Well, would you look at that. Thanks to the fact that, in this watch sequence, there are two films between Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3, it falls to me to review the Iron Man film again. I feel a bit silly for using up all my good jokes in the last one now.
After all the ensemblitude of The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble depending upon which country you’re in) we’re now back to the good old formula where it’s basically all about Robert Downey Jr. And in this film, even more so than before, because in this one he spends a lot of time out of his Iron Man suit, reflecting on what it all means to be Tony Stark and so on and so on.
The cast in this isn’t quite as mind-boggling as the previous Iron Man film. Whereas last time I was saying things like “Oh cool, Sam Rockwell” and “hey, is that Mickey Rourke?” this time it’s “Is that… Guy… Thing?” (the correct answer was, of course, Pearce). Ben Kingsley’s also present – fairly early on in the film I made a note “No idea what accent Ben Kingsley is supposed to be doing” and wondered if maybe the guy had forgotten how to act, but I should have had more faith, as it actually turns out that Ben Kingsley’s dubious accent is instrumental to the plot, and I was startlingly astute to remark upon it! One point for Pete! Unlike earlier films, Jon Favreau doesn’t direct this one. However, that frees him up to give himself a much bigger acting role. To me, he’ll always be Monica’s rich playboy boyfriend.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Iron Man film without Tony Stark also having to grapple with some threat to his health. In the first film, it was the shrapnel trying to move into his heart. In the second, palladium poisoning. This time, it’s good old-fashioned anxiety attacks. If I may tentatively offer an observation, it’s that these films might be getting a teensy bit formulaic.
Given that the previous film’s climactic battle involved Iron Man facing down a huge army of autonomous military robots which had been hacked to follow the whims of an evil villain, you may be somewhat surprised to discover fairly early on in this movie that Tony Stark has been hard at work building a huge army of autonomous military robots. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Indeed, I had barely finished making a note in my notepad to this end, that we are treated to a scene of Tony and Pepper being woken up in their sleep by one of them going haywire and attacking Pepper. We all roll our eyes in unison.
The first act of the film ends with Tony addressing the television cameras, and through them, the evil bad guy for this film, and giving out his home address. “Come get some” he says, to which evil bad guy does exactly that, and Tony’s home is reduced to a smouldering ruin, with Iron Man suits and sports cars alike tumbling off of the hillside and into the Pacific Ocean. Welp, there goes the R8. Tony sneaks off into Tennessee with the whole world (but for a plucky young lad) thinking he’s dead.
So this is where the extended Iron Manless section of the film begins. It’s like that bit in a computer game where, after having accumulated a huge arsenal of weapons and health potions, they get briefly taken away from you, and you have to learn to survive with only your acquired skills for a little while. Tony bodges up some new tools, the snow falls, and a totally gratuitous and unexplained bikini pageant just appears out of nowhere for about five seconds. This section of the film plods along at a steady pace, but there are some very nice scenes in here.
There’s a twist! The bad guy isn’t who you were supposed to think he was, and was in fact, the person who you actually thought he was going to be, because you’ve seen all this kind of shit before and writers are just awful at telegraphing this sort of thing. Tony gets reunited with his Iron Manses, and performs one of the most spectacular and ridiculous rescue sequences in the history of cinema, leaving me trying to figure out whether the spectacularness justifies the ridiculousness or not. It’s a difficult one to call.
Now I should warn you that this final paragraph contains some spoilers for the ending of the film. It also contains some red herrings and decoys, so I’m hoping that by the end of this blog post you will be equal parts infuriated and confused, whether you’ve seen the film or not. Here we go.
Big final battle sequence is under way, and so far Tony’s army of autonomous Iron Man suits seem to be behaving themselves. The fact that each of these suits can in an instant switch between being suit or robot soldier does lend itself to some very cute moments. As always, Tony has to save Pepper Potts, but this time it seems that he has failed. The wise film-watcher knows that something is going to be up with this, and indeed it turns out that she’s turned into an awesome immortal fire-based being who kicks some serious ass. “Don’t worry darling, I’ll be able to turn you back” says Tony once all the baddies have been defeated. Pepper says “fuck that noise, this is brilliant, I’m feeling empowered for the first time in my life.” Nah, not really. What she really says is “I need you to make a grand gesture that demonstrates your commitment to me.” Tony says “you mean like this?” and then proceeds to destroy the entirety of his Iron Man army that just saved his life, her life, Rhodes’ life, and POTUS’ life to boot, and she says “oh darling it’s just what I always wanted. Do you think that the viewers have taken the hint that this is the last Iron Man film?” and Tony says “no, I think we should be more explicit. Let’s show clips from the last 3 films over the end credits” and Pepper says “hang on, end credits? Are we in a film?” and they both turn towards the camera and wink.