Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spoil Away: Iron Man 3 Discussion

Karen: Now that Iron Man 3 has been smashing box office records for a couple of weeks, we figured it was fair game to throw it open to discussion, with all details -in other words, with spoilers. So if you haven't seen the film and you want to be surprised, avoid the comments today!


Doug said...

Hey, I'll start. Let's get after it right away with the use of the Mandarin. Total waste of a good villain -- they certainly had the look, what with the 10 rings, the pseudo-Chinese look, the mystery, etc. The first half of the film was great build-up to what was sure to be a wonderful clash in the film's climax.

And then they did something totally unexpected and fooled us completely. While I'll stand by my comment above that they totally wasted the potential of the Mandarin, the twist was fun, funny, and played brilliantly by Sir Ben Kingsley. When we ran the first Iron Man 3 post, one of our regulars (forgive me) said that the film degenerated to camp. Well... I wouldn't go that far. I'd say "satire", as I thought this part of the script played on the reality of terrorists using the Internet and other video means, manipulation of the media, etc. to get their messages across. This twist played that up, and then gave us a big "what if?" right when we were getting excited about the mystery.

I did not care for the ease with which Tony (and seemingly everyone else) got into and out of the armor(s). I did, however, think it was cool -- and a commentary on how Tony Stark has become a monogamous guy -- when he used the suit to protect Pepper in the attack on the mansion.

I have not read the Extremis storyline, so really can't pass any judgement on that aspect of the film, other than to say the afflicted characters were awfully darned powerful. However, it was refreshing to see IM fight villains that did not also possess the chest light power source.

The end seemed to tie things up nicely, and I imagine that this franchise was conceived as a trilogy. I would say, though, that this third installment did not leave me cold and asking "why?!" as did Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, and the 4th in the 1980's-'90's Batman series. This seemed to finish strong.

I'll add more later, hoping to play off of others' comments as they come in.


William said...

Iron Man 3 was a decent movie, but it suffers from what most of the Marvel Studios movies seem to suffer from, which is they tend to drag a little. (At least I think so). It was really more of a Tony Stark movie with a little Iron Man thrown in to keep us geeks happy. Early on in the film they came up with a convenient excuse to keep Tony out of the armor, so Robert Downey could flex his acting chops. They even found a way to get Cheadle out of the Iron Patriot suit, so that Rhodey and Tony would have to play like James Bond and try to take down the super powered bad guy with stealth and a couple of handguns.

There were some nice moments in the movie (like the scenes between Downey and the kid, for example), but for the most part it was a bit slow. And more than a little confusing. Like the previous two movies, they saved almost all of the action for the last 15 or 20 minutes, and then they overdid it, with 50 different armors flying around and Tony jumping from suit to suit like magic. Just a little to over the top for my tastes.

Now the elephant in the room.-- While the Mandarin twist was surprising and funny (and very well acted by Kingsly), it still kind of ruined things. It basically pulled the rug out from under all of the tension that they spent most of the movie building up. Plus, after they revealed that the Mandarin was a drunken clown instead of a calculating warlord, it made an earlier scene in the film make absolutely no sense. I'm talking about the scene where Mandarin shows up to film one of his video messages. He rolls up in a limo and everyone (including the real master villain) seem to fear and respect him. Why would they treat this guy with such reverence when there is nobody around from the outside to witness the act?

Chasing Amazing said...

I've already debated this with some other fans who've seen it, but I'm definitely on the "pro" side of the argument with this movie. The Mandarin stuff actually didn't bother me, as I thought the "twist" was made more powerful by current political affairs and our society's inherent need to create "boogeymen" to explain away mistakes that we've probably all had a hand in creating (in this case, injured/mentally scarred war vets turning to experimental science to get a new lease on life with varying tragic results). I also thought this IM dealt with the military industrial complex, and Tony's guilt about his role in it, moreso than the previous two Iron Man movies. And that's a theme comic-book wise, that felt more pertinent for the bulk of Tony's better storylines.

Sure, the pacing was a little uneven, and drama was built up in a way where there seemed like no conceivable way Tony could survive, only to do so quite easily without much struggle, but I guess the overall tension of the movie was more entertaining than certainly the second IM. I also didn't mind Aldrich Killian as being the main guy. You could say abused guy takes serum to rule the world from behind the scenes is a little muddy, but I bought into it.

