I saw Iron Man 3 last weekend and wanted to immediately provide a review of some kind because it was a very good film full of large concepts. The value in these comic book based stories is that they do not take themselves too serious as intellectual advancement devices. But like so many plot lines to video games these days, the writing, and concepts behind the plot are quite advanced allowing viewers to define abstract concepts in mythological dialogue that the human brain understands as a truth obtained no other way. When it is wondered why the Marvel films are doing such magnificent business it is not because of the great performances of Robert Downey Jr., or any of the primary actors, but because the bizarre plot lines have within them a truth that unifies all the fragmented evidence society is exposed to and presents the information in a way that makes sense.
But before going too far down the rabbit hole, let’s get the typical stuff out-of-the-way. Is Robert Downey Jr., worth the $50 million dollars he is getting to play Iron Man in these films? I’d say no. If it were me making the decision at Marvel Comics and Disney on how to pay Downey for Avengers 2, I would write Downey out of the story and let him sit it out for a film or two so that his agent does not have the contract leverage to continue driving up the labor costs. By paying Downey so much money, which I don’t think even he thinks he’s worth, it sets a dangerous standard that the other Avenger actors will expect in equality under the ridiculous standards of collective bargaining, and could wreck the magic of these films in the future. If Iron Man or an Iron Man type of character needs to appear in The Avengers 2 let it just be the suit with another actor doing the voice of Downey, or make it the Iron Patriot instead of Iron Man. Let Avengers 2 make a lot of money without Downey to take away the leverage and keep the budget under control—otherwise the Marvel films as a financial formula could be wrecked as the parasites of the entertainment industry will seek to concentrate on collective bargaining as a way to increase their own looting percentages. Downey’s performance as Tony Stark in the Iron Man films is brilliant, and I laughed out loud several times during Iron Man 3, but that performance is not worth $50 million dollars or more. I’d center the next Avenger film around another character and if the actors don’t come down in their prices, make it more about The Hulk as a CGI character to cut down the screen time of the other actors and call the bluff of the agents trying to increase payroll for the actors to over $200 million alone—as everyone now expects a Marvel Comics movie to pull in at least $1 billion at the box office. With that said I don’t think any other actor could have played Tony Stark as brilliantly as Downey did. The range of emotions Robert Downey Jr., performed in Iron Man 3 ranged from dealing with genius scientists, mechanical robots, romantic interactions, maniacal terrorists, to the innocence of young children—all done with comedic overtones. It was unique, and fun to watch. In spite of the money demands Iron Man 3 will place as a danger to contract negotiations between Downey and future films, I think all the parties will work out the situation in time and snap back into reality allowing Iron Man to return to the big screen played by Robert Downey Jr. I think Downey understands the situation and will do the right thing in the end giving kids more of his Iron Man.
What set this Iron Man 3 film apart from other movies of the same basic design was the way they portrayed the villain, The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley. As I read the reviews of Iron Man 3 and saw that so many young people were having a hard time accepting who and what the Mandarin was as a bad guy, I had to laugh a bit. Many people seeing Iron Man 3 had hoped that The Mandarin would be a villain of epic James Bond capacity, a treacherous villain worthy of being far superior to Tony Stark in order to drive tension into the film’s narrative. Instead The Mandarin was simply an actor hired to play a terrorist by the real terrorists who were working behind the scenes of a well-intended campaign to end human misery by re-growing lost limbs from victims of unfortunate tragedies. The real villains in Iron Man 3 were brilliant wide-eyed scientists and politicians who wanted to help the world, not destroy it. They simply desired to “nudge” society into compliance with their vision. This conspiracy went all the way into the President of the United States own administration and was handled very well by the writing and direction of Shane Black. Considering that Iron Man 3 was being filmed and finished in post-production after the events of the real life Aurora shooting, Sandy Hook, and Benghazi, the plot of Iron Man 3 was incredibly insightful. The difficulty with the various conspiracy theories involved in all those real life tragedies is to assemble them logically with the information that can be known. Figuring out what happened is not easy as it’s like trying to assemble a puzzle where someone has stolen most of the pieces and then tried to figure out what the picture on the puzzle was without most of it being put together.
Most people know or feel that the government as a self-preserving entity will knowingly derail information from the public which leads to all the wild speculations generated about the real intentions of a terrorist act. Even to this very day, conspiracy theorists are ridiculed by the government and their public relations machines for even asking good questions about what really happened in the 9/11 tragedy calling them “truthers.” This leaves people afraid to openly state their opinions, which is the design of the derogatory designation forcing society to relegate their opinions to themselves. Yet fantasy films like Iron Man tackle those conspiracies head on with creativity and attempt to assemble the missing puzzle pieces with some form of logic, and this is why films like Iron Man, and the Batman films are doing such ROBUST box office business. There is a truth in Iron Man that has more meaning for society than 24 hours of watching Fox News.
