Chat Cave: Iron Man 3

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Marvel Studio’s follow-up to the uber-successful Avengers movie, Iron Man 3, came out this weekend to mixed reactions from critics and fans, but it cleaned up at the box office, certifying the longevity of the whole Avengers’ stable of films. The movie also serves a double roll — concluding the Iron Man series while kicking off Marvel’s Phase II. How well did it succeed in any of these capacities? Welcome to the Chat Cave.

Patrick: I had the pleasure of seeing this movie with my little brother, Jack — who until recently, had been writing about a title-a-week with us. He’s the fascinating case of someone who had never seen any of the Iron Man movies and also has not seen The Avengers. As a self-contained adventure, this worked amazingly well for her. I don’t know how the Marvel Studios guys do it, but they manage to make relatively faithful superhero movies that aren’t steeped in dense mythology. Walking out of that movie, Jack concluded that Tony’s superpower was “data management,” which sounds like it should be boring. But there are enough ultra-fast-talkin’ sequences and super-computer-assisting-crime-solving sequences to dramatize this super-collation of data in engaging and funny ways.

I was a little thrown by how visually incoherent parts of the movie were. Early in the flick, there’s a lot of exposition (and re-exposition) that ends up being slapped together so that it almost feels like a trailer for the movie you’re about to watch. It doesn’t help that the Mandarin’s erratic video threats are intentionally crummy. The first time we see a Mandarin video, it’s merely presented on the screen as part of Iron Man 3. But these videos are diegetic — they exist as videos within the reality of the movie’s universe — and calibrating the quality of the film making in them with the quality of the rest of film making is disorienting. It all makes sense, given the movie’s big Mandarin-reveal (which I trust one of my colleagues to bring up), but it took me a second to make sense of it all.

The one explicit and intentional change of style that I absolutely loved was the cheesy, 70s-esque end credit sequence. The faux-grit on the film, the bombastic funk orchestra score, the hokey split screen: it was a damn near perfect celebration of Iron Man’s cinematic presence.

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Drew: You know, for whatever reason, the Iron Man movies have never fully connected with me. I don’t know if it’s Downey’s at-arms-length performance or just the overall slickness of the films, but I was never quite able to connect. Avengers managed to add some heart to that mix, so I had high expectations for this installment, but I walked out of the theater feeling as detached as ever. That’s especially disappointing, given that the film seems to acknowledge the missing human element, taking pains to keep Downey out of the suit for much of the film, and even giving him a kid side-kick for most of the second act. Unfortunately, the franchise is too committed to being awesome to really sell those emotional beats, which leaves the whole thing feeling like the empty armor imagery the movie was so fond of.

But it does succeed in being awesome. Sure, Marvel fans might have seen the AIM/terrorism connection from literally the first scene of the movie (and would it have killed them to put even one background character in a hazmat suit during that final battle?), but I liked the idea that the terrorism was just a plot to cover up accidental explosions. Ultimately, it’s still terrorism, but it was a clever enough twist to still have me thinking about it now. I’m not totally sure why all of these amputee guinea pigs are willing to die for a cause they only accidentally became entangled with (as in, why were ALL of them willing to fight the army of Iron Men during that last battle?), but it was fun to see all of the ways Tony came up with to evade them.

I don’t know. As a piece of entertainment, it was basically firing on all cylinders, but it was just a little too cagey for me to enjoy without reservation. Also, what’s with Tony Listening to funky Christmas music? I thought he was an AC/DC fan.

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Shelby: I actually thought this installment took great strides towards humanizing Tony. I love the mix of sheer awesome fight choreography and real emotional issues Tony was experiencing. Not only did he have his universe infinitely broadened at the end of The Avengers, he was willing to sacrifice himself for the world, and for an instant it seemed he had done so. He went from a man in a mechanical suit fighting other men in mechanical suits to battling galactic monsters alongside a god. I’m glad Shane Black took the time to pull back from that and show us that Tony couldn’t deal with it. Insomnia, crippling panic attacks, these are all very real effects of surviving a trauma, and I appreciate the reminder that, despite the armor of both the Iron Man suit and the playboy genius billionaire persona, Tony Stark is still a person with doubts and fears.