It's also worth noting that my wife and father, definitely not comic book fans, LOVED this movie and put it on par with the first one. There's something to be said about that.

William said...

My last line in the second paragraph was meant to read - "Just a little TOO over the top for my tastes." Oopsy.

Doug said...

I felt that the scenes with the little kid from Tennessee furthered humanized Tony. Yes, this was more of a Tony Stark vehicle, but it was also quite humanistic.


david_b said...

Ahhh, I'm waiting until it comes on cable (OnDemand)..., it sounds like a better movie to watch on the 50" plasma with brews and both my german shorthairs in the man-cave.

Actually..., ALL movies do.

Karen said...

I commented before that I was disappointed with the film. I think my biggest problem with it was it just didn't feel like an Iron Man film. They made a decision to have Tony out of the armor most of the film, and for people who enjoy these films mainly for Downey, it probably worked. But honestly, I find myself getting a little tired of his routine. I think there was a chance to give him more depth here if they had honestly explored the whole anxiety attack angle, but they pretty much set it up and then discarded it. Here's the most arrogant, swaggering guy on the planet now feeling humbled, even a little frightened. There's so much you could do with that idea, but they really dropped the ball. It turned into a typical action movie for me and I found myself losing interest quickly.

The whole idea of making the Mandarin a puppet does bother me. Maybe if Aldrich Killian had been a stronger character this might have worked, but I found him pretty bland. Felt the same way about his extremis-enhanced soldiers. They looked like something you'd see in a movie on SyFy (that's not a compliment). And just why was Killian committing all those terrorist acts? I understood his motivation against Stark, but the rest? What was his ideology? Was he just after money? Does anyone know -or care?

The kid actor was fine, but that was time I would have rather seen spent developing Stark's relationship with Pepper, which got very little play in this film. And the stuff with Pepper at the end, taking out Killian...terrible.Just ridiculous. I'm also sure all those suits that we got to see for two or three seconds were thrown in there just to sell toys too.

Anonymous said...

I never thought the original Mandarin was particularly impressive as a villain; he seemed to be a stereotypical criminal mastermind, stamped out with the same cookie cutter that produced Fu Manchu and Dr. No. Still, the plot twist annoyed me. It reflected Hollywood's leftist "blame America first" preoccupation. But I'm not sure if it was political correctness so much as not wanting to offend the Chinese, since China is now a major market. It is not always about money, but it's about money more often than we like to admit.

Doug said...

I read some months ago that there are two versions of IM3, and the one shown in China features its two most important actors in small roles. I'm not sure how that fits into the plot -- has anyone else heard this?

Karen, your points are well-taken. And I agree about all of the armors -- it would have been nice at some point to have seen what they all were, why they were built (for example, was the big one really a Hulkbuster armor?) and what their main purposes were.

I can see the disdain toward the last scene where Pepper takes out Killian. Was anyone else put off by Tony just blowing up the armors as fireworks? Was that some sort of commentary, or just a complete waste of hundreds of millions of dollars?

I think the use of the armors as drones is a sort of political commentary in and of itself, and there are certainly some moral issues present that were not dealt with. Perhaps that's what we're supposed to do -- rationalize that in our own minds. Same thing for Rhodey showing up at the Afghan, etc. factories on false leads. Hmmm...


Doug said...

Parts that were awesome --

The scene Karen chose for the post was funny. I loved the scene where Tony and Rhodey were in the restaurant and Tony had the IM armor "parked" out on the curb. Good stuff!


J.A. Morris said...

I generally liked it, I'd say it was better than IM2 but not as good as IM.

I've never cared for the Mandarin, so I didn't mind that he turned out to be a fake (of sorts, since he did shoot a guy on camera). I haven't read the Extremis storyline either, but yes, it was nice to have an antagonist that wasn't just another guy in a suit of armor.

I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a "Christmas movie", since my wife & I blog about Holiday films, I hope to post my own review ASAP.

Karen said...

I keep seeing negative comments (here and elsewhere)about Iron Man 2. Does anyone care to say what they disliked about that film? I really enjoyed it, so I'm puzzled why so many people have trashed it.

Doug said...

Karen --

I've only seen IM2 once, and maybe my somewhat ill feelings toward it (I didn't hate it) are colored by how much I did enjoy the first in the series, and the fact that I saw IM2 after I'd seen Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers.

