good seats were already taken. Yeah. This movie is a resounding success.

I went in expecting a few things.

1) Robert Downey Jr. to once again just jump into the skin of Tony Stark, and make the movie enjoyable on his charisma alone. Seriously, I pity the guy that attempts this role like 20 years from now in an inevitable reboot. RBJ pretty much is Tony Stark.

2) Lots of explosions.

3) Angst whenever he faces an obstacle that he can’t blow up.

4) More explosions.

Seriously, that’s all they’d need to do to score a major blockbuster. Give him a disposable villain, have him quip one liners, and uni-beam them into dust, roll credits. After the wild success of The Avengers, this movie is going to print money regardless.

Imagine my surprise and relief when the makers of this movie looked at that road, said “Nah, we’ll be more ambitious than that”, and went in a completely different direction. They stripped away most of the extra stuff, from cast to actual scale of threats, to make a third movie that, while maybe not as outright enjoyable as 1 or 2 on a fun scale, makes itself more than worthy of belonging. I fully expected to see more characters making cameos plugging movies to come, or funny little side stories involving them.* But Marvel Studios is smarter than that, it seems: they know that people will come to these movies now, regardless. They’ve already built up their film universe to be a powerhouse. The story didn’t need any new characters in the super hero world; in fact, Rhodey sums it up early in the film. “This isn’t a superhero problem,” he tells Tony. And so it isn’t, but it is a problem for our hero nonetheless.

*The only time this happens is after the credits. But if you’ve seen any Marvel movies, you should know already to stay through them anyway.

I hope you’ve seen The Avengers by now, but if not, this scene from that movie is extremely relevant to the topic I’m about to discuss.

You see, Tony didn’t exactly shrug off the events that happened in the last film. In fact, he didn’t respond too well to the whole “almost dying alone in space to save New York City” thing. Sure, he’s a super hero. Sure, he’s faced certain death a few times already. But he never had to face a threat before like he did in the Avengers. In fact, he had to come to grips with a lot of things in that movie: the sudden presence of godlike beings, other dimensions, aliens, giant monsters that make him look like a soup can. It left him feeling… insignificant, unable to handle the idea that there are bigger fish in the sea. It left him with a pretty heavy thought…

Against stuff like that, how can I possibly expect to play the hero? How can I expect to keep them safe when I have godlike beings threatening me?

Yeah, good luck beating him with a power suit.

His solution? Build more suits. Build lots of suits. Build suits for every occasion, every contingency he can think of, then make even more.

So when someone close to him almost gets killed by mostly coincidence and taking his new job as head of security too seriously, Tony overreacts. He tells the bad guys that he’s coming to kill them all, even though their attack on his friend wasn’t a direct one in the least. He earns the attention of some very nasty people in the process. They blow up his house, and almost kill him, and he quickly learns that sometimes, his suit isn’t the solution after all.

Actually, much like we see more Bruce Wayne than Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, we also see more Tony Stark than Iron Man in Iron Man 3. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. The same could be said of the previous two movies too. Except there’s a difference here: in the first two movies, it’s very much the suit that lets Tony save the day. But in this movie, it’s all Tony. In case anyone was questioning this at all, the movie bangs it over your head when Tony’s suffering from another anxiety attack, triggered by Jarvis telling him that his one remaining suit isn’t recharging fast enough. His friend simply tells him “You’re a mechanic. You build stuff, right? So just build something else to save the day.”

And so he does. I especially enjoyed how he turns into a billionaire MacGyver for a while, as a result.

I enjoyed this movie thoroughly, even though it was nothing like what I expected. I walked in having seen only the teaser trailer, since I didn’t want to spoil myself at all for it. It feels more like a thriller with Iron Man in it than a full fledged comic book movie in the Marvel Studios style. That dialed back feel mostly worked for me, but as I browse the web, it appears that it didn’t for some more invested in the comics.

Okay, yeah, the Mandarin being a figurehead for the real threat was unexpected. Some view it as a hilarious plot twist. Others view it as a character assassination of one of Iron Man’s most iconic villains. But honestly, the Mandarin’s roots are found in the 60s and 70s, when Asian stereotypes were almost always the villain. You look back at some of his first appearances, and it’s not a flattering kind of iconic:

It’s about as flattering to Asians as Mickey Rooney’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But I know what you’re thinking. “But J.A.,” you say, “that was a long time ago.” Okay. How about his appearance in the Avengers arcade game?

Erm… yeah. In fact, you have to look a LOT harder to find a version of the character that might not be totally offensive to Asian markets. And when you’re talking about a blockbuster movie that WILL be seen worldwide, I can see why they were gun-shy about using an evil guy with magic rings from space as the main villain. Heck, I’m not surprised that they didn’t just keep going with the Osama Bin Laden lite character they made earlier in the movie, since that had already been done in the first movie.

Would it have been fun to see the real Mandarin on screen? Yes. Would it have been worth it to Marvel? Not convinced.

All that being said, I did have a few quibbles with this movie, from a writing standpoint. Tony’s character development and justifications for doing what he did made sense. But as for his buddy, Rhodey, aka War Machine, aka The Iron Patriot? Not so much. I think the Mandarin controversy kind of overshadowed the flaws with Rhodes in the movie.

Okay, I get it. He goes where the President/Pentagon tells him to, and gets fed some bad intel. He gets caught off guard by an Extremis soldier in disguise. The girl grabs his hand, and superheats it. And he falls over. End scene. He gets owned by getting his hand superheated. When he could have flown away, used his shoulder cannon, used another gun, punched her in the face, etc. He is flat out captured after she does this to him. It makes zero sense, honestly, unless his suit is just a junker.

And how do other people use his suit? At least 2 other people wear it in this movie. Tony himself says in climax that his suits are genetically coded to himself for use, which is why he can’t give Rhodes another one on the spur of the moment. Apparently the Iron Patriot is freeware? Because anyone else could use it. And also, it’s odd how these other people who use it are immediately experts at flying around in it, when it took either lots of practice (Stark) or a trained Air Force pilot (Rhodes) to do it beforehand.

I dunno, this just bugged me.

END SPOILERS. I promise.

But regardless of all this, it was a really fun movie, and I liked it enough that I’d go see it again if a friend asked me. Be forewarned, though… you might have “Blue” stuck in your head for a while after you come out.

…badda dee badda da.

**** movie.


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