Are you gone?
Okay, it's safe to talk to myself then.
Going into this I was pretty sure I wasn't too happy with two things I detected in interviews with Shane Black. The first was a kind of old school 80s and 90s disdain for trying to seriously adapt comics to the big screen, because clearly that can't be done well. The second thing that kept surfacing was a sort of not all that well hidden Christopher Nolan envy when discussing how the movie was going to play out.
Before I delve back into Iron Man, can I point out something about Nolan's Batman movies? Batman has been around twice as long as Iron Man, has had old movie serials, a television series, a ton of cartoons, and a previous set of movies dedicated to him, before Nolan came along. Nolan's grounded, realistic, artistic interpretation worked on Batman because almost everyone that watched them, except the very young, have already seen multiple interpretations of Batman even outside of the comic page.
We have seen, in live action, goofy Comics Code friendly Batman, gritty 80s style Batman, and more super heroic Batman. Ultra real with conceptual changes to key characters to fit a stylized character arc in a kind of storytelling experiment is fine at this point, because Nolan isn't likely to be the only measure of who Batman is to anyone that watches the movies.
While Iron Man has had a few animated appearances, none of them have been the high profile animated watermarks that Batman has had. Before the first Iron Man movie, most people that weren't comic book geeks did not know who Tony Stark was. So unlike Nolan's Batman movies, the Iron Man movies are actually actively defining who the character is for the first time to a lot of people.
In general, if I can decouple my comic book geek region of the brain, which is hard for me, I'll admit, it wasn't a bad movie, but I'll be darned if I could say it was better than Iron Man 2, let alone Iron Man or the Avengers.
As a comic book geek, I've rarely seen so many concepts and characters with so much potential be named dropped or flashed on the screen and then be subsequently annihilated before they could have any significance. It's like Shane Black figured that we geeks should be happy to recognize something or someone, about 30 seconds before they get blown up and we are essentially told that we will never, ever see them do anything significant.
It's one thing to do this back in the old days of 80s or 90s comic book movies, because the franchise exists within its own little world. However, gone are the days where Iron Man is the world's only superhero, and we know that there will never be enough movies to pick up on those exploded potential plot threads that just got erased.
What am I talking about?
1. AIM is Killian's think tank, but unlike Hydra, the organization itself is just kind of a name they give to Killian's interests. While it's not impossible for it to show up again, there doesn't seem to be much reason for it to have survived Killian's melt down. There isn't even an implication that the "think tank" has any other thinkers beyond Killian and Maya Hansen, just nameless thugs using mundane weapons, or named cyborgs and AIM agents from the comics who are rarely actually named, which brings us to:
2. Lots of cyborgs and AIM agents are kind of name dropped, at least if you look at the credits, but none of them will ever amount to anything, because pretty much everything Killian touched went boom. Not that there was a ton of potential, but if the guys are going to be faceless grunts, why bother to attach names that imply a connection to the greater Marvel universe?
3. Lots of armors from across Iron Man's illustrious history show up in movie form here, but they get about as much screen time as the various Transformers that get summarily executed in Micheal Bay films. Most of these armors have neat specialized features, which is why Tony built them, but you never get to see them, and you never will, because Tony decides to impress his girlfriend by blowing up every single one of them.
4. Sigh. The Mandarin. I could have almost dealt with him being some indistinct nationality terrorist mastermind instead of a criminal genius armed with alien artifacts, although I think the right person could have made the alien artifact wielding Mandarin work just fine. But to have the Mandarin not even exist. To have him be a fictitious creation of Killian's. Worse, to have him be a fictitious creation that appears to be been created initially to cover up Killian's lab accidents . . . and then to have Tony and Rhodey talk about how pathetic the guy is . . . I can't even wrap my brain around how horrible a waste this is. It would be like have a Batman movie where someone died on the operating table while getting plastic surgery, and their corpse looked like Joan Rivers, so the plastic surgeon makes up the Joker to cover up his incompetence.
