Director Shane Black has a whole lot of ground to make up after Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2.
The third installment in what kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe was treated with a more comic book-y feel. Shane Black decided to make room for more jokes than substance, which didn’t necessarily feel like it worked.
Iron Man 3 opens with a flashback to Tony Stark’s playboy days. At a 1999 New Year’s Eve party, he meets a botanical scientist, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). The expected Stark swoon-fest kicks into gear, trying to ease his way into Hansen’s line of sight. The movie then throws in your face the crippled scientist, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who Stark ignores and acts like a jerk towards. Any film fan knows that this is the set-up for the film’s antagonist.
Pearce’s track record demanded my respect for his presence, but I felt he was … underused? It may not be the best word, but there’s a void that wasn’t filled throughout the film.
That isn’t the biggest flaw, though.
The Mandarin is arguably Iron Man’s toughest enemy in the comics. He was a true force; someone that Tony Stark had trouble outsmarting.
It’s too bad Shane Black couldn’t find a better way to make use of such villainy.
The audience presumed actor Ben Kingsley was the Mandarin. Unfortunately, the twist writer Drew Pearce drew up went against the grain in the worst way.
Kingsley is merely a puppet providing a face for terror videos and executions across the world. He isn’t the Mandarin — he’s just Trevor Slattery, a nobody. At least he’s funny at times, which eased a bit of the pain.
Aldrich Killian is supposedly the Mandarin, and this is where the film began to spiral downwards. Killian says he’s the big ol’ bad guy Stark sweats thinking of, but he isn’t … right? The film sort of leaves that up to the viewer. The reveal created a collective cloud of disappointment throughout the theater and made fans angry that the legendary Ben Kingsley was just a useless puppet.
Phew — that was a lot to get out of the way, which creates another negative: The majority of Iron Man 3 gave me a headache. There were a lot of moments where the film’s pace felt confused. It didn’t know where it needed to go, and caused glances at my watch for time.
The sequence where Stark has to yet again build Iron Man stuff from scraps? It happens again, but this time with a young kid (Ty Simpkins), who actually was one of the better parts of the film. I just didn’t enjoy how long of a break it took from the plot.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) hits her lowest point as a character due to annoyance and the fact SHE was the one to do over Aldrich. She took over a partial Iron Man suit, with her newfound evil Mandarin magic still apart of her, and blasted the evil scientist in the face.
It’s not as cool as it sounds.
The only salvageable takeaways from this film are Don Cheadle’s performance and a grandiose final battle, which ended up being OK before Potts took the reins.
Funnily enough, most of these negatives felt less apparent on the second viewing. Was it due to being numb from disappointment on first watch, or was it us, as an audience, tempering the expectation?
Whatever the case may be, it felt like most of those film was shoehorned with a lot of pointless plot points and unnecessary filler, leaving me asking “why?” more often than not.