Jon Favreau’s 2008 Iron Man is a special type of comic book film. Not only did it launch the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it was just an all-around, great piece of cinema. Iron Man 2, which was bogged down by its need to set up the first Avengers movie was another story. And then, there was Iron Man 3, which has proven to be one of the more polarizing entries in Marvel Studios’ oeuvre.
Among Iron Man 3’s detractors is none other than writer/artist Bob Layton, a creator who helped make Tony Stark the pop culture icon he is today, through stories like “Demon in a Bottle.” Layton was in attendance at ComiCONN 2018 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut June 30 and July 1. There, the comics legend took part in the lively “I am Iron Man!” panel, which is where its moderator brought up the threequel.
“Oh, God, do I have to talk about Iron Man 3?” Layton said.The convention guest, who no longer works in the comic book industry, explained that while he was involved with the first two Iron Man productions, he was in litigation with Marvel when Iron Man 3 was in pre-production. Although he had planned to lunch with the movie’s director and co-writer Shane Black (who’s helming the upcoming The Predator), the meeting never happened.
Fast forward to several months after Iron Man 3 was released and Layton still hadn’t seen the film (he won’t pay money to see his own work on the screen), until he was on a red-eye flight from Montreal to Los Angeles. The film was available to view on the plane, so Layton put his earphones in and started his cinematic journey while his fellow passengers slept.
About 20 minutes into the film, the flight attendant tapped Layton on his shoulder to check if he was alright.
“I said, ‘Yes, why?’ She said, ‘You’re screaming.’ Apparently, I was shouting at the screen ‘They’re not robots! They can’t move of their own accord! He’s not the absent-minded professor! He saved his heart with a ball-peen hammer and a tin can in the first movie and now he can’t do anything right! Are you kidding me?’ I was so incensed that I was actually shouting at the screen and didn’t realize it.”The film reflects Layton’s belief that comic book films are like operas.
“If you’re an opera aficionado, you don’t want to see the opera in English, in street clothes, done in an alley way,” Layton said. “You want it on stage in costumes in Italian, right? Thats what we’re used to. There’s a certain ambiance that comes with that genre and the guys who make good comic book movies understand it.”
Layton used Fantastic Four as an example of a comic book film that turned out bad, and explained that it was made by people who didn’t understand the material. When there’s no respect for the source material, the need to turn the film into something else seeps in and you get Green Lantern.
“[Iron Man 3] reminded me of a PG-rated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, because all you guys wanted was an Iron Man movie with no Iron Man in it, right?” Layton joked. “Who doesn’t want that? But that’s what happens when someone who doesn’t understand the genre tries to put on an opera. They don’t understand what’s required, they don’t understand the language, they don’t understand how to create that universe credibly. So you don’t want to offend the people who love that character but still appeal to a mass audience. The good director understands that. And not that Shane isn’t a good director, he was just the wrong guy for that.”
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