But, let's assume for a minute that we comic book geeks should forget about the first Iron Man movie, Captain America, Thor, and the Avengers, which all pretty much showed that you can reasonably translate concepts straight from the comics to the silver screen without having to suck all of the fun and fantasy from the original stories. How was this movie as a movie?
Again, I can't get over the feeling that Shane wants people to say how great the movie is, "even though" it's a comic book movie, and to get similar accolades to those that Nolan receives. And it does't work. But if there is a ton of comedy in the movie, how can it be aping Nolan's franchise?
1. Tony spends most of the movie out of the armor, exploring who he is and how broken he is after the events of the last movie he appeared in.
2. Tony does some very Batman like detective work to start investigating the Mandarin that really feels off for how Tony normally operates, and goes all stealthy infiltration (sans armor) several times.
3. The Mandarin's weird accent and platitudes seem like his concept for this film was, "what if the Mandarin was made up as a front, and that front was actually Bane, but we call him the Mandarin."
4. People get blown out of a plane, and we get an extended scene showing aerial acts for those that survive the exploding plane.
5. In the end, Tony just stops short of saying that he could leave this all behind and live happily ever after with Pepper. I was waiting to seem them at some outdoor bistro.
Okay, okay, but what about if you assume that comic book geeks have unrealistic standards and that all of that stuff, despite all of Black's interviews comparing the movie to Nolan's movies, is just coincidence. How is the move then?
Plot holes. Armor plot holes.
1. Tony apparently has anxiety attacks over what happened in New York, but they kind of hit him randomly while he's joking and being sarcastic, and as is pointed out a few times, often when nobody said anything about New York and Tony has plenty of other stuff that he was doing--right now!
2. Through most of the movie, AIM is just Killian's think tank, but suddenly at a critical point, we learn that AIM helped redesign Rhodey's armor. Does Tony tell Rhodey to ditch the armor because they might be able to control it? Um . . . no. Somehow Tony uses Rhodey's log on to access Killian's YouTube videos where he documents all of his criminal failings, then everyone forgets that the last nefarious arms manufacturer that tinkered with Rhodey's armor managed to take the armor over.
Even when the current nefarious arms manufacturer takes the armor over, nobody even makes a reference to the fact that they probably should have seen this coming since it just happened in the last movie.
3. Despite the fact that SHIELD was all over the first two movies, not a single SHIELD agent shows up in this film, and despite the fact that the Mandarin is apparently a really big threat, SHIELD has other things to do then to stop a multi-national terrorist that has blown up thousands of people and is threatening the President of the United States.
Which I guess makes as much sense as does the fact that the only person that appears to be officially looking into the Mandarin is Rhodey, who is just flying from place to place based on random "have you seen a weird terrorist" tips.
4. At one point, it looks like Killian wants to stabilize the Extremis virus so that it doesn't kill a percentage of the people that get it, and that people that use it too much don't go boom. To do this, he seems to need Tony, who drunkenly half solved the problem years ago. Except that we have no indication that Killian knows enough about it to reproduce it without Hansen, he kills Hansen, and then gets ready to kill Tony, who is the guy who is suppose to stabilize it.
So if he doesn't care about stabilizing it, why did he need to worry about Tony at all? There is something about having the vice president on the payroll after the president is dead, because the vice president's daughter is missing a leg, so Killian is probably promising to return her leg as payment for having the vice president in his pocket (although, without a stable Extremis virus, he could just blow up the VP's daughter). But why does he need him in his pocket? He says something about controlling both sides of the equation, and if AIM actually seemed to have military products that they could sell, I get being able to set up terrorist attacks and then sell to the government to stop them.
But the only things we see AIM do is repaint Rhodey's armor and make an unstable virus, which I assume they won't be selling to the government, because if 25% of your people explode, someone may catch on that the product is faulty. So I guess Killian was really banking on those contracts to repaint anti-terrorist units.
5. Towards the end of the movie, Tony initiates the "House Party" protocol, which lets him do with all of his suits of armor what he does with the Mark 42 armor at the beginning of the movie, which is to control them remotely and to get them to fly to him and assemble around him based on his mental commands.
