If you will permit, I have a bit of a tangent to talk about but I promise this will eventually relate to my thoughts on Iron Man 3. I am not huge into comic books anymore. It is not that I don’t love the characters because I do. It is not that I don’t love the adventure; I do. It is because comic culture has this neurotic fear of change. This is something that is shared by both the makers and the buyers. Now I can understand why from both sides. From the comic book company perspective you want to keep things as static as possible to keep the run going as long as possible to sell the most books. After all, if Batman for examples conquers his demons then that would kind of be it. There would be nothing left for his character to do. From the public perspective we kind of dislike things that are different and prefer the safe norm. Much like fast food we know what we are getting and are fine with the same but fulfilling formula.
But there just reaches a point where it all gets ridiculous. Nothing changes. Okay, I take it back. Things eventually change, but evolution is more observable than character changes in comics. It took what: 60 years for Superman to marry Lois Lane? People still go into full blown freak outs at Superman Returns’ sub plot that Superman and Lois had a kid. Spider-Man even made A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL in order to bring the comics back to the status quo. It reaches damn near comedic levels at times. Batman has either reached self parody or is doing its closest modern interpretation of Sisyphus. Instead of being destined to pushing a boulder uphill for all eternity, Batman has to catch the Joker again and again and again to the end of time.
That is why I am loving the current crop of comic movies. The Nolan Batman trilogy is perfect to me. We have Bruce Wayne who is broken in the beginning, he becomes Batman to try to fix things, he gets into adventures which are fun, but ultimately realizes the flaws in his character and overcomes them. And when it is over it is done. Over. Finished. You have no idea the sigh of relief I gave when we actually had a finished story arc and the balls it took Nolan for him to finish that way. Because I know, the movies being like the comics, we would have Bruce Wayne cloning himself to fight clone Joker in the year 5054. People wanted to complain about how little Batman there was and how Bane wasn’t quite like the comic and blah blah blah. Need I remind people that Ra’s al Ghoul wasn’t the same in the movies as he was in the comics nor was the Joker the same. I know I’m going to get nerd essays coming down the pipe about how wrong I am. Yes, I know we had some brief one offs with psycho Joker like in The Killing Joke, but for the most part Joker was always portrayed as this buffoonish, well, clown. It was only really at The Dark Knight when we get this anarchist punk rocker who believes in chaos…thing. My point is this Batman was different as told through Nolan’s vision and it was fine.
This leads me to Iron Man 3. Finally. The reviews for Iron Man 3 were for the most part overwhelmingly positive. But then you have the small percentage who want to label it the worst thing ever. Now I’m sure many will accuse me of straw manning but I tried reading as many people’s negative comments to see where they were coming from and they all pretty much amounted to this.
There are plot holes and bad writing! This isn’t like the comics. That character isn’t like that in the comics. The suit doesn’t do that in the comics. That character wouldn’t do that. Unfaithful!
To which I have to remind you just because something is different from the source material doesn’t mean it is a plot hole or bad writing. And just because it is different doesn’t mean its bad or the worst thing ever. The Iron Man of the movies is different from the Iron Man of the comics. It’s as simple as that. Yes, characters and aspects are changed but it is done in service of telling a story. For the longest time as a kid I listed Batman & Robin as my worst movie of all time and now I’ll come clean and say I was a moron for saying that. Schumaker intentionally made B&R like the Batman show of the 60’s. It was his artistic decision to make it campy and goofy and I cannot fault him for the simple fact he didn’t make the Batman movie I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like B&R, but it is for other reasons.
The point is during the movie, I could pin point several moments and scenes where I noted to myself „This is where the comic book Iron Man fan just yelled out ‘Betrayal!!!!!!!’ in the theater.“ But this was also the point where I tell people to loosen up. The movie and plot works in its own right and just because something is changed doesn’t mean things are ruined forever. It works in the same way we have 60’s Batman and the animated Batman and the comic Batman, and the Burton Batman, and the Nolan Batman.
I really liked Iron Man 3. Shane Black does a great job of playing to Downey’s strengths of his charisma, while at the same time mixing that with some intense scenes. In other people’s hands, the tonal shifts would be jarring. But Black has enough experience in just Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang alone to show he has the talent to juggle those elements.
Yes, there are some more fantastical elements in this movie, but in a universe where just one movie ago we had Stark fighting alien dragons along side a Thunder God and a Hulk, can we really throw up the realism flag? Yes, there is more emphasis on Stark instead of Iron Man and I like it. As I said, I prefer engaging stories and good character arcs. It ends on a note that leaves a sour taste in some people’s mouths but I like there is resolution. I think there is more tension when it is Stark who has to deal with problems outside of his suit and the absence of the suit makes the times when it does show up even better.
This is not a perfect movie at all. While I like the emphasis on Stark, I think it is at a loss to side characters like Rhodes and Pepper Potts. Favreau handled things better to where Stark and Potts were good foils to each other where here she is severely downplayed. The writing can also be sloppy at times. It is hard to really delve when I am not giving spoilers. Also keep in mind I don’t think any of the Iron Man movies are totally perfect. For example the first one had a third act problem where the writers all of a sudden realized they needed a villain and rushed Jeff Bridges out. I enjoyed this one about as much as the first one at least the first time through. Maybe things will be different on repeat viewings. I think for fans of the Iron Man movies there is plenty to enjoy and is a great entry in the series. For those that are heavily tied to the comics I can only suggest you come in with a thicker skin and check your expectations down a few notches. This is an Iron Man for the Marvel movie fans, not necessarily for the fan fans.