I couldn't help but read this assessment of the current state of American film culture by Manohla Dargis and think of the comparisons which have always been made between cinema and comics over the years. And with all the comic book movies that have been (and will continue to be) released, I literally laughed out loud when I read this bit from her article
The critical consensus is that 2013 was a good year for movies, but that’s only true if you ignore a lot of the junky titles, like “Iron Man 3,” that dominate the top of the box office
...as tough as it is to get any movie made, it’s even more difficult to produce and distribute genuinely original, nongeneric, non-groupthink work, which is one reason the big studios are now largely in the recycling business (“Iron Man 3” and the regurgitated like).
After finishing reading (and enjoying) the article, I looked up the NYT movie review of Iron Man 3 and was not at all surprised to see that it was Ms. Dargis who reviewed it. Here's a quote from that review
...originality isn’t the point of a product like “Iron Man 3,” which, despite the needless addition of 3-D and negligible differences in quips, gadgets, villains and the type of stuff blown up, plays out much like the first two movies.
Ms. Dargis goes on to deride the film as well as its cast and crew. In regards to director Shane Black, she states
For his part, Mr. Black made his name scribbling breezy action movies like “Lethal Weapon” and “The Last Boy Scout,” which wed violence to jokes and irony. His only other directing credit is for “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (the title of a Pauline Kael collection), a cutesy, self-conscious 2005 action flick with Mr. Downey.
(Apparently, Ms. Dargis is not a fan of the James Bond franchise; since "Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was John Barry & Leslie Bricusse's unused composition for the opening of Thunderball(1965), which predates Pauline Kael's 1968 book. Let me also clarify something before I continue: I am not getting down on Ms. Dargis' POV. I believe she presents very astute and perfectly valid points in her writings. I don't necessarily agree with her assessments/opinions on comic book movies, but I respect them.)
Back to Ms. Dargis' review of Iron Man 3...
She points out how Mr. Black's film makes connections between Tony Stark's PTSD (after dealing with the alien invasion which occurred in The Avengers) and America's collective PTSD as a result of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC in 2001 as well as numerous others since, including the Boston Marathon bombing which occurred just weeks before thew film opened. (Heck. The title of her review is “Bang, Boom: Terrorism as a Game” for criminey's sake.)
She quotes a speech made by Steven Soderbergh at the San Francisco International Film Festival
He wondered why a studio would spend so much money to release a big franchise sequel like this: “Is there anyone in the galaxy that doesn’t know ‘Iron Man’ is opening on Friday?” More instructively, he also suggested why studios have become so dependent on big movies, including money, fear, lack of vision and leadership. Studio executives deserve much of the blame for “pushing cinema out of mainstream movies,” as he put it, but “what people go to the movies for” has also changed since Sept. 11.
Mr. Soderbergh said he thought that the country still has post-traumatic stress disorder “and that we haven’t really healed in any sort of complete way and that people are, as a result, looking more toward escapist entertainment.”
She continues to lament the state of the film industry in her review
...it has become difficult for filmmakers to make midlevel studio movies for adults who value thought over action, narrative ambiguity over blunt spectacle. Good big movies are still released and sometimes even produced by the studios. Among the most satisfying films of the past decade are some from “The Dark Knight” and “Harry Potter” franchises, both of which, in their different ways, engage Sept. 11 and the world it made while transporting viewers into fantastical realms. “Iron Man 3,” by contrast, at once invokes Sept. 11 and dodges it, and does so with a wink and a smile.
In Ms. Dargis' review, she concludes that
...movies like “Iron Man 3” don’t have any business taking on tough issues. The point is that if they are to be worthy of the art, worthy of the audience and its time and its money, worthy of the legacy of those Hollywood movies that comforted and cheered Americans through world wars and bleak times, they should take on the toughest issues — not just exploit them.
Phew! That sure is a whole hell of a lot of baggage to unload onto a movie like Iron Man 3.
So... what are my thoughts on this?
It might seem trite, but I'll simply say this: I am of the opinion that Manohla Dargis would be better served by lightening up a little and relaxing. I honestly don't believe that Kevin Feige, Drew Pearce, Shane Black, Robert Downey, Jr. and all the hundreds (thousands?) of people who were involved in bringing Iron Man to the silver screen were thinking "let's make a serious movie for thoughtful adults.” I am of the opinion (I could be wrong, I mean, wtf do I know) that they wanted to celebrate and share with the world the comic book character that Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby brought to life over 50 years ago in the four color pages of Tales of Suspense #39.
That's my 12¢ worth, anyway.