In hindsight, there were a myriad of signs pointing to “Iron Man 3” being a complete trainwreck.
Ben Kingsley, while a fine actor, has gained a reputation for appearing in awful big budget blockbusters. Jon Favreau has hung up his director’s cap and is replaced by Shane Black, who has only directed one other film, and that was in 2005. Plus, it’s the third film in a trilogy, which practically guarantees failure.
So, the big question hanging over this movie has to be: is this a trainwreck? Well, no, but it’s dangerously close to being one.
“Iron Man 3” has two notable strengths: the performance of Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark) and the new and interesting ideas the film brings to the table. Unfortunately, despite having some legitimately good ideas, the film utterly fails to execute any of them with anything other than bumbling awkwardness. Without Downey’s excellent performance, the material would be an utter failure.
There are simply too many ideas in this movie. The first “Iron Man” succeeded, because it was a simple story with some clever twists. This film is overflowing with ideas, but none of them are enough to hold it up.
There are the side plots of Tony Stark suffering from severe anxiety (which is never resolved), of Tony Stark befriending a small child (which doesn’t really serve any purpose), and of James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) just kind of showing up every now and then for no real reason. Again, had any of these plots been executed properly, they would be enjoyable on their own. But, shoving them together with a dozen others leaves them all half-baked.
The characters are almost a complete disaster. Apart from Tony Stark, none of the characters have any sort of clear motivation for their actions.
Even the main villain of the film never quite gets around to explaining what he intends to do after his nefarious plot comes to fruition. He’s just the bad guy. His henchmen and assistants are even less fleshed out; they seem to just be going along with it all because they have nothing better to do.
Gwyneth Paltrow, always refreshing as the capable Pepper Potts, is relegated to damsel in distress for most of the film’s running time.
Don Cheadle could have been cut from the film entirely, and it wouldn’t have changed the plot even one bit.
That brings us to the central plot, which is actually somewhat clever and one of the film’s only redeeming qualities. Unfortunately, it relies so heavily on a variety of plot twists (which were fairly predictable but still daring) that I can’t discuss any of it.
It’s also near-impossible to discuss many of the film’s greatest failings without spoiling the various twists of the plot. So, in the vaguest terms possible, let me just say this: there are many, many moments throughout the course of the film where something will come completely out of left field with no explanation or foreshadowing, and afterwards receive no explanation.
In fact, the main antagonist and his henchmen are imbued with powers whose source is made clear, but it is never even half explained how this source gave them these powers, or the extent of these powers (which seem to change to fit the plot). It’s the ultimate in sloppy writing.
There are many, many more issues with the film, but it doesn’t quite manage to be a spectacular disaster. Instead, it is more of a mess.
There are so many themes, ideas, and elements all thrown into the same movie, much in the way an amateur chef overuses spices and herbs. Instead of something rich and textured, everything blurs together into a lukewarm porridge.
There’s a quote near the end of the film that perfectly summarizes the problems that have plagued this franchise throughout its decline from simple and well-made to a sloppy and overproduced mess. “You start with something pure, something simple … then come the mistakes, the compromises.”
Somehow, in one line of dialogue, the movie itself manages to sum up the biggest problem it has, while at the same time being completely oblivious to what it is doing. It is this awkward combination of cleverness and obliviousness that truly encapsulates the experience of “Iron Man 3.”