Tonal Confusion: A Belated Review of Iron Man 3

So, I’m taking Iron Man 3’s Oscar nomination as an excuse to post a review on it. Seeing as this site wasn’t up when it came out, I wasn’t able to post a review then. Hopefully, though, some will still find this helpful, however belated it may be.

Iron Man 3, also known as the first “big” movie of the summer, didn’t have quite the hype that surrounded The Avengers, but it certainly was been marketed relentlessly. So, has it lived up to the expectations set by Marvel’s previous films, and specifically the first two Iron Man films?

The story follows Iron Man (big surprise) as he deals with the aftermath of the battle in New York that took place in the climax of Avengers. But to add to that, there’s a new threat in town in the form of The Mandarin. The Mandarin begins to hack television signals to send threatening messages, committing acts of violence on these broadcasts as well as coordinating bombings throughout America. Iron Man has to step up and defend the USA from this new threat without the help of his Avenger friends or even S.H.I.E.L.D. Why? Because they’ve mysteriously disappeared. For some unexplained reason. Even when *MINOR SPOILER* Iron Man is reported dead no one shows up or is even mentioned. *END MINOR SPOILER*

I’ve never been as much a fan of Marvel’s universe as some other people, preferring the Batman movies to Iron Man, Thor, and most certainly Captain America. But the previews sure made this new movie seem darker and more thoughtful than prior outings. But as the lights dimmed and the movie started, I realized that this wasn’t anything new. It wasn’t darker, or more serious. Instead, there were explosions and cool special effects, and every now and then Iron Man would have an anxiety attack that came across as annoying instead of introspective.

As the movie progressed and the plot unfolded it was clear that the tone wasn’t the only thing that had remained the same. Nearly every twist and turn could be predicted from a mile away. Only one thing caught me off guard, and that actually ended up being a head-scratching twist (as in, “Why would they do that? What purpose does that serve? How does that benefit the movie in any way whatsoever?”).

In other words, this is as standard as standard superhero fare gets.

But there was a bigger problem with this film. See, the script seemed to want the film to be darker. But if one is going to make a dark film, the darkness needs to be consistent and done well. The way Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark) played Iron Man clashed with the darkness of the script. As a result any darkness or seriousness that was brought in was immediately destroyed by the snark of Iron Man. Now, if the script were to recognize this was going to happen and in some way adjust for it, the film might have still worked. The problem is that the script fails to do that. Instead it continues on as if there is a dark and brooding atmosphere over the entire story when that’s the exact opposite of what is actually taking place. As a result, a weird medium is achieved that succeeds in throwing the movie off-balance and leaving the audience wondering just what type of movie they’re watching.

It’s important for any film to decide what it wants to be and then do its best to be that. Iron Man 3 didn’t do either.

It’s not all bad, however. Even though the humor does destroy the tone, it’s still funny. The battles are decent, and even though the twist just led to more confusion on my part (as it added another tone to the film that contradicted the other two already set by the acting and the script) it is always enjoyable to be blindsided.

Despite all that, by the end you wish the film had been over 20 minutes ago. That’s what happens with mindless, un-engaging films that fail to transcend simple eye-candy. They can’t hold your attention for long and are forgotten as soon as the lights come back on and the credits roll.

If that sounds appealing to you, then Iron Man 3 should fit that ticket perfectly. Otherwise, if you haven’t seen it yet, lower your expectations tremendously. They just might be fulfilled.