Once spoilers started to hit the Web for Iron Man 3 last week, it became clear that the movie wasn't going to please everyone. More akin to The Dark Knight Rises than The Avengers, director Shane Black and his co-writer Drew Pearce took some chances--some of which paid off and some of which didn't.
And given the rather spectacularly high expectations heaped on this movie by the "new classic" status of the first film, the disappointment of the second and the box office performance of The Avengers, some seemingly minor problems with the movie are bound to be at the center of many of the film's reviews.
Our own reviews, in which we gave the film a B+ and reckoned that Black did a generally great job, certainly hovered on some of these points for a while.
Some people will like the twist and others won't, but in the final analysis, it's likely that comics fans--who are still a big part of the base for a movie like this--will hold on to some of the frustration they feel over the perceived mistreatment of Tony's archenemy for quite a while.
We still can't shake that bit of dialogue between Rhodey and Tony: "This is The Mandarin?" "Iknow. This is embarrassing." When your own heroes point that out, it's hard to step away from.
And, of course, there will be criticism that the "twist" was essentially already done in the recent past--with Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins, who used a flunky as the "head" of his organization until it was time to strike.
Of course, here's Kingsley as a Mandarin-like character in War, Inc. That film had a similar twist.
Really just think about this. There's a kid sidekick in the movie.
Ty Simpkins wasn't terrible, but he didn't really bring much to the table. Adding a Cousin Oliver usually reeks of desperation, and it's not clear why, in such a strong script, they felt the need to toss in a kid.
The obvious answer seems to be that the movie was in a really dark place at that point, so it gave Tony somebody to bounce off and be acerbic with, but those scenes didn't really click.
The Humor Didn't Work
This ties in with the kid sidekick in a lot of spots, since Harley was used as a comic foil for Downey--but in a franchise that's been defined by a strong blend of humor and action, most of the gags in Iron Man 3 simply didn't work. Seeing him flail about in malfunctioning armor worked the first time, but all it did here was establish that his tech was still a work-in-progress; it didn't evoke the kind of laughs that Iron Man got out of similar jokes.
The movie was just so dark that sometimes it didn't feel like the humor was quite "right," either. When Tony was joking around with a preteen, his girlfriend, best friend and other best friend were all in mortal danger at the hands of the villain to whom he'd given his address and challenged him to put his loved ones in danger (except Happy, who was already in danger, but you get the idea).
Nobody did a bad job in Iron Man 3. Even Gwyneth Paltrow was actually pretty watchable in the flick...but at no point in the film were we blown away by the incredible job the cast was doing. Downey excelled in the scenes that called for humor or action-driven stuff--you know, the Iron Man stuff--but felt flat when he was dealing with the emotional beats that dominated much of the movie. Paltrow had the opposite problem, seeming out of place when she was called upon to do action--something she did way more in this movie than she has in the past.
Killian and The Mandarin weren't particularly deep or compelling characters, meaning that Pearce and Kingsley didn't have much to work with. They did their job just fine, but after having been told for months that Kingsley was going to knock our socks off, we couldn't help but be a little disappointed.
Too Many Characters, Not Enough Lines
Remember how so many characters had been cast that we all thought we'd need a scorecard to keep the villains straight? Well, that could have helped--since most of them were basically riding the bench and even some of the "main" Extremis soldiers were never really named onscreen.
As a result, it felt like a missed opportunity. You see familiar character names appearing on files or scrolling across a screen, but since all the Extremis soldiers operate in the same way, there's a homogeneity to the baddies no matter who they purport to be.