I didn't love it, I didn't hate it; I don't think it's a bad film, but I think the best I'm going to be able to give it is praising it with faint damn. It just wasn't the Iron Man movie I walked in to see.
This film is to Iron Man what Skyfall was to James Bond, and a lot of people loved Skyfall, and I just wanted my spying and gadgets and nuclear countdowns back. Similarly I wanted the Iron Man of The Avengers in this one, and I didn't get him. I love Tony Stark both in and out of the suit, but empty flying Iron Man suits with no Tony Stark inside them are boring, soulless. We already learned this wisdom in IM2: "Drones are better," says the villain. Yeah, for villainry. For soullessness.
It's like the writers of this film said, "We're going to show the technology going so far it moves to the ridiculous, so then we're going take it all away--suits, arc reactor--so that we can have a reboot in the next movie." And maybe that's what it needed, so that all future Iron Man appearances can feel fresh. The reboot's okay with me, but taking the tech to those ridiculous levels in the first place feels disrespectful. Certainly not what I wanted to see, and it pinged my secondhand embarrassment radar a lot.The whole film pinged my secondhand embarrassment radar so many times--oddly enough, not during the times when Tony has panic attacks, nor during the visit to Buttfuck, Iowa, where he was delightfully competent even out of his element. Just...every time they mocked the Iron Man tech. Watch the piece-by-piece assembly sort-of-not-work! Watch the truly awesome air rescue scene end with a crash and the reveal that Tony wasn't even in the suit! Watch two dozen suits arrive to fly around all by themselves!
Don't mock The Suits.
(You mock The Suits, you mock Tony. It's not like they could have missed that--it was the last line of their freakin' film.)
I don't think there's anything truly terrible in the film. There's good! There's some very good! All the acting is excellent. There could be theses about RDJ's astounding portrayal of Tony Stark as a character, and still every other actor held up their end alongside him. I loved the opening 1999 scene (probably my favorite in the film), and the air rescue was the best action sequence even if Tony was VR-ing it on the ground. I loved the Malibu attack from start to finish.
On the Mandarin: the Mandarin we saw in the first half of the film scared the bejabbers out of me; I am so perfectly the target for that kind of Bin Laden-esque fear, oh yes. The twist with the Mandarin was clever and left-fieldy as hell and made for nifty storytelling (and yes, Ben Kingsley wins forever) BUT once they upended his menace, there was no sense of menace left in the film. Guy Pierce and his Flamin' Hot Guy-lings may be dangerous but we saw from the start: he can seethe all he likes, but he'll never manage menace. So if you're going to reduce your hero's antagonist like that (cue the secondhand embarrassment again), you gotta give him another worthy antagonist, or everything's downhill.
I really, really don't like kid sidekicks. Watching Tony treat him like someone who doesn't like kid sidekicks either was fun, but I still couldn't wait for the kid to be gone. (I do love that Tony rewards him the way Tony Stark will--not with affection or personal communication, but, "Here, take what money can buy. It's what my dad did for me and why shouldn't you grow up as twisted as I did, it fosters genius.")
Ultimately though I felt like there was just too much trying to pack itself in. Did they want Tony to fix the suit, or did they want him looking ultra-slick in the raid on the Miami mansion? They were spreading him too thin for my sensibilities. The scramble to create an exciting climax after the Mandarin had been unmasked--well, it just got messy. I didn't care about the President, I cared about Pepper but knew it would end all right (not because of spoilers or anything, it was just evident) so I had no sense of tension about that, and the Extremis Attack Squad vs. All Tony's Suits at the end was just dull. (Okay, I liked watching Tony leap from suit to suit. If they'd done THAT all the way through the final battle it would have been great.)
I look at IM3 the same way I would look at a minor comic arc: it's over now and it didn't mess up canon in any way that impacts my fandom. Um, hooray? The destruction of the suits--that's nothing, and for this film it's good, as it removes that wanton abundance of soulless suits. All Tony needs is ONE. The arc reactor? Eh, I can handwave. And you know something will come to replace it. There were no core character deaths, and now that the Malibu house is gone Tony gets to move into the big Avengers Treehouse and it's movie nights and Science Bros and tower-wide paintball
Onward, fandom. You have it so easy this time.
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