First let me say that Iron Man 3 is a lot of fun. Robert
Downey, Jr. maintains a headlock on Tony Stark – he’s incorrigibly charming and
still giving his all to the role, committing to the serious stuff just as wholeheartedly
as he dives into the smartass, billionaire playboy stuff, at which he excels.
But RDJ gets dealt a shitty hand here. I’d like to think he’s smart enough to catch the BS flaw in this movie but maybe not.
There are two things this movie gets right: Downey, Jr., who, I’ve mentioned, proves he is the undisputed leader of the Marvel superhero pack; and the marketing. They sold this movie like it was going to be the Iron Man version of the Dark Knight with Oscar winner Ben Kingsley as Iron Man’s comic book arch nemesis, The Mandarin.
The trailer campaigns made it look like Iron Man 3 was going to be a long, dark pull on a crisp, cold, light beer. I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds good.
It looked like they were taking the character to a grim place where he needed to reassess who he is as a man and a hero and then exact butt-kicking, chest-blasting revenge on a ruthless terrorist. Turns out, it’s not that at all. The movie surprisingly pushes hard on the comedy but the fact that – BIG OL’ SPOILER – Kingsley’s Mandarin turns out not to be the magic ring-wielding fiend of the comics, but a drunken, drug-addled simpleton actor playing the role of his life is a lame smack to the face.
This might have worked at an earlier stage of the Iron Man evolution, back before Thor and Loki and the alien menace of The Avengers, back before Marvel thought mainstream audiences wouldn’t buy the more ridiculous, otherworldly aspects of the comic book universe. But now that’s all changed since Iron Man teamed up with the Hulk and Thor in The Avengers and fought Loki and an army of speeder-bike riding extraterrestrials.
It’s safe to say, I think audiences might have bought the magic ring-wearing version of the Mandarin.
Yes, Ben Kingsley is hilarious. Yes, it’s a surprise twist. But it’s jackass stupid. And it’s a nutless move.
But that’s not my biggest problem with the movie.
There’s a scene where nearly a dozen staffers get sucked out of a gaping hole torn in the fuselage of Air Force One and Iron Man flies out to save them, taking them by the hand one by one and forming a sky diving chain. With nearly a dozen people in tow, he gently lowers into the bay below. It’s a stunning set piece – thrilling, inventive, and – heroic. Until, that is, the filmmakers reveal that Tony Stark is safely in the plane above remotely operating his suit of armor.
From the start of Downey’s turn as Stark, his journey has been one of a narcissistic hedonist who has found a path, through his technology, to a meaningful life. This all culminates at the end of The Avengers when he takes a nuclear missile up through a worm hole to save New York City. As far as Stark knows, this is suicide. He is willing to sacrifice his life to save the lives of others. Once in space, he passes out and falls back through the worm hole before it closes up.
In Iron Man 3, Tony is haunted by his Avengers battle, you know, having faced down Asgardian evil and everything.
But this remote-controlled saving of the Air Force One passengers is a sign of sloppy writing and betrays the character’s arc. Maybe the old Tony Stark would have remote controlled his suit when human lives were at stake, but certainly not the post-Avengers Stark who has finally become a superhero by putting his life on the line for a greater cause.
In short, this is bullshit. This is how the glorification of video games is sneaking into our concept of heroism. So, now, people who fly drones are going to be considered as heroic as the soldiers on the ground?
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t want my superheroes to be superheroes just because they’re awesome at video games.
Johnny DiLoretto is a man of many talents. Click here to learn more on our contributor page.