By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist May 6, 2013 at 1:29PM
As the trailers gave away, the conclusion of "Iron Man 3" sees Tony Stark finally unveil his greatest tech yet: a drone army of fully equipped Iron Man suits that can do his bidding. And at first, it's admittedly kind of cool watching this backup crew swoop in and save the day. But the longer it goes on, the less effective it is. What starts as a pretty nifty idea, quickly turns into a whole bunch of Iron Man suits flying around being conveniently available either to save Tony Stark or suit him up when required. And it's not really clear how many there are either, so while some of them are shot down, Tony and Pepper are never in any real danger, because there always seems to be one around right when they need it... except when Pepper really does fall to her "death" which winds up coming off as a bit of audience manipulation to heighten a finale that by point feels nothing more than fireworks. A point underscored by Tony blowing up drones to create actual fireworks. The entire climax feels like a mess of CGI and flashy cuts with little sense of coherence, geography or stakes, putting up a lot of window dressing around what is a pretty mediocre showdown between Tony and Aldrich (who dies rather vaguely and unmemorably for what is supposed to be the centerpiece baddie of the movie).
So none of us have yet seen the film both in 2 and 3D to be able to directly compare, but we're pretty sure the 3D adds very little to anything but the ticket price. The whiz-bang strength of the action sequences when they are good (like the skydiving sequence above) is that they are well cut together, and clearly motivated: innocent people falling to their deaths... Iron Man must save them. It's the old-fashioned skills of clearly establishing geography and creating coherent beats that make these sequences sing, nothing to do with the odd bit of rubble flying at you through the air. And when the action doesn't work (as in the climax covered elsewhere in "worst"), the 3D just serves to add another (strangely shallow) layer of visual confusion to an already over-cluttered scene. And it's not like we're set in some odd alien landscape in which the 3D can reveal unimagined wonders: this is Florida. Most centrally, though, the film's greatest assets are (some of) its characterizations and its comedy, and neither of those need another dimension to work.
Dunno about you, but we were happily going along with the glowy-people-sometimes-explode nonsense until Guy Pearce loosed a jet of fire from his mouth, dragon-style. The way the beat was played, with James Badge Dale's henchman looking on with surprise/ jealousy it seemed like something else was meant to happen with this ability, beyond abruptly shattering our suspension of disbelief. But no, it never happened again, was never even referred to and ended up just being used for a little meta moment for Rhodey. ("Uh, you breathe fire?") Note: if the only reason something silly exists is to give a character a self-aware line about how silly it is, perhaps best to leave it out?
Of course the events of "The Avengers" are referred to a few times throughout, but they exist almost solely as motivation/back story for Tony Stark, and are usually referred to as "New York" as if the fact that an alien invasion happened on the other side of the continent makes it kind of irrelevant to people living on the West Coast. We get very little sense of a world that has been fundamentally changed by those events (seriously, wormholes! Aliens! Gods! Rage monsters! Defrosted WWII super-soldiers! Surely that would fundamentally change our idea of ourselves?), something highlighted by the relative weakness of the villain plot. In a world where all the craziness of the Universe has seeped through, one guy's lust for earthly, governmental power (by kidnapping the president, how old-fashioned!) seems kind of quaint. In fact, Killian himself never really (that we can recall) refers directly to the off-world threat humanity had just faced, though it would surely have to factor into any self-respecting super-villain's plans one way or the other.
So after the (flawed) climax when Tony has given Pepper the only Christmas present a girl could ever want by turning his life's work into a really, really expensive fireworks display, the films runs out of steam very abruptly. Stark "cures" Pepper in voice over and suddenly decides to get surgery to have the life-threatening shrapnel removed from his heart. Yes, we get that they want to establish that the superhero resides in the man, and is nothing to do with a suit of armor or a chest-mounted life-saving arc reactor, but it all spins out a little fast and a little throwaway for it to have the weight it should. Did he just now remember that the whole basis for his Iron Man persona (the shrapnel) could be whipped out in Tokyo? Also, by "cure" Pepper, did he mean make her altogether non-glowy and rob her of the pretty neat power to grow back limbs and be practically un-killable, if occasionally warm to the touch? Or just the thing where she might explode? So many questions that the hasty and uncharacteristically pat end voice over narration leaves unanswered.
A few other brief observations, firstly, on the negative end of the scale:
-- There's no way any kid thinks "Iron Patriot" is a cooler name than "War Machine," is there?
-- The climax is a letdown in general, but at the point at which Killian inevitably rises from the dead and stands over the trapped Stark bellowing, inexplicably "I AM the Mandarin" it just goes outright silly and the even the dialogue, usually so surefooted, goes out the window.
But to leave on a positive note (because actually, we mostly enjoyed the hell out of it):
-- There are a hundred great jokes and quotable lines (though we still think Joss Whedon may shade Black in terms of giving Stark the funny pop-culture comparisons), but the one that gave us the biggest belly laugh was the unnamed henchman who immediately surrenders to Iron Man with "No, really I hate working for these guys, they're so weird" and gets to walk away.
-- And to end, the opening! Eiffel 65's europop smash hit "Blue" which claims a high placement on our all-time most disliked ear-worm songs, actually goes over like gangbusters at the start here. Coupled with RDJ's faltering opening voice over (a direct nod to "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"), the song sets up exactly the kind of loopy tone and breakneck pace the rest of the movie captures so effortlessly, and had us smiling even before the logos had faded down.
What did you all think? We know you've seen it, so sound off below. -- Jessica Kiang, Kevin Jagernauth, Drew Taylor