I thought Whiplash was corny -- campy? All that. The Mandarin was played for what he was, and there was payoff, not pretense. I'm not a huge Mickey Rourke fan, and got out of him about what I'd expect.

So I do need to see it again, and try to evaluate it based on its own merits.

Is it about time to run another post where we rank the Marvel movies??


mr. oyola said...

I thought the Mandarin "twist" was brilliant - b/c as you can guess I think the Mandarin character is racist at its core and there is no way he could be used as once written and not reinforce that. I think it was brilliant to use the latent racist dogma of our culture as a way to make that figure work as a "boogeyman" and then kind of call us out on it.

My disappointment was with A.I.M. In the end it became just another defense contractor trying to make huge profits as a motive of their scheme (as if those companies don't already make huge profits whether their merchandise works well or not!). It would have been better to make A.I.M the political faction trying to "fix the world" in their own image, using the fear of the other (i.e. the Mandarin stereotype) as the tool to accomplish this.

Anyway, I was the one that said that I though the movie was campy, and I will stand by that. But that didn't bother me, superheroes are campy by nature, what I didn't like was that the movie's big ending struck me as something from one on the Transformers movies (not that I have ever seen one of those).

Anonymous said...

I saw it in 3D, and I really liked it.

I have to agree, though, I felt like screaming "Just stay in the frickin' armor!" a couple of times. I don't really like how he kept jumping from armor to armor.

And like the Ed Norton Hulk movie, I just can't see Bruce Banner or Tony Stark being so athletic and have such great fighting skills as their human alter egos.

Also, the Mandarin scenario was pretty lame, and the Extremis villain (Guy Pearce) reminded alot of Justin Hammer's character from IM 2.
And I felt the plot to find a way of regenerating limbs was too close to what Dr Connor's was trying to achieve in the new Spider-man movie.

And I wish Tony wouldn't have settled down---the plot would be more interesting if he was hooking up with Black Widow, or something like that.

But i left the theater pretty satisfied, just a great movie, I know I'm pretty nit-picky because my expectations of super-hero movies are high, and it will be hard to top Avengers.

The trailers for Thor 2 and Wolverine 2 looked pretty frickin cool!


William said...

Karen, if I heard correctly, I believe it was said by Killian (Guy Pearce) that the motivation for the bombings was to cover up the fact that his "super soldier" serum caused many of it's recipients to violently explode. So, Killian created the Mandarin persona to take the blame whenever one of his experiments went kalooey! Or some kind of over complicated reason such as that.

And yeah Starfoxxx, Guy Pearce's character reminded me a lot of Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer from IM2. They both have very similar acting styles.

Edo Bosnar said...

I was going to sit this one out, as I haven't seen it yet, and probably won't for a while. However, since Karen asked about IM2, I liked it just fine. In fact, I liked it just as much as the first one.

Anonymous said...

Well, I've read the Extremis storyline in the comics, but I haven't seen IM3 yet (gasp!).

From all accounts, it is very,very loosely - and I emphasize the word loosely - based on this particular storyline. While some fans might be disappointed that we see more Tony Stark than Iron Man, I think they went in the right direction; if they had focussed more on the Iron Man character I don't think it would have been such an interesting film. Flying suits of armor shooting rays at each other gets boring really quickly, if you don't highlight the men inside those suits.

As for the Mandarin being a figurehead, well .... I'll wait until I see the film to form an opinion!

- Mike 'still trying to figure out how repulsor rays work' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fred W. Hill said...

I enjoyed the film. Not really a classic and certainly some bits didn't quite work, but overall entertaining enough. I was rather bowled over by the revelation that the Mandarin was a fraud, but it was an amusing enough twist. I had been wondering how they would depict those "ten rings" -- heck, I'm not sure if they've even put all 10 rings to good use in any of the comicbook stories featuring Mandy. It'd be a rather short story if he just hit Iron Man with his disentigrator ring and actually disentigrated ol' Tony. As it is, I suppose we can rule out ever seeing Ultimo show up in future cinematic installments.

tetrahedron said...

If you check IMDB, most people who wrote reviews loathed the film. As a comics fan of nearly 40 years and having seen it with my wife who is not a comics fan, we were both entertained and satisfied. She'd only just watched IM and IM2 in order to prepare for this viewing. After seeing IM3 she ranked them thusly: IM, IM3 and IM2.

I would probably agree, though really, I enjoyed all three in the series almost equally. I separate seeing the films from reading the comics. You have to.

