A Meditation on Iron Man 3 – Or Why Sequels Suck


I won’t frame this post as a movie review.  I won’t synopsize the plot or provide a detailed opinion on it as a movie.  Instead, I’ll use watching the movie as the launching pad for a rant.  Because rants are fun (for the writer).  Unloading on a movie that disappoints and especially one that trades on the good reputation of an earlier installment feels like a noble action.

I’ll start out by saying I really enjoyed the original Iron Man movie.  Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges and the supporting cast; Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow, provided plenty of entertaining content to this comedy/adventure movie.  That movie was fun, exciting and highly entertaining.

Alternatively, Iron Man 3 is none of those things.  It’s a complete waste of time.  The plot is confusing and essentially meaningless.  All of the characters are annoying and uncompelling.  Even Downey’s Tony Stark is surprisingly uninteresting and poorly written.  He is suffering from anxiety attacks based on his experiences in the Avengers movie that occurred before this film.  He has several of them during the movie and they just seem so contrived and pathetic that it feels like really lazy writing.  So, by the end of this movie, I’m feeling fairly unhappy with the time I’ve wasted watching this crapfest.

So, this is what you get with these movie franchises.  The first one is probably very good.  There’s good writing, good acting and an original idea.  But two or even three sequels down the road you end up with a crappy director, hack writers and a much less talented supporting cast.  And voila, an awful movie.

Now it doesn’t have to be this way.  There have been movie series where the quality was more or less maintained.  Downey, himself for instance, was in one such.  His two Sherlock Holmes films were almost equally interesting and entertaining.  But in general, Hollywood has an equation where sequels are a money-making strategy where quality is abandoned after installment one.

So, what’s my point?  Well, there isn’t one.  Except that I was so annoyed watching this movie that I wanted to carp and moan about my outraged sensibilities.  Robert Downey Jr. is an amusing actor who can carry a picture to great effect if you give him a decent plot and some good lines to recite while he mugs for the camera.  It would have been entirely possible to allow his character to carry this movie without any expensive supporting cast if they had only invested in an actual story!

And so, the takeaway is “caveat emptor.”  Do your homework when it comes to sequels and make sure you don’t pay for a movie that is just a pale shadow of its predecessor.  Luckily, I watched this for free on my cable service.  But I did waste more than two hours of my, at this point, limited time left on this mortal coil.

And shame on you Robert Downey Jr.  You’re better than that.  Now go make the third Sherlock Holmes movie.  And don’t let them phone it in!

Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows (2011) – A Movie Review

This sequel to the previously reviewed 2009 movie “Sherlock Holmes” has actors Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law returning as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.  And Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James and Eddie Marsan also reprise their roles as, respectively, Irene Adler, Mary Watson, Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade.

The plot of this movie is once again an original story but it does add in elements from one particular Arthur Conan Doyle story namely, the “The Adventure of the Final Problem.”  This is the story in which Arthur Conan Doyle arranges the final showdown between Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty.  And this story covers what was in the written story but adds much more in the way of motivation for the duel to the death between Holmes and Moriarty.  And the writers manage to link the story to the greater reality of this time period.  They tie Moriarty’s evil plot to the actual fact that in 1900 Europe is on the precipice of World War.  The movie even has Moriarty explicitly chide Holmes with the bitter reality that even if he eliminates Moriarty, it still will not stop the coming war.

I’m happy to say that the dash and humor from the first movie are on clear display in this second film.  The camaraderie between Holmes and Watson are undiminished even after Dr. Watson finally marries Mary.  In fact, the occasion of the honeymoon provides one of the most comical scenes in the movie with Holmes dressed as a woman attempting to save the newlyweds from imminent death on a train packed with assassins.

I won’t attempt to synopsize the plot.  It would sound like nonsense and I refuse to spoil the details of the plot.  Suffice it to say that Holmes and Watson traipse across Europe attempting to catch up to the plot that Moriarty has set in motion.  And Jared Harris who portrays Professor James Moriarty is a great villain.

As with the preceding movie I have the highest praise for this film.  All the principal parts are brilliantly acted.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well-made entertainment film.  And just to add an interesting note, ten years after this movie the producers have finally had the opportunity to film another sequel.  I look forward to that movie with great anticipation.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – A Movie Review

Guy Ritchie directed this 2009 update of the Sherlock Holmes legend but instead of re-doing one of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories he re-imagined the characters and wrote a screenplay that gives a sort of steam punk feel to the outing.  Robert Downey Jr. is Holmes and Jude Law is his partner in crime detection and chronicler, Dr. Watson.  On the face of it these two men would seem to be completely miscast in these roles.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The script combines equal parts comedy and action adventure.  And both Downey and Law play the parts as if they were born to the roles.  The bickering friendship that they portray is as important a part of the movie as the nefarious doings of the evil Lord Blackwood and the barely glimpsed Professor Moriarty.

The plot involves the resurrection from the dead of a hanged man, Lord Blackwell who engaged in satanic rituals and is linked to a powerful masonic secret society in London.  All sorts of strange goings on have baffled Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard and with the sometimes assistance, sometimes sabotage by Holmes’ femme fatale, Irene Adler and the reluctant presence of Watson’s fiancée, Mary Morstan, they pursue the truth behind the unbelievable return from the dead of Lord Blackwell and discover and attempt to foil his devious plot to gain control of the world.

I am a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and I’ve watched all the previous cinematic versions, the Basil Rathbone movies and the Jeremy Brett series by Granada Television.  I don’t take anything away from these older series but what Guy Ritchie has created is a new and highly entertaining take on the characters.  You can probably tell that I am highly enthusiastic about this film and the also excellent sequel.  The chemistry that Downey and Law have on the screen is marvelously entertaining and must be a combination of their acting skills and the truly excellent script and direction.

I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to fans of Sherlock Holmes, to action-adventure fans and to movie fans of all stripes.  Find it and watch it.