I watched an interesting interview from Bill O’Reilly a few days ago where he was confused by the enormous business that Iron Man was producing in sheer box office dollars. O’Reilly like all the other news makers of the day wants to believe that Iron Man 3 is good just because of the great performance of Robert Downey Jr. But it’s not. Iron Man 3 is about terrorism and radical extremists, something we all deal with everywhere in the world. Yet the way the terrorism angle was dealt with in Iron Man 3 was likely much more truthful than the typical plotline of any other blockbuster film. We all expected The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 to be a ruthless terrorist like Osama bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein—a mastermind, and ruthless despot. But when Tony Stark discovered who the real Mandarin truly was, he found that he was just an actor who has been playing the part of a terrorist in exchange for drugs—as he’s a recovering addict. That is the reason behind the success of Iron Man 3 and films like it.
Even in the wild over-the-top plot lines of The Avengers, the idea of aliens attacking earth through a wormhole has more plausibility than many of the plot lines that our society is fed by statist oriented governments who seek to placate the public with disinformation and manipulation in order to advance their version of solutions against the will of the people they represent. There is more truth in simple comic book stories than in any other plausible explanation, and this is not just a diabolical tragedy, but a stunning revelation. The magic of a story like Iron Man 3 is that it puts the plausible concept in the mind of the viewer so that rational emphasis can be added to actual reality. In the case of Iron Man 3, the storyline is unlikely, but the scenario of how the terrorists were able to get into the president’s own administration and manipulate vast sums of people with the fear “they” created with the fictional character in The Mandarin has roots in reality. The intention of the Mandarin was to get the eyes of the American public to look toward China or the Mideast for the source of the terrorist threat, not to Miami, Florida in a crack house filled with whores and a burnt out actor who had been hired by the terrorists to play a terrorist.
Iron Man 3 reminded me of a typical action film from the 80s in most other regards. I did not think the special effects where outrageously great. I thought the ending was telegraphed and was average. Coming out of the theater I asked Doc Thompson what he thought of the film from The Blaze and he said that he liked it, but that it was an average film—technically. He gave it 6 out of 10, which I tend to agree with. I would give it a bit higher score based on Downey’s performance alone. But the film is much better if the context is considered by the explanation of many conspiracies. It is in this explanation, or plausible one, that the Marvel movies thrive so boldly. There is truth in these fictions that is more relevant than the truth offered in real life that often turns out to be fiction. This is why Iron Man 3 has made nearly $1 billion dollars in just two weeks at theaters. As wonderful as Downey’s performance was, it is the plots that drive the heroics, and that rests in the hands of Stan Lee from Marvel Comics.
I read a lot of heavy material, and I often balance out all that weighty stuff with comic books to ease my mind and relax. In fact, for my 25th wedding anniversary my wife bought me a comic book. I like to read them, which only takes about 10 minutes, but I often enjoy just looking at the pictures which contain the visions of the authors and effort of their imaginations. They are often simplified outlooks at reality but occasionally, there are very sophisticated concepts that are approached in comics which can’t be explored in the deepest work of Carl Jung. I read recently a very good editorial from Dave Marshall at Dark Horse Comics in January of 2013 titled “Everyone Needs Stories.” Below are the first couple of paragraphs that remind me of why Iron Man 3 is so successful.
Too often stories can be taken for granted, bundled away as frivolous entertainment, but it only takes glancing at a newspaper, opening a book (nonfiction included), or having a conversation to see that storytelling is an inexorable part of communication, which in turn is an inexorable part of the human experience.
Stories are everywhere, yet our thirst for them remains unquenchable. We even consume products masquerading as stories in nearly immeasurable quantities if they are convenient, as our need is so present and demanding. This fact informs my work every day. I strive to contribute to books that give people the stories they need, with truthful characters who navigate authentic emotional experience in an intricately realized world, as opposed to merely growing the heaps of false stories, with motorized characters clicking through their roles in a mechanical plot, designed to lure people in and produce a predictable result (usually additional purchases).
When a story gives people what they need it becomes a part of them, integrating into their attitudes and ideas, and expressing itself in infinite ways, some of which the comics community knows well.
Dave Marshall, editor of Dark Horse Comics
Marshall is right, everyone does need stories, but not the kind that are produced in public relation firms and pumped out to keep the society at large in the dark as to the real truth of a matter. They need stories that can take the motivations of well-intended individuals and make them into treacherous monsters which is what Iron Man 3 is all about. It’s a fantastic story that has more relevance than the nightly news, and more truth than a White House press conference. As whimsical as Iron Man 3 is, it is more honest than the speech of a typical politician or government spokesperson, and that is why business is so good with comic book movies. They are not successful because kids and adults alike are escaping reality and reliving their childhoods through the characters actors like Robert Downey Jr., create, but because the stories are truthful, and honest about the human condition in a way that no other endeavor attempts to tackle. In that regard, Iron Man 3 is a 10 out of 10 and a movie that should be seen by everyone in every corner of the globe. And yet again, Stan Lee deserves a tip of the hat to his tenacious creations and ruthless honesty.