The history of entertainment is rife with sequels that were exciting and interesting and all that good stuff, but because they were follow-ups to moments of sheer brilliance, seemed a bit duller by comparison. Whether it’s Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Strikes Again, last year’s Hobbit movie, or such games as Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Gears Of War: Judgment, there are plenty of examples where things that are good on their own seem less so by comparison to their predecessors.
The latest example of this is Iron Man 3, which is a thrill ride and a half unto itself, totally worth seeing in theaters and then buying on Blu-ray, but is deeply diminished when compared to the first two Iron Man films and The Avengers.
Loosely based on the Extremis storyline written in 2005, 2006 by Warren Ellis—a storyline that inspired elements of the other Iron Man films as well—Iron Man 3 has Tony Stark feeling a bit shellshocked (no pun intended) after thwarting the alien invasion from Avengers. So he’s abdicated control of Stark Industries to Pepper, and is spending his sleepless nights building numerous variations of the Iron Man suit. But when a brief and forgotten encounter from his past comes back to put the hurt on his friends, Stark suits up and does what he does best.
Unfortunately, what he does best is not kicking ass but making clever quips, apparently. This is one of the more minor but noticeable problems with this film. While very funny at times, it’s also funny too much of the time, and doesn’t strike the same snappy balance as his previous adventures. He also spends a lot less time in the suit, though not to the same extent as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, which really should’ve been called Bruce Wayne’s No Good, Very Bad Day.
The third Iron Man flick also doesn’t have the steady pace of the earlier films, especially in the middle, which seems to needlessly meander. It’s here that the plot becomes convoluted, and while it eventually rights itself, such wandering does expose some rather noticeable plot holes. Granted, it’s not like the previous films’ plots were airtight, but the weak spots were far less noticeable, and so more forgivable.
Even the music is relatively less interesting, though that could just be my preference for classic rock.
Whatever problems the film may suffer in the middle, however, it more than makes up for at the end, when things go all kablooey in that adrenaline-pumping way we expect from our superhero movies. It’s a rather spectacular bit of comic book goodness that reminds us why we love movies, superhero and otherwise.
Then there’s Robert Downy, Jr., once again inhabiting this character the way no one else can. Even when he’s being a bit of a dick, you can’t help but root for the guy. Thankfully, he’s not alone in the likable scoundrel department. Sir Ben Kingsley is wonderfully wicked as The Mandarin, and while some diehard fans of this bad guy might balk at the way he’s portrayed here, it really does work well. It’s just too bad some of the other bad guys aren’t as interesting, especially the one who, at one point, opens his mouth and just lets silliness shoot out (even though that move worked well in the book).
But what really redeems the movie is what actually happens overall. Yes, it does hit some giant pot holes—er, plot holes—as it goes from point A to B, B to C, and C to D, but those major points are quite good. Granted, many do come from the comic mastermind of Warren Ellis, but director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)—who cowrote the script with Drew Pearce (the upcoming Godzilla)—hits them right on the nose, while bringing some new ones in as well.
Sadly, while this does bring the movie back from the brink of mediocrity, the overall story, spectacular ending, and the performances of Downy and Kingsley aren’t enough to lift this to the lofty heights achieved by the first two movies as well as The Avengers.
Sometimes, superheroes are their own worst enemies.