I was also quite impressed by the Mandarin. I’ve heard grumblings about the way his character was altered from ye olde comic books, but I think Black was smart to make the changes he did. Despite Thor and The Avengers, alien magic power rings don’t quite fit in the Iron Man movie universe. As Tony tells his Boy Wonder sidekick, he is a mechanic, and I think that introducing a magic-based villain at a time when Tony is trying to deal with the existence of that sort of magic would have been a big misstep. As phenomenal as Ben Kingsley’s performance as the Mandarin was, I was really happy to see Pepper Potts imbued with some agency. She did get kidnapped and need to be rescued by Tony, but he ultimately failed her. She had to pull herself out of the wreckage of that incredible suit fight and she had to rescue him from devastatingly handsome Guy Pearce.

My question is, what is Tony going to do now? Arc reactor removed, suits destroyed, and yet he says in his voice-over that he IS Iron Man. Without two of the three fundamental pieces required for the role, how is he going to do it?

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Mikyzptlk: I’m not sure how he’ll do it, but Tony’s the best right? He’ll figure something out, just as he figured out how to beat Mandarin and his Extremis soldiers oh, so entertainingly well. As a sequel to the Iron Man franchise, this installment was an absolute success. It did everything I wanted Iron Man 2 to do and more. It was action packed, funny as hell, and I was engaged throughout the majority of the 2 hour and 20 minute run. I enjoyed many aspects of the film, including how the Extremis soldiers were handled and how Tony played leap-frog from suit to iron suit. However, while I enjoyed all of those aspects of this flick as an individual Iron Man installment, I couldn’t help but find it lacking as an installment in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This was supposed to be the start of Marvel’s Phase II, but you can’t exactly tell from watching it. I thought the whole point of the phases was that all of these Marvel films are connected to something bigger.

Just like Iron Man 2 (along with those other non-Iron Man movies) led to The Avengers, I assumed that this would include a piece of the puzzle that would contribute to overall MCU and lead into Avengers 2. Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. pals were a big presence in Iron Man 2, and even if the movie suffered for it, it got the architects of the MCU where they needed to be for The Avengers to do its thing. I’m not saying the MCU elements needed to be something as overwhelming as it was in Iron Man 2, but it would have been nice to get a hint of something that Phase II will be delivering.

As it is though, this was definitely an exciting way to kick off the summer superhero movie extravaganza that awaits us and it certainly has me primed for more! Well, except for The Wolverine. Sorry Wolvy.  

21 comments on “Chat Cave: Iron Man 3

  1. Okay, here’s one thing I did have to explain to my sister: the post-credit scene where maybe it’s revealed that the whole movie is Tony spilling his guts to Bruce Banner – she didn’t know that Mark Ruffalo was Banner. All that means is that she didn’t get the “I don’t have the temperament to be a shrink” joke. Until 45 seconds late, when I explained it.

    But other than that one Avengers cameo, I’m kind of happy that this DIDN’T tease what’s coming up next in the Phase II. RDJr. has been saying that this is the last time he does Iron Man (we’ll see about that), so if this ends up being Tony Stark’s swan song, it makes sense to do it in a relative vacuum. I dig that the movies connect, but there’s something about a movie that makes me want to be able to isolate that experience and just call it whole by itself – which is actually something that all the Marvel studio movies do well. The day they become too heavily self referential is the day they stop being Marvel Studio movies and start being… something else… TV shows at the movies, I guess.

    • I agree. I love that Marvel is creating this movie universe, and I wish DC could get their act together and do the same, but it’s important to let the individual characters breathe on their own. Avengers movies will be stronger if the individual team members have had a chance to grow on their own.

    • RDJJr. says that this is the last time he’ll be “Iron Man”. The end of the credits said that “Tony Stark will return.” My guess? Tony Stark will be involved in The Avengers 2, but not in the Iron Man suit; more as a technical consultant or a presence in Avengers Tower. (But I do hope we see him get to suit up again).