I wasn't perturbed by the treatment of the Mandarin charecter since it was handled in such an entertaining way.

But it does beg the question: if the film studios are going to change characters and concepts so fundamentally and completely, why even bother calling these things something they aren't?

The Mandarin of IM3 has essentially nothing (barring the look, somewhat) to do with the Mandarin of the 60's storylines. So why bother calling this character The Mandarin? to draw in a few fanboys? They're going to watch the film anyway. Same with Aldrich Killian, AIM, and all of the other things from the various movies that only have the most passing of resemblances to their comic-book counterparts. Either take those concepts and run with them, or create something new. I don't get why they take the name and then change everything about it.

Karen said...

Thanks William. You know, looking back all the threads were there but I guess I was so disinterested it just wasn't obvious to me why Killian was setting up the whole Mandarin facade and the bombings. It still seems pretty weak but I guess it's something.

I think Tetrahedron has a good point: why stick names like AIM and Mandarin on these characters when there's no real connection? There wasn't any reason to call Killian's group AIM other than to give fans like us a momentary shiver -only to have it disappear once we realized we weren't going to see some big underground base with guys running around with yellow bee-keeper suits.

And another thing!! I really disliked all the little parts of Tony's suit flying around. So he built tiny power and propulsion systems into each and every piece? Really? Sorry, I can't help it, I'm a technical person, and these things bug me. Also, in the previous two films we've been told that Tony's arc reactor in his chest powers the suit (with there being some sort of reserve system for emergencies apparently). But in this, the suit(s) function just fine without him being in them. So what's the power source?

OK, I'm going to stop here. I've got more, but what's the point?

Anonymous said...

Karen, whenever I get to feeling that way, I just remind myself (as many of us have already done on this blog) how thankful I am that, not only have my childhood heroes finally made it to the big screen, but they are uber-successful! Dominating the box office! So they take a little license...

I think it gives me some validation that I was onto something with my nerdy hobby of 40 years ago. We were all ahead of our time.


Karen said...

Oh, I know, Tom! I am glad that these films are getting made, and the success of this one, even if I was disappointed by it, will undoubtedly lead to more Marvel films, which hopefully I will like better than this one.

The popularity of these characters is a bittersweet vindication - it will never quite make up for all the crap I had to endure in grade school and junior high, when I was teased over being a fan. But yes, we were there first!

david_b said...

William brings up a good point about why even calling the characters by these names if they're not even similar.

I'd believe the obvious answer is, some geek'll then counter-complain, "Geez, the baddie was SO MUCH like the Mandarin, why didn't they just go ahead call him the Mandarin..?"

Karen, you hit a great point: From the previews and trailers, the entire armor bit looked all too ultra-smooth and convenient. I'd prefer the old days of having to change in a closet somewhere, as a story-telling device, but I know that would be so 'out-of-place' in today's movies.

It's a shame script writers tend to forget all the nice dramatic devices (like the power source..) to make the hero, well, more heroic to overcome his shortcomings or situational adversity.

Perhaps I'm over-analysing as well. It IS the start of the 'summer movie' season, isn't it..?

Doug said...

Interesting, and maybe we've had this conversation before:

When using a film like "Schindler's List" with my students, I always stress before we commence watching that in Hollywood, the "Based on" is always more impactful than the "a true story". I think that is fitting for discussion of comic book films as well.

However, since comic books should/could basically serve as storyboards for a feature-length film, one has to wonder about the artistic liberties taken with these properties.

That being said, Frank Miller was able to transfer his comics almost straight to film in "Sin City".


J.A. Morris said...

One thing that did bug me were the long falls at the end. Stark & Rhodey fell about 20-30 feet on to metal platforms and didn't even get the wind knocked out of them. Maybe it's silly to call something "unrealistic" in a movie where a suit of armor flies in pieces from Iowa to Miami, but it's still silly.

Doug said...

I also wanted to mention that the new sand-colored armor played better onscreen than in the stills I'd seen (I think we'd first seen that armor in a pic from Comicon a couple of years ago, right?). I had originally been pretty skeptical about the color scheme.


mr. oyola said...

I like the little Easter egg comic book sources for name of characters and things. I don't need them to be much like the source to enjoy recognizing them. Things transform in comics all the time until they are almost unrecognizable from their sources.

Speaking of sources, has anyone seen this cool listing of sources for ideas in IM3 (there is also one for Avengers)?

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