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“Iron Man 3” Review: Cookie Cutter Villain, Cookie Cutter Movie


This weekend was a big ’un for nerds and the movie industry alike. The second leg of the Marvel Avengers franchise began, with a relatively enjoyable bang, in the form of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3.

This means lots of ecstatic fanboys and girls, along with mucho moolah for studio execs (and various other Hollywood branches of entertainment, however that breaks down).

While I was excited for the new wave of Marvel movies, particularly the further adventures of Tony Stark, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of quality. Don’t get me wrong, I by no means think this movie, or any of the others in the Marvel universe, are bad; I just don’t think they’re very good, either.

The problem for me is this: When you’ve got all these movies feeding into one another and coming out within a year’s time, all leading up to the big event (which in this case would be the forthcoming The Avengers 2), then the movies in between start blending together and nothing seems all that special.

It feels like the movies are starting to struggle creatively, because I’m beginning to have some trouble differentiating between them all. Once again, I need to stress – I don’t think anything Marvel has put out is bad, I just don’t think any of it is super duper awesome, either.

A franchise like this, that’s so epic and connected, loses some of the intimacy and lushness that comes with doing a standalone trilogy like The Dark Knight films. It becomes something like an assembly line.

At this point, all these movies feel exactly the same, save for Thor, which was delightfully different. It strayed far from the traditional superhero origin story and ended up feeling more like a classic eighties sci-fi/action adventure tale (the sequel looks like it will continue the trend with a medieval-fantasy-meets-aliens).

I’m giving you this long, rambling rant because all of the above is exactly what I found wrong with Iron Man 3. Okay, not exactly “wrong,” just… boring. Iron Man 3 gives us more of the same old, same old.

Tony goes up against a cookie cutter bad guy (Guy Pierce was great in Memento, but here he’s just sort of… there) and then proceeds to have a cookie cutter adventure. The whole plot was very mediocre for me, and didn’t really take the franchise anywhere new.

The possibility of what could have been is what makes it so disappointing. You’ve got The Mandarin, a villain that was decidedly different than anyone any of the Marvel good guys have faced in the past. Basically, he’s a terrorist with a beef against America.

That would have made for a great plot in and of itself, but, instead, he turns out to be an actor, creating a boogeyman for the generic Guy really pulling the strings. (See what I did there? HILARIOUS.)

While I found Ben Kingsley’s performance as The Mandarin wonderful, it didn’t cover up the fact that the plot could have tried something new if he’d been the real bad guy. (I’m not all that familiar with the Iron Man mythos, so if The Mandarin is like that in the comics, too, forgive me.)

Even though I had issues with the overall generic plot, there were smaller bits of the narrative that I did enjoy.

One of the great things about the script was that it got Tony out of the Iron Man suit for a good fifty percent of the film. During Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, his suit was becoming something more akin to magic armor than technology, so seeing it fall apart and become worthless while Tony had to fight as a regular man was awesome.

Outside of that, a lot of the small character appearances were great; for instance, the young Midwestern kid who helps Tony when he crash lands,  and the sadly minimal bit of screen time Gwyneth Paltrow gets in this film. Whenever Pepper Potts shows up in the movie, it gets much better. She’s always a great presence, and even gets a few heroic moments this time around.

But, even though there are some great character beats and some good thematic elements, that doesn’t fix the fact that the plot they’re connected to kind of sucks.

In the end, do you give the movie props for great character interaction? I guess it comes down to how much of a percentage you think characterization should get versus the actual story. I usually go with a 60/40 split. Characterization is very important, but it can only take a stupid plot so far, which means that I just can’t really fall in love with this flick.

Marvel may have its good guys down, but it needs to work on the bad ones and their insane plots to end/rule the world a helluva lot more.


  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pierce, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle
  • Directed by: Shane Black
  • Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi