70 minutes into Iron Man Three I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh god, there’s another hour of this.”

I hated this movie. I was hoping for fun adventure like the preceding movies but this one was different, it had far too many problems that made it impossible to like. These problems fall into three main categories: 1) problems adapting the Iron Man mythos into film, 2) problems fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and 3) problems as a movie.

Problems of the first type don’t bother me as much as you might think. I’m not an Iron Man fan and don’t know the finer details of the source material very well. I wasn’t even able to get a copy of Extremis from the SFPL until this week. So I’m willing to accept changes and adaptations additions and subtractions provided it’s an improvement.

The second set of problems are far worse though. Because while none of the preceding movies have required us to have a base knowledge of the comics, they reward and rely on our knowledge of the previous films. A key aspect of The Avengers was that the characters had all been established in previous films, we only needed to see them interact. Iron Man the first was able to stand alone but ended with a hint of “a bigger universe.” Iron Man 2 went out of its way to set up stuff for Thor and Captain America and make references to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk but this movie tries to stand alone to it’s detriment.

And the third set of problems are what kill it for me. There are too many inconsistencies, plot holes, ill conceived conversations, and more to keep me engaged in what I should be engaged in. I am very willing to suspend disbelief for a movie but it has to be earned. A Suspension of disbelief means “you get the small stuff right, I won’t ask the big questions.” That means I have no problem with Iron Man armor or any other superscience as long as you’re consistent with how it works. turn off your brain and enjoy the action. I’m fine with that, I saw GI Joe 2 and I’ll be seeing Fast & Furious 6 in a few weeks, but I didn’t need to do that for the last Iron Man movies, I shouldn’t have to do it for this one.

Here are the problems (and detailed spoilers) that have stuck with me long after the movie ended:

