What I saw was worse than having my pessimistic predictions met. Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3 was not a fiscal failure. That's not a surprise though; we live in a world where everyone just accepts that Michael Bay lives in a mansion. There was a lot of positive critical talk about it, which was surprising, but not bad. I started worrying whenever trusted sources and friends began calling it "good" and "the best one yet."
This was compounded when I actually went to see Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3. It is a move that I will hate with a burning passion forever. It's a BINGO card of awful movie decisions. It's a movie that has everything in common with The Phantom Menace, Transformers, Superman III, an awful crossover comic, a mediocre comic book, and a bunch of other shitty things. Most infuriatingly, it never, ever started sucking like I expected it to.
Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3's job was to get the inertia back for individual movies in the wake of The Avengers, something akin to selling your partner on heavy petting after they just reached orgasm. It had to tie up Tony Stark's story. It had to leave Tony up for more adventures in the next Avengers movie. It also had to be good enough that subsequent generations would power through Iron Man 2 to watch it.
The concept was awful enough. Iron Man, sans missiles, fighting a fire villain to save The President of The United States is a bland, uninspired plot you'd only find in the most forgettable comic collections. Villains with fire powers are a dime a dozen and using The President to establish the stakes was played out before I was even born. It works because there is a natural conflict established between a total dick and a guy with a plan that involves killing The President. The suits, superpowers, and cliché stakes are irrelevant because they're only needed to serve the drama and story.
If there's a guaranteed kiss of death for movies that isn't being the third part of a trilogy or having a generic comic book plot, it's having a fucking kid in it. Those of us who have met kids know that they have shit to offer in any given situation. Audiences will believe a man can fly but will never accept unusual, but mundane facts of human existence such as door on the Titanic being unable to support the weight of two whole people or a kid being able to contribute to an adult conflict. Instead of being obnoxious or played for laughs, he's written with enough character and intelligence to keep up with Tony Stark while still being an adult role played by a child.
Worse, I expected Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3 to have that scene in it. You know, that scene, the one where they bring Samuel L. Jackson into a sound booth and record him saying something stupid like, "I'm sorry I can't help you Mr. Stark; S.H.I.E.L.D. has its own concerns right now." or some dumbass shit like that. Someone involved with the creation of this movie must have suffered a massive head wound and forgot their federally-mandate to remind gelatinously-brained viewers that yes, this is the same Tony Stark that was in The Avengers.
You're right, they do mention New York and the imminent alien threat throughout, but that's primarily explain the causes of Tony's anxiety. The connections to the rest of the franchise are secondary at best.
As far as the—
Okay, imagine for a second that you just had the best day at work. Shit gone done. Future looks bright. Trip back home is looking good. Then, suddenly, you're offered a safe, morally-acceptable handjob from a reputable source. It's a good handjob. Now, your day at work was already pretty good. The handy was a nice part of that day, if a little inconsistent with the nature of the good day up to that point. It was a little gratuitous, but hey, handjob.
The final battle of Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3 was like that handjob. A few dozen extra superpowered thugs and Iron Man-like suits come out of nowhere for a massive CGI throwdown in a gratuitous, set-piece fight scene. I say "fight scene" instead of "clusterfuck" because gratuitous, robot-laden, massive, set-piece, CGI final battles are clusterfucks as a general rule. The modern standard of climactic final battles are rolling hot messes of digitally altered images in which the audience cannot tell who is doing what to whom. It leaves me unable to appreciate the ridiculous explosions, toothless peril, or impacts that sound like a crumbling masonry circle-jerk because I'm trying to figure out if any plot-important elements are being flashed across the screen, as if the actual story is being transmitted to me in code.
Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3's conclusive conflict, in contravention of that norm, is clear and intelligent. It is the most annoyingly good part of an infuriatingly great movie. Go watch it, if only to tell me that you watched it and piss me off with reminders of how odds-defyingly awesome it is.