      Also, I saw this movie with my two best friends, and despite both of them having seen the Avengers multiple times, neither of them recognized Mark Ruffalo/Bruce Banner in the end-tag until I pointed him out. He’s gained a little weight, gone grayer, and got a haircut, and they just didn’t recognize him. I did right off the bat though, and even guessed that Tony was talking to Bruce a few seconds before the reveal. If this movie had no other connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m glad that we got to see that Stark and Banner are still BFFs.

      • The part that’s extra surprising about my sister missing the Ruffalo cameo is that he’s a hometown hero: he grew up in Kenosha, WI which is also where we grew up.

        I also kinda dig that they didn’t call him “Bruce” or anything like that. The fans that know know, and those that don’t don’t. It’s as simple as that.

    • Well, the problem I have is that I’m not saying what this movie should or shouldn’t be, Marvel is. If they say that this film is a part of Phase II of the MCU then they should probably include something in the film that helps to propel the MCU forward in some way. Otherwise, even though it succeeds in its own capacity as the conclusion of a film trilogy, it fails to be a part of the MCU’s next phase.

      • Then again, I suppose being a part of these phases doesn’t necessarily mean the individual movies have to do anything to propel the MCU forward. Though, it does seem to me like it should for whatever reason.

  2. So overall I really enjoyed this movie, but I wish Tony would just stay in the suit more. It’s been a problem in all three movies (I feel like “The Avengers” was the only time we got to see Iron Man fight at his full potential), and this was the worst of the bunch in that regard. And I hated that the suit was constantly malfunctioning. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it led for some great scenes of Tony creating makeshift weapons and surviving as a human, but there’s only so many times I can see his suit not work before it gets upsetting. The Iron Man movies like to have Stark at a constant disadvantage of some sort (as does the Marvel universe as a whole, especially in its early days; how often does Spider-Man run out of web fluid?), and this can make for great drama when used sparingly, but the entire movie was like that, and it’s disheartening after a while, because we don’t get a new movie every month, we get a new one every two or three years, so we need to get our fix of Iron Man when we can, and while I feel like I got a great dose of Tony Stark, there wasn’t much Iron Man.

    Still, I don’t know if every risk this movie took paid off, but it still made some surprisingly gutsy decisions, and I have a lot of respect for it because of that.

    • It is weird how flippantly solutions come about in this movie. I mean, why was the “house party protocol” deployed earlier? Tony literally waits until they’re already infiltrating the enemy’s stronghold before summoning an army of iron men. And then as soon as that’s done, he just self destructs them all. Both moments are kind of too easy for him.

      • I didn’t catch it myself, but someone points out that the rubble was blocking the door that the “house party protocols” came out of, so they couldn’t be released until the rubble was moved out of the way late in the movie. Apparently Tony was asking Jarvis about something at the mansion multiple times in the movie, and it was the door, and when Tony finally does request the protocol, it’s because Jarvis mentions that “the door has been cleared.” So he literally couldn’t call for the protocol any earlier than he did.

        But I didn’t catch any of that myself, I had to see it mentioned online, so the movie didn’t do a very great job of establishing that, even if technically it works as an explanation. I was more upset that we didn’t see Stark attempt to pick up a suit from Stark Tower/Avengers Mansion in New York; are you telling me he doesn’t keep any suits there?

  3. Drew, I totally agree that slickness is a problem with the Iron Man series. The way the characters are constantly talking over eachother (but somehow still understanding everything) always plays like a parlor trick and not like people having a conversation.

  4. So, this comes across extremely fleetingly in the movie, and I may just be extra sensitive to this stuff, living in Boston, but there’s a weird intersection of terrorism, explosions, amputees, and homemade weapons in this movie. None of that stuff really bothered me until the sequence where Tony puts together an arsenal of makeshift weapons and coolly storms the Mandarin’s compound. Did anyone else get some ickiness there?