This happens after a crew excavates Tony's lab when the house has been blown up and collapses. Tony hasn't been home to do anything to the armor, nor has the armor been accessible, because JARVIS makes a point of telling Tony the exact moment when they actually can get to the armor again.
In the beginning of the movie, we are to assume that Tony is using the glitchy and unreliable Mark 42 armor because it's the only armor he's outfitted with the "remote control" functions that he built. However, that's not true, because now he can do it with all of his armor.
But wait . . . if he can do it with all of his armor, why did he call his glitchy and unreliable armor during the attack on his house. He used the unreliable armor that hinders him and almost gets Pepper and Maya killed in the process, and it makes sense if that was the only armor he could use in this manner, but if he can do it with any of his armor, why keep using the POS Mark 42 armor?
6. Apparently hitting Tony really hard pops him out of his armor. It happens multiple times in this movie. Any relatively solid blow pops a suit of armor right off of him. It actually gets really annoying and frustrating to see it happen over and over again, seemingly just so that Tony is exposed to mortal danger or can't save someone in time.
If this is a the down side to his modular remote control modifications, fine, but then, why even get into any armor when he seems to be able to control them remotely just as well as if he were actually in the armor?
7. Killian makes some big speech about "I am the Mandarin" just before he gets the final boot, which I guess was suppose to be some way of salvaging the fact that the movie dismissed and dismantled Tony's arch enemy and turned him into a joke, but that statement had no meaning.
Killian was a sleazy arms manufacturer that was apparently going to have the president buy weapons from him as he staged fake terrorist attacks. That's not so much master villain as sleazy business guy.
8. Pepper tells Tony earlier in the movie that his armor and his hobby of making more armor is getting between them. Then at the end Pepper essentially tells Tony that she gets it, and now that everything is over, if he can cure her of the Extremis, they can be happy. So Tony decides that, even after his girlfriend just said she gets him being Iron Man, decides, just for fun, to blow up all of his armor.
9. The scene after the credits is funny, as Tony apparently has been narrating the whole movie because he's relating the story of what happened to Banner. This is a nod to the fact that Banner drove off with Tony at the end of the Avengers to go do science with him. Its a funny scene, until it sinks in . . . what the Hell was Banner doing during all of this? Sure, we can assume that Cap and Thor aren't involved because their sequels are probably concurrent to this movie, but we just saw Banner, right there, still hanging out with Tony.
10. This one kind of runs through the whole movie, but there is tons of slapstick going on in this movie. Not the funny, contextual stuff, like Tony learning how to use the armor in the first movie, but constant, over the top silly moments, like popping out of the armor multiple times, unmanned armor running into walls and barricades, Tony getting hit with a high speed codpiece. A little is good. A lot makes it look like the degree of control Tony had in Iron Man 2 and the Avengers was some amazing fluke.
Heck, maybe Scarlet Witch made her debut in this movie, just out of site, playing tons of practical jokes on Tony.
11. At one point I had heard that the Mandarin was going to be behind everything that had happened to Tony up to this point. The terrorists in Afghanistan, the thugs that helped Hammer break Vanko out of prison . . . all of it. There is no mention of that in this movie.
Which would be fine, but for one small detail. The terrorist organization that had Tony in the first movie was the Ten Rings. The Mandarin uses their symbol in this movie. It's clear that at some point in time, there was suppose to be a connection, but it doesn't happen in this movie. Either Killian had something to do with Tony's kidnapping in the first movie, which seems unlikely, or Killian picked up on existing terrorists to glom onto, which might almost give you hope that there is a real Mandarin, except that they hammer it into your skull that Killian made the guy up completely.
I don't know where Iron Man goes from here, but I'll be happy if Thor doesn't learn that Loki is just a mental patient that his dad hired to play along with his schizophrenic delusions of godhood, and that the Avengers wasn't a dream sequence that Cap had as he was about to freeze to death when he wrecked the Red Skull's plane.