Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Friday, May 17, 2013

And More Of Why I Hated Iron Man 3

(Reposted from my comic blog, which you should be reading. My feelings a week later have only gotten harsher.)

Some days I am very grateful for the fact that I do an independent webcomic, with no content beyond what I create, no editing beyond what I choose, and no readers beyond a small few devoted and cherished fans. Yesterday was one of those days, because it was the day I finally saw Iron Man 3.

Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black (replacing Jon Faverau), is not a bad movie. It has the same cast of the previous Iron Man movies (which I really enjoyed, albeit with reservations), and it had a few new characters who were played effectively. It even had some good ideas, such as Tony Stark's anxiety attacks following the events of the Avengers. However, none of those ideas got any space to breathe, and the Hollywood formula smothered the movie so that everything potentially interesting about it was diluted in a stream of explosions and one-liners.

If Iron Man 3 were played as a completely straightforward superhero movie, such as Captain America, it could've excelled at that. But the more thoughtful bits raise important questions and take them absolutely nowhere. Tony's anxiety attacks begin as a serious issue, showing a tortured mind whose view of a rational universe has been shattered in the wake of discovering gods and aliens, and who builds armor after armor in a compulsive attempt to regain his security. This is in the first act; in the second act, Tony's anxiety attacks are just reduced to comic relief as he flips out in front of a little kid, and by the third act, he's completely "overcome" them (as if you can just punch emotional problems into oblivion). 


The intriguing start and piss-poor payoff continues through the rest of the movie. For example, the Mandarin is brought in as a Bin Laden-style terrorist, releasing viral videos of his deeds with messages about America's sins (SUCH AS A REFERENCE TO THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE, as an allegory for the casualties of America's nation-building in Iraq). In the second act, we see that this new interpretation of the Mandarin is just a smokescreen, as he's really just an actor hired by the main villain to distract from his real activities. This is a clever twist that plays on Orientalist fears, but it's ruined by some painfully extended comic relief sequences with actor Mandarin, and then it's completely dropped when the real villain turns out to be just another monologuing jackass, whose speech about the power of anonymity is completely ruined by the fact that he's GIVING A FUCKING SPEECH. What's more, the present-day implications of the genocide against the indigenous Americans are completely dropped, even when there's plenty of appropriate subtext (such as Jim Rhodes/War Machine going on a wild goose chase for the Mandarin while in his new Iron Patriot suit, giving third-world citizens the sight of a red-white-and-blue death machine breaking into their homes and threatening them without warning).

Everything in the movie follows this pattern. The Extremis formula, used in the comics for an interesting exploration of transhumanism (as well as its inventor Maya Hansen, a great example of a once-idealistic scientist corrupted by the military-industrial complex), just serves to make flaming villains here. Tony's compulsive armor-building, a sign of emotional turmoil, turns out to be just the thing needed to save the day in the Obligatory Climax Explosion Orgy. Even the humor scenes fail, because of how scripted they feel. Where Jon Favreau made even the weaker parts of his Iron Man movies entertaining thanks to all the ad-libs, you can tell here that there's a heavier directorial hand, and the situations (such as all the time where Tony fixes his armor with the help of the little kid) show us just how tightly they're sticking to the script and telling us THIS IS FUNNY.

It's all smothered by cliches, robbing it the opportunity to be even an interesting failure. It's not a bad movie, and I don't hold anything against its cast and crew. It's just a mediocre movie clearly ruined by the process of executive meddling, and again, it makes me very grateful I don't have to deal with that shit.


  1. Rob Walker said it best: "Take note, aspiring screen writers: Guy Pearce is never a satisfying plot twist." Having said that, I still can't believe how many people are "outraged" at the usage of the Mandarin, at least on the basis of "OMG they ruined a great character."

    Guys. I loves me some B-Grade villains, too. But it's the freakin' Mandarin. Marvel hasn't known what to do with him for about thirty years, and even Fraction just had to make him an evil businessman with an epic mullet. I'm sure both of the people who name him as their favorite villain ever were really upset, but I found that particular part of the film to be the best part of the script. The folks in-universe had been receiving propaganda for months building the Mandarin as this arch-villain terrorist mastermind...just like the movie-going audience. I loved it. Only wish there had been better follow-through.

    (But, in fairness to the Obligatory Climax Explosion Orgy, I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was.)

    ...between the Extremis soldiers, the Lizard's scheming last summer, and certain elements of the new Star Trek film that I won't spoil here, a lot of summer movie villains have had creepily eugenic undertones these past couple years. I don't know what to make of that, except to note that none of these films have explicitly called out these ideas for what they are.

  2. Loved IM3, for me the whole thing was more about Tony verses the armour, which gets more visual towards the end, especially a final scene where he's looking at the burnt out face plate and the love of his life reclaims her place with him by literally smashing a suit to bits.

    Killien becomes what he creates (I loved what they did with the Mandarin, despite I would have loved to have seen him done for real if you want that just read the comics) and it burns him Tony overcomes that and comes out a better person.

    I feel they did the anxiety just right, any more would have been harping on events that didn't happen in this specific series.

    And yes, 42 suits flying up HAD to be done! It was great and a satisfying way to wrap up a trilogy.

    Horses for courses, it was still the best summer movie I've seen this year and the best superhero movie since Avengers.