  • The Mandarin is one of Iron Man’s best villains and it’s kind of a waste to do what they did. But I don’t have a problem with it in and of itself. It didn’t do anything for the movie thematically and it’s worth noting that this ground was pretty well covered in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. And let’s not forget that the Ten Rings organization was key in the first movie and could have been expanded upon instead of castrated. (Problem types 1, 2, 3)
  • Tony is not a proactive protagonist. He does very little without someone telling him to. (1, 3)
    • He doesn’t care about the Mandarin’s reign of terror until Happy is hurt (while investigating a suspicious person). Once he pays attention to the Mandarin all he can do is ask to be attacked (without thinking to get the people he cares about to safety). It is revenge as he says, not a heroic action.
    • Tony doesn’t know how to go after the Mandarin when he wants to. Jarvis is the one to identify Happy is looking at the dog tags in the hologram.
    • When the armor isn’t working, Tony isn’t sure what to do and the kid tells him “to build.” Which is translated into Tony going to Home Depot and turning household items into gear for his secret agent action hero attack on the Mandarin’s compound using skills and capabilities not seen prior to this or afterwards (compare his skills to his lazy bantering at the climax).
  • Tony isn’t necessary as a protagonist. Multiple times the armor can be flown remotely. Tony does not need to be in danger as Iron Man. He is able to save the Air Force One passengers remotely while he sits comfortably far away. His motivation in the first two movies was the elimination of weapons other than the armor but here he has made better the weapons. If this were a cautionary tale I would be fine with this. We see the armor attack Pepper while Tony sleeps which is bad. (It’s also not explained. Was it Jarvis? Tony’s implants only called the armor to him, he wore a headset later, which appeared from nowhere to control it remotely.) But we also see that Jarvis was capable of remotely controlling 30+ Iron Man armors at once and executing targets (which Tony is unable to prevent) which is the movie’s version of a heroic cavalry charge. In the movie it is unquestionably a good thing that Jarvis saves the day with the armors. (2, 3)
  • In comics whenever a hero is facing a problem it’s easy to ignore the question of why don’t the Avengers help the X-Men when they see them fighting Magneto? The easy answer is that they’ve all got their own problems. That doesn’t need much convincing when you look at the newest issues and see that while the X-Men are battling Magneto the Avengers are in space fighting the Kree. But it’s harder to do in the movies when a key sales pitch of the movies is their connection. In IM2, while Tony is talking with Fury, news footage plays in the background of the Hulk battling the Army on a college campus. Colson has to leave IM2 early because Thor’s hammer has just landed in New Mexico. So fans could make an excuse for the filmmakers and say that Captain America didn’t come lend Tony a hand (or investigate his death as reported in the news) because he’s busy with the Winter Soldier in his own movie (due in theaters a year from now). But unless Captain America 2 takes place at Christmas, that won’t work. (2)
  • The glue of the Marvel Universe has been SHIELD but here they were only mentioned once by JARVIS when creating the hologram. They weren’t keeping tabs on Tony or the Ten Rings or the Mandarin? They aren’t involved in War Machine/Iron Patriot? (2)
  • The tag scene was a little funny. But there’s nowhere to go from here. The previous movies tag scenes seeded future movies but Tony Stark and Bruce Banner won’t be relevant again until 2015’s Avengers 2. (If they’re even in it due to contract negotiations.) It did nothing to tease any of the other upcoming “Marvel Cinematic Movies Phase 2” movies: Thor 2 and the Agents of SHIELD show this year or Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. (2)
  • Why was did the movie take place at Christmas? I know that Shane Black apparently likes to set his movies at Christmas but why? What did that add to the story? Best case it added nothing but I think it hurt the movie. (3)
  • After the government was screwed over by Hammer Industries mucking with the War Machine armor in IM2, why did they then contract out the armor to AIM this time? And what did AIM do to the armor if the head of the company wasn’t able to make the armor open when Rhodey was in it? Did they only paint it? Then why did Rhodey have an AIM account that instantly reveals to Tony their evil plans? (2, 3)
  • Why did no one bother to ask the Iron Patriot to speak or open his face mask when he boarded Air Force one? And I’m pretty sure when the plane explodes there were still people on board. (3)
  • Why was the president a helpless passenger in the Iron Patriot armor but Savin and Rhodey could use it to its full capabilities before and after? (3)
  • Why was the wife or mom, I wasn’t sure, of the dead soldier going to meet with Brandt in the bar? She was there for a meeting despite apparently always being in the bar. Why wouldn’t Brandt have just gotten all that from her at her home? (3)
  • The TN cops wore their guns into the bar while drinking? (3)
  • How hot can Brandt, Savin and the other Extremis subjects get? It was wildly inconsistent. While Tony was in a fist fight with glowing Brandt she was hot enough for him to melt his handcuffs on (even the parts of the handcuffs that didn’t touch her) but when she grabs his face he’s not burned? And why didn’t their (Brandt, Savin, Pepper, Killian, et al.) clothes burn off? And if you introduce fire breathing why only use it once? (3)
  • The hologram was incredibly detailed. But where did all that detail come from? They say from satellites and crime photos but, who took the time to photograph the dog tags but only in enough detail to read a single word (“Taggert”) and nothing else without thinking to follow up on the dog tags themselves? (3)
  • Everything about the kid was horrible. No one was asking for Iron Man to have a precocious sidekick. He never felt real. He makes a joke about his dad abandoning him to a stranger? His mom is working for…I’m not even sure how much time the movie takes place over, but Tony was in TN for a long time. And he has a sister because Tony steals her Dora The Explorer watch but where was she during everything? (3)
  • All of Tony’s problems are solved by the end of the movie, even the problems the movie didn’t bring up before now. Tony’s armors are destroyed but it won’t be a problem for him to build a new one. One final scene is the microscopic shrapnel being pulled from his chest and his ARC reactor being removed. Which is a good thing for him but why bother since it wasn’t brought up at any point prior in this movie. If any other action movie ended with the hero saying “Oh, and my asthma was cured.” You would stop and ask, was this a problem? Was the asthma worrying him earlier? What changed in the course of the story to make this cure happen? (3)
  • This movie doesn’t seem to know what the ARC reactor in Tony’s chest does. It powers the armor. I can accept that the armor could be damaged in the attack on his house but you can’t say it doesn’t have a power source and needs to be hooked up to a car battery when Tony walks around glowing. This was the reinforced throughout first two movies. Also Rhodey being a military man should have had Tony execute some basic noise and light discipline and zip his mouth and sweatshirt when they storm the villains’ headquarters. (2, 3)
  • Tony should be the most famous and identifiable person on the planet. He’s the most publicly known Avenger before or after the events of that movie and the only one who didn’t go underground afterwards. But when he hangs out a restaurant no one comes up to him but a pair of kids? He doesn’t have any security system at his house so that Mya can walk up and ring the doorbell? The kid also seems to know who he is by sight because he says “you’re dead” and flashes the newspaper but seconds later asks who Tony is and he says he’s “The Mechanic?” A Mechanic and not an Engineer? (2, 3)
  • Why could only two pieces of armor fly to rescue Tony while the rest couldn’t? The rest couldn’t  fly out of the shed until the kid came out and watched the pieces knock down the door and fly away. The other pieces didn’t go through the door, so how did they get out? (3)
  • Where exactly is Jarvis? Is he in the armor or in the house? Because when the armor was damaged, Jarvis said he was damaged and not 100% either and wouldn’t be until the armor was “recharged.” But Jarvis is also able to control things in the house and the remote armors. (3)
  • Tony can call a secure line from a payphone and leave a message for Pepper on the inside of one of his helmets, but he can’t get any of the house party armors until later? (3)
  • I can forgive Pepper running back into the burning/collapsing building while her boyfriend the superhero is still inside, but the man sweeping up the house debris on the edge of a cliff prior to the House Party armors launching? OSHA would have a problem with that. And who told that guy to clean up the house seemingly the next day? Pepper was on the run and Tony was thought dead. (3)
  • Mya brings up Werner Van Braun as someone who wanted to build rockets but wound up working for the Nazis. This is true. But then he became an American and built rockets. Her example only half works. (3)
  • Aldrich had some bad dialog. After he and Tony have been engaged in a final battle he yells out “I’m the Mandarin!” Yeah. We all already knew that. Earlier he says Something to the president about “Do you know what an elephant graveyard is? The Elephant in this room is this ship.” These phrases have nothing to do with one another and are both being used incorrectly. An Elephant in the room refers to something that is obvious to everyone but is politely being ignored. Since Aldrich has to explain what the elephant in question is, it’s not an elephant. And an elephant graveyard refers to a place where older elephants stop walking and choose to die. No one was choosing to die there. If the ships are supposed to be elephants they didn’t choose to die there. In fact, the term the writers wanted there was the obvious “ship graveyard.” (3)
  • Pepper seems to have spent a lot of time with Mya prior to asking her any questions. (3)
  • Why did the VP’s kid need to be disabled? You don’t need the VP to be anymore evil than “he wants to be president” that’s his motivation. (3)

All that said, the movie did get a few things right:

  • A good cast including Miguel Ferrer, Dale Dickey, Adam Pally and William Sadler.
  • Opening the movie at the Bern event where Stark meets Yinsen, as he mentioned in the first movie.
  • The Easter eggs: Roxon Oil, Barbi Arbogast, reusing Raza’s ring as one of the Mandarins (though that ultimately weakens the movie).

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