    • I did–but then, I am a fellow New Englander with family and friends in Boston, so this stuff is maybe a bit closer to home. I don’t really fault the movie for that, and just chalk it up to heightened sensitivity, but yeah, I had a twinge of icky.

      • I don’t know why, but I was also kind of repulsed by Tony using a gun in those scenes. The mix of homemade weapons + handgun DOES summon imagery from a few too many recent tragedies.

        • Oh, for sure. This movie is surprisingly flippant about killing bad guys. It’s kind of a shock whenever a superhero kills anyone, but I was taken aback when Tony tells those goons which one he’s going to kill first.

  5. I predict that Tony will be back in Avengers 2 at the very least, and probably future installments, after a huge monetary agreement is settled upon; I believe the Iron Man solo franchise is, however, done. I think the next time we see Tony he will have used the Extremis concept to create his nanotech armor as per the New Avengers era of the comics.

    • By most counts, Iron Man was the main character in The Avengers (at least, he had the most satisfying arc), so it’s got to be time to feature one of the other big boys more prominently. It’s weird: the nature of comic books makes us expect the same cast for ever and ever, but like RDJ’s been doing that character for a pretty long time, and by most other measures, he’s had a huge run. Just like Christophers Hemsworth and Evans can’t play Thor and Cap forever, RDJ can’t be Iron Man forever. So Marvel has to start cycling in new stuff like Guardians of the Galaxy and the Ant-Man and (rumored) Doctor Strange movie.

      I love that they have nowhere to go but WEIRD.

      • I’ve been theorizing about the fact that Whedon has hinted at Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch being introduced in Avengers 2. Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch have been cited by Feige as tricky characters that classify both as Avengers and X-Men – and that either studio could potentially use them. Quicksilver, in fact, has a brief cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. BUT, I don’t foresee Disney/Marvel pushing a character that a different film studio can also legally use. Right? And Disney famously purchased Lucasfilm for something like $4 billion outright recently. What if Marvel plans to re-acquire their X-Men rights (which, let’s be honest, will never expire as long as there’s money in making an X-Men film) in a multi-billion dollar agreement? Then the shit REALLY hits the fan in Marvel Phase 3 when the mutant characters are introduced in force (with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine joining The Avengers)

        • They have been starting to pull their characters back into their orbit, but X-Men and Spider-Man are going to be so hard to pry away from Sony and Fox. Obviously, the Holy Grail would be getting Wolverine and Spider-Man into an Avengers movie (but maybe that’d be too good… I just got really excited at the thought of that).

          The part that’s confusing to me is – wouldn’t you think that these other studios would want to be able to tie their movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Maybe it means making a few creative concessions, but it also means getting your studio’s character into the FUCKING AVENGERS movie.

          My money’s on Fantastic Four coming home next. I know they’re talking about casting a new one right now, but previous F4 movies have just been crummy, so I could see this one stalling out before Disney makes an offer.

        • Dude I will super geek out if they get F4 back. Disney obviously has a working relationship with Brad Bird through Pixar, and he’d be the perfect candidate to reboot it for Disney.

        • I don’t know how much of this is true, but I heard that Avengers could legally use Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch as Avengers as long as they weren’t mutants in the movie, since mutants fall under the X-Men category and they don’t have rights to that. Regardless, it has been confirmed that the two characters are in the first draft for Avengers 2. Whether they’ve actually procured the rights to the characters yet, and whether they’ll last until the final draft, who knows.

          As AWESOME as it would be to see Wolverine or Spidey in the Avengers, I kinda hope Marvel doesn’t get the rights back right away, cause it means we get to see more obscure characters added instead. I love seeing them get their time in the limelight.

          (That said, I wonder exactly how the wording for the Spider-Man rights work. Does the studio with the Spider-Man rights have sole possession of any character falling under Spider-Man’s umbrella, or do they only have rights to Peter Parker? Could Marvel, say, put Miles Morales as Spider-Man in the Avengers? [They never would, but a man could dream]. Legal technicalities are a tricky thing)

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