Iron Man 3 deflates
The first attention grabbing scene in writer/director Shane Black’s ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") "Iron Man 3" occurs when Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) discovers mystery-breaking information in Tennessee that leads him to the hidden base of the movie’s villains in Florida. It’s not the information about the terrorists or the discovery of their secret location that makes one sit up and take notice. It’s the very next scene when Mr. Stark drives from Tennessee to Florida. It’s the only scene up to that point filled with drama. The Iron Man suit is out of commission and the desperate need to get to that hideaway comes out. "Iron Man 3" is a well financed action picture benefitting from the momentum of the first two movies and the blockbuster "Avengers" movie. The studio’s focus was on getting this movie into theaters and the audience into their seats as soon as possible. Mr. Black and his collaborator Drew Pearce seem handicapped by the studio’s time constraints and the depth of the story and its development of the characters has suffered because of it. The focus should have been on making a memorable and legend worthy film. The story lacks a sense of obligation toward the fans whose money it is that keeps this series alive. Instead we get the fourth part of an interwoven franchise which was treated as a sitcom episode rather then a movie event.
It is always a let down in a movie when the authorities can’t seem to get anywhere in an investigation but the hero easily finds the clues and breaks the case. The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is the terrorist claiming responsibility for bombings around the world and in the United States. No one can locate him until Tony Stark does an investigation. And Mr. Stark sets off to find the Mandarin only after he challenges him on live television (a bit amateurish) and the Mandarin responds by destroying his home (to obvious). How Mr. Stark discovers the important clues prompts the question, why couldn’t the authorities have figured this out? The filmmakers don’t want to steal the thunder from Iron Man especially in an Iron Man movie but making everyone inept doesn’t make Tony Stark any smarter and it cheapens the intrigue. It doesn’t help that the villains aren’t memorable. The first creative brainstorming the writers should have done when continuing the series is to create villains that aren’t easily thwarted and will cause dramatic impact several movies down the line. Instead they are cheaply drawn. Guy Pierce is interesting to watch in anything he does. He’s not given much of a character to handle in the nerd turned villain Aldrich Killian. He’s supposed to be smart and conniving but the writers fail on both counts. Rebecca Hall does a nice job with the most complex character of the movie, Maya Hansen. You’re never really sure what motivates her character or what her goals are until the end. Then there’s the slimly drawn villain Eric Savin (James Badge Dale) who seems to do everything he can to announce to the world he’s a terrorists including behaving like an adolescent in waiting rooms. Yet no seems to notice, except for Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). And no one pays attention to him until he’s injured in an attack.
The regulars, besides Mr. Downey, Jr., are Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. Ms. Paltrow plays the roll of Mr. Stark’s life partner tring to wrestle him away from his business and superhero life. We hope that Mr. Cheadle’s check didn’t bounce. An actor of his talent on the payroll should have been given more to do. The screen writers know who they have to play their characters. The first thing they should have figured out was how to add juice to their rolls. Instead they handed out characters as dry as the Mojave Desert. The only exception is Mr. Kingsley as the Mandarin. It’s a small part but Mr. Kingsley is a diamond amongst the noise and distractions and is the one reason that makes viewing "Iron Man 3" worth it. His performance is more entertaining than any scene filled with special effects. That should be a lesson for the filmmakers and studio.
Mr. Downey, Jr. was interesting as Tony Stark during the first two movies. He played the character with a swagger and arrogance necessary for a billionaire weapons manufacturer. But he also added enough charm to make him likable. I don’t know if Mr. Downey, Jr. has grown tired of the character in "Iron Man 3" but the charm and likability have disappeared. The story is third rate and it looks like that was the level Mr. Downey, Jr. set his performance at. It would help the franchise as well as ticket sales if more time was put into the story. Franchises cannot live on special effects alone. That’s why a simple car ride from Tennessee to Florida can feel like the biggest revelation in a one hundred and thirty minute movie.