Review by Gene
Robert Downey Jr. returns to the big screen, allegedly for the final time in a stand-alone film, as Tony Stark/Iron Man. If there ever were a more perfect person to play this role we will likely have to wait another generation to find out. In Iron Man, Downey showed off his playboy, devil-may-care persona that Tony Stark has so completely come to embody. Iron Man 2 gave us a little more depth of character from Downey and he showed us what a billionaire genius sorting out daddy issues looks like. Now, in Iron Man 3, we get some true inner conflict and fear of failure and loss. Downey does a very solid job delivering in the first two installments, and I think he ups his game in the third.
I’ll try to be as descriptively vague as possible without giving much away. The movie starts with a bit of narration from Tony Stark, recalling back on people in his past he wasn’t too gracious with. I didn’t really like the narrating aspect but there wasn’t much of it. Stick around after the credits and it will make more sense 😉 Stark begins, “A famous guy once said we create our own demons.” It wouldn’t shock me one bit if most of the problems we all have in life could be traced back to something we did, something we said, something we didn’t do or say. Even when we are kind to some it can be taken as neglecting others. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try to. But you can show kindness to everyone. I don’t think making someone wait on a rooftop for hours quite accomplishes that, Tony.
Performances from the main actors in this one were great. I didn’t like the switch to Don Cheadle as Rhodes in the second movie, but I liked him better in this. Gwyneth Paltrow gives probably her best performance as Pepper Potts thus far. Although there were some, let’s say… action scenes, keying on her that seemed a tad forced. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley play the villains, Aldridge Killian and The Mandarin, respectively. Pearce was awesome, probably my favorite villain in all these movies. His dialogue was real solid and Pearce sold every feature of it. I can’t say much about Kingsley’s performance without giving away a major plot twist, but I think he delivered well with the role he had… whatever that was. I’ll just say he was intimidating when it called for it and… amusing, when it called for it. More on that later.
Saying the actors were great is different from saying the movie was great. I felt like there were some inconsistencies with the tone of the film. Previously, Tony had dealt with external conflicts involving things largely out of his control. In Iron Man 3, Tony is facing his demons within, ones he created, on top of the usual saving the world from maniacs. Now obviously we need some lighthearted moments. It’s Tony Stark, after all. Tony’s former bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) tries to provide some and it just seems forced. Many others seemed very misplaced and just fell flat. The ones that did work were mostly involving a new “friendship” Tony develops with a small-town kid. Harley, played perfectly by Ty Simpkins, is the yin to Stark’s yang at the perfect time. The interactions with the two were often funny, but were also meaningful to the development of the story and Tony dealing with his anxiety.
In one scene, Harley is describing what the locals believe about the scene of a bomb explosion. There are shadows on the walls outlining where people had died. If someone had a shadow, it meant they had went to heaven. There was no shadow for the guy who set the bomb off. “You buy that?”, Stark asks. “That’s what people say.”, Harley replies. There is no theological discourse going on here, but we do get a sense of Tony’s veiled skepticism. Earlier in the film he’s trying to describe his anxiety to Pepper. “Nothing’s been the same since New York. You experience things and then, you just can’t explain them?” This need to explain everything, to finish the equation, the have an answer, is probably familiar to a lot of us. I know it is to me. Tony is searching for answers, searching for reasons to the ‘why’ questions that his suits and his science are not providing despite his incessant efforts. Thankfully, God provides those answers for us and they’re tied to our faith in Him. Faith is described as the “substance” of what’s hoped for and the “evidence” of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). The answers are there for us to discover.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the action and special effects. The final fight scene with the multiple suits flying in and lining up for battle (c’mon, it’s in the trailers) just brings a big smile to my face. The whole movie seems flawless in this regard. Tony is sporting new suits with
multiple gadgets which he has spent countless sleepless nights building. The destruction of his mansion (again, watch the trailers) is pretty incredible to behold and has Tony witnessing his suits being destroyed after having just confessed to Pepper that his suits were a part of him. His world and indeed, himself, are getting blown away brick by brick, suit by suit. This serves as a good reminder for us. When we build up our treasures in this life, consisting of what we can build, what we can buy and take pride in, we face the inevitable fact that what we treasure will break down, get destroyed, perish into non-use. Tony saw this happen with his suits which were a part of him. Let us never anchor our hopes and treasures in the tangible, material things of this world. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Mt. 6:19f)
Some reviews have been harsh on this film for not having much Iron Man and having too much Tony Stark. By that I mean we probably see more of Tony Stark fighting outside his suit(s) than inside. I didn’t mind this really at all. The movie was centered on his inner conflict, his anxiety and how he identifies and differentiates between himself and his suit. Because of that I thought it was appropriate to see him relying on his own physical abilities, improvisation, etc. independent from his suit.
My Rating: 3.75/5
If I were to rank this out of the three I would put squarely between the first (and the best, in my opinion) and the second. To be totally honest, this is almost entirely due to the plot twist involving The Mandarin. If you haven’t seen it yet I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I’m not at all a fan with how they decided to play out that villain. I love it from Killian’s perspective and his overall plot, I hate it from The Mandarin’s perspective, if that makes sense. Other negatives go toward the poorly placed comedic moments and the complete predictability of it, save the plot twist. Being predictable isn’t entirely bad for a superhero flick. Good guy wins, bad guys lose, you know that from the start so you can expect certain outcomes. Downey and Pearce are my favorite performances, they really sell every nook and cranny of their characters. CGI is terrific, fights are well choreographed and, as much as they can be, believable. I paid to see this twice in the theater so it was certainly entertaining and worth seeing on the big screen.
Mandarin: “Some people call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher.”
Stark, to Pepper: “Stop stopping!”
Nameless guard: “Don’t shoot! Seriously, I don’t even like working here. They are so weird!”
Maya Hansen: “We all began wide eyed pure science, then the ego sets in. Obsessions. You look up and you’re a long way from shore.”