The (Iron)Man Behind the Mask: A Movie Critique

Posted on May 6, 2013

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The Avengers changed everything.

Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye

Avengers Assemble

I mean, the world had never quite experienced a nerdtastic crossover to that extent before, with 4-5 lead-in movies (depending on whether or not you count Ironman 2 and Incredible Hulk) culminating into a super buddy brouhaha that resonated with both the casual mainstream AND comic nerds alike (no small task) and was commercially and critically successful (earning $1.5 billion worldwide and a 6.9/10 Metacritic score, respectfully). The eggheads behind of GI Joe pissed themselves and delayed their movie 9 months; I can’t say I blame them. The Avengers is a tough act to follow. It also raised the bar for what can be accomplished with not just one movie, but what can be accomplished with a series of movies revolving around a connected universe. No doubt Disney intends to recreate this success with the Star Wars franchise (which I’ll discuss in another blog).

Of course, it isn’t just the commercial success of that film I was referring to. The events of The Avengers changed everything for Tony Stark, the man behind the mask of Ironman. The first solo character movie in the Marvel universe since The Avengers, Ironman 3 shows us a more vulnerable Tony, dealing with the emotional aftermath of his near death experience; in fact, we see much more of Tony outside of the suit than in it. There was a lot of promise here to make a journey with this character we’ve come to love, but ultimately, I felt that, while entertaining, Ironman 3 never delivers on the potential; a lot of plot holes and weak gags distract from the substance that could have made this more than just a movie.

Exploring the man behind the mask

Exploring the man behind the mask

Fair warning, spoilers follow, though I’ll do my best to remain vague.

To be clear, I don’t expect deep character study at a comic book movie. I do, however, have a problem with a character that not only can’t seem to move forward but seems to regress with every film. If I may over simplify, in Ironman 1, Tony has a near death experience and has the character and talent to turn it into a positive life change. In Ironman 2, he has another near death experience, and he seems to backslide into an almost suicidal form of self indulgence, but with his talent (and a little help from his friends), manages to overcome. In Ironman 3, his near death experience has left him a wreck and shell of his former self. He no longer possess the same confidence (despite the fact he successfully helped beat back an alien horde) and he no longer seems to be quite the master of his own inventions that he did before.

I think, above everything else, this is what never quite sit right with me. This regression, despite his prowess and successes, is contrary to everything I believe about the human spirit. I thought his PTSD and anxiety regarding the end moments of Avengers was oversold and unbelievable. In The Dark Knight Rises, we watch Bruce Wayne struggle to make a comeback after years of being a recluse, doubting himself and giving up on life, to eventually overcome his most dangerous foe yet. We can take that journey with him because there is path he has to choose and we know he is going to have to dig deep if he is going to be victorious again. In Ironman 3, there doesn’t seem to be any acceptable reason behind his regression from confident Avenger of Earth to the anxiety ridden and troubled soul we find here; we can’t follow him on that Path because, to us (or me, at least), he should all rights still be there and just as brazen and arrogant as ever that he can overcome the obstacles. Where was the Tony Stark that sauntered in front of Loki, even without a suit of armor? This man bore little resemblance  and I never felt like the footsteps towards his realization at the end that, even without the suit, he is Ironman were really present. It felt forced on me as a viewer and the director / writer’s way of trying to slap a bow on an uncompleted work.

Ironman, Confident and Flying High

Ironman, Confident and Flying High

It would have been easier to overlook had there not been glaring plot holes present throughout the film. Why would he need to charge his suit with electricity while he is wearing it? He has a power supply in his chest. Why did he not have a way to summon all of his Ironman suits until the end of the movie? How did breaking the watch make his suit fly from TN to FL in a couple minutes? Or if the watch was coincidental, how did he summon the suit from that far away and how did it travel that quickly and accurately when his previous efforts from across the room failed? How is it Stark could prevent even Rhodie from using his suits but two other guys had no trouble using the Iron Patriot suit?  And then he had one suit that he could apparently throw on anybody on a whim? I am okay with accepting sci-fi tech, but be consistent with it.

I won’t even touch the few discrepancies from the comics because, honestly, I don’t think they matter that much. [BIG SPOILER] Making the Mandarin actually not the Mandarin could have been a bit of a disaster had Ben Kingsley not played it quite so brilliantly. Absolutely hilarious.

Ben Kingsley nailed it.

Ben Kingsley nailed it.

That said, any fan of the series thus far shouldn’t miss this movie. I do like that the director / writers obviously wanted to explore Tony outside of the suit, and he does spend the majority of the movie not in the armor. There are a lot of great scenes, and despite what has been said already, I did genuinely enjoy this movie; I just felt it was the weakest of the trilogy thus far. But weak Ironman is still good movie viewing and there is a lot here to entertain.

Eclectic Camel’s Score: 3.5 stars of of 5

True story.

True story.

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Posted in: Comics, Geek, Movies