By Marlon St. John Green
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Iron Man 3 = Tony Stark, action hero without the suit?

What do you get when you have Tony Stark as an action hero doing action stuff without his ultra-cool Iron Man exo-suit for extended periods of time?

Boring!

In this third installment of the super lucrative Iron Man franchise, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) spends way too much time running around fighting bad guys without his suit on. This was probably much more satisfying for the movie’s star (he gets to act more), but it is much less fun for movie goers who expect to see the man in the suit doing kick ass superhuman things. No one goes to a super hero blockbuster to watch a man with no super powers running around for the majority of the time.

The Iron Man armor/suits seem much weaker in this installment as well. The suits can now fly around without Tony Stark inside, essentially acting as robots controlled by Stark or his super computer Jarvis. This may be great for merchandising, but it literally pulls the heart out of most of the action sequences. In one scene, Stark controls the suit remotely, while it flies through the sky rescuing people from a crashing plane. Once you remove the man from inside the flying the suit, you also remove most of the drama from the situation, and it all becomes kind of boring.

The suits also appear weaker in that they can now carry much less weight. In the same scene mentioned above, Stark asks super computer Jarvis how many people Iron Man suit can carry, and the limit is four. Is this the same suit that in previous movies could pick up and throw trucks and now can only carry four humans? That’s pretty weak.

Another major weakness is when the armor/suits are in robot mode operating without Tony Stark inside, the suits fall apart whenever they hit something. Now these are the same suits that at one point could withstand being run over by cars, and even a direct hit from Thor’s almighty hammer. People come to the theater to see the powerful armor/suits at work and to have them falling all to pieces so often is not a fun element at all. Seeing the now super fragile suits fall to pieces so much made me think the once invincible Iron Man armor has been reduced to something like a C3PO with rocket boosters. In previous installments the Iron Man suit represented an awesome power that anyone might dream to possess. In this movie, not so much.

And the weakest part of this movie to me was when Tony Stark gives his home address publicly and dares terrorists to come attack him there, and they do. I understand Stark has a big ego, but he’s also super smart, and I don’t believe anyone would be that dumb to dare someone to attack their home and the people they love. When the plot of a story requires characters to do something uncharacteristic of that character (i.e. super smart person doing something super dumb) in order for there to be a storyline to work, well that’s lazy storytelling.

The only real power in Iron Man 3 was Tony Stark’s supercomputer Jarvis, that now seems like a conscious, almost god-like being that can reach into the story to save Stark whenever necessary, deus ex machina style. It feels like Tony Stark was able to create a fully conscious, self-aware being in Jarvis the supercomputer. This amazing application of Artificial Intelligence is far more impressive than the Iron Man suits and far less interesting in a dramatic sense.

If I want to see a movie where the main character runs around doing action stuff without wearing an ultra-cool mech-suit most of the time, it wouldn’t be a movie about Tony Stark. There are far more interesting characters to pull off the action thing. What’s next, a Hulk that doesn’t turn green?

It doesn’t take a high level movie exec to know the Iron Man franchise is about one thing. It’s about the suit, stupid! It’s not about empty suits. It’s about suits with a beating heart inside.

Remove the man from the suit, you remove the heart from the action and the movie.

“Empty suits” may make a ton of money for the studio, but they also make for a flat, undramatic, boring film.

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