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Iron Man 3

 When I left Iron Man 3,  I didn’t know how to feel about it. I knew I was disappointed, and I knew the movie wasn’t necessarily bad, but I didn’t have the words to explain it. So, I took some time to think about it. I let the movie marinate in my head. And after spending a day thinking about it, I’m still wasn’t exactly sure.

    But now I think I have it.

    A lot of the movie just, plainly, doesn’t make any sense. The villains are villainous and the heroes are heroic, but there’s a startling lack of depth within these characters, especially those played by Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce. It’s not the acting, because the aforementioned, as well as Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwenyth Paltrow and all put on a hell of a show, but that’s really all it was. A lot of flash and awe, but not a lot underneath. Director Shane Blake does a hell of a job hiding the film's apparent vapidness, but despite all the best efforts, it shows through.

To be clear, there's a hell of a lot to like in this movie. As always, Stark's dialogue is fantastic. He's funny and cocky while still balancing his vulnerabilities and insecurities. With the already noted lack of depth, I'll say that Stark is easily the most realized character of the bunch, though that's to be expected considering it's his name on the title screen and he's had three movies prior that really centered around who he was and what he was capable of.

And this film, more than any other in which he’s starred, is willing to explore the dark sides of Tony Stark. I’ll admit to being upset that no film has really tackled his alcoholism, but Iron Man 3 works very hard to drive home his addictive personality (though his addiction in this film is work, not booze), and so at least the idea was there. The problem here, though, is that there’s a lot of time spent talking about how Stark has a problem with working too much and that he can’t sleep, but we rarely see that. It doesn’t feel like he spends any more time in his lab than he has in previous films, and so it’s a behind the scenes problem. Those types of problems don’t have the same weight as ones that we can see and feel. It’s a mistake that costs the movie a great deal of depth, but again, this film doesn’t seem particularly concerned with that aspect.

Maybe the issue stems from too much faith in what the characters have already established. For example, Stark has previously been stoic and unwavering in the heat of battle, and here he frequently falters. He has panic attacks and night terrors. But we’re led to believe that he hasn’t slept well in weeks, that he’s losing everything because he can’t stop working, because he isn’t and can’t be over “New York.” It’s all believable on paper, but it doesn’t play out quite like that on screen.

But there’s really no sense to harp on rather minute problems with Stark (and Pepper and others), because that, at a certain point, feels like complaining about dust on a brand new Lexus. The biggest problem in the film stems from the antagonists - Pearce, Kingsley & Co. I’ve spent days thinking about it, and their motives are still unclear, or rather, there’s a large disconnect between their motives and their actions. Pearce needs Stark’s mind to perfect Extremis, so he begins to do very supervillainy things in order to get Stark to help him. Does this make any sense? No. Because Stark isn’t the type of person that will make a deal with a man like Killian. He’s a goddamn superhero, and if you’re running around acting like a terrorist, he’s not going to appease you, he’s going to stop you. Of course, Killian is a literal genius, and should and would know this. But he doesn’t. It’s illogical. And I get the sense that Black knows this.

The film is a spectacle, and though there are sincere, heart-wrenching human problems in this film, but ultimately, they’re secondary. Most people paying to sit in the theater are going there to see explosions, heroism and violence. And so that’s the priority, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. But it does the character and the franchise a disservice. I like seeing Tony Stark kicking the ever-living crap out of a bad guy as much as the next comic book nerd, but for people that have read the books from which these characters are derived, this film will come up especially empty.

It’s an extremely entertaining film. One that will certainly hold the attention of its audience for its run time, but it won’t leave you with much to think about afterwards. The moments in the middle of the film serve as more of a character study on Tony Stark than they do a superhero film (think Flight, if you saw that), and that’s where the movie is the strongest. We’re rather removed from the supervillain through those moments, and that’s where it shines. If you don’t think about it too hard, you’ll be fine. If you do, you’ll find a lot of pieces left you with more questions than answers. And that’s not so great.