May 20, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man Three (or 3, advertising shows the number, but the movie has it written out) has arrived amid much fanfare. There is no denying that there was a lot of anticipation, factoring both the popularity of the character (or Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal) and the fact that it is the first Marvel movie since the runaway hit that The Avengers was last war. The biggest question is, well after how good the movie is, is how does it stack up to The Avengers and Iron Man 2? The answer is fairly simple, it is definitely a step up for, two, but doesn't have the big spectacle of The Avengers.

Iron Man 3 is a good movie. It is not a great one, but it is a good one. It is a movie that does a pretty good job of being primarily entertaining, while not being entirely brain dead. I feel that is the one thing that superhero movies can never forget, their primary function has to be to entertain, however, they must also never forget to try and be something more. Of course, we also have things like Nolan's Batman cycle, which aimed just a little higher (but doesn't break the rule of being entertaining, and plays as the exception to the rule).

With this third film in the Iron Man series we are really beginning to see something interesting. Marvel is really doing a lot to build a cinematic universe that spans multiple series, while allowing the films to retain an independent feel. This, to me, is the big one pointing at that. I feel this mainly because it is the start of the second phase of the universe.

While we get a new villain and a new story for Stark to work his way through, we also see our hero dealing with the after effects of the events of The Avengers. We see him having trouble sleeping, suffering anxiety attacks, and generally worrying a lot more than we have seen in the past. It adds an interesting layer to an already complex character. We also see him act even more emotionally and spontaneously reacting. It is nice to see, the character is far from perfect, and Stark seems to have more flaws than most.

In any case, while Stark's developmental growth is an interesting factor played throughout this outing, we still have a villain to deal with. Despite the movie having been out a few weeks, I am hesitant to discuss some aspects, as it is a reveal that I really liked but has been received with decidedly mixed feelings. With the villain, they inject some real world experience into the events. We have a terrorist giving video messages while exacting specific attacks. We also have Happy (Jon Favreau) become a victim of one of the attacks leading to Stark's open challenge.

So far as Iron Man versus the bad guy goes, it builds as expected. Little altercations here and there, an elevation of the treat by making it personal, leading to an all out war out war in the climax. Nothing unexpected.

Now, I like the movie. I like it a lot, but I found that as I watched it a second time, I liked it somewhat less. I still remains an improvement over the second one, but there are some things that don't quite work here. It feels like there is an over reliance on Robert Downey Jr. He is left to shoulder almost the entire weight of the movie, and it shows. While the villains are interesting, they do not really step up. I guess that is the writing's fault. Still, with the weight of the movie rating on Downey's back, it leaves a lot of space to fill. This results in some pacing issues. While there are some nice character moments and comedic bits, it brings the pace to a crawl. Everything is moving along nicely and then bang, the brakes are slammed on. Also, the bad guy plans are fast forwarded though, it is nice to have a villain that does not have an arc reactor.

Where the movie steps up its game is in the execution of the action. There are a few nice action beats leading to the big climactic battle (which doesn't rely on the Ghostbusters trick pulled in part 2). There are a lot of cool tricks done with the suits, putting different people on them, remote controlling them, having Stark fight with one part of it on, and the armor hopping in the climax, some cleverly done stuff.

The positive outweigh the negatives and this is a worthy cinema trip, but cannot help but feel it is maybe one rewrite/edit away from being really good. I do like Shane Black's (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) direction, he brings a more kinetic feel to the proceedings than Favreau did.

Let's close this by saying Robert Downey Jr. is an exceptional Tony Stark. He is just perfect for the role and a lot of credit for the series success has to be laid at his feet. The man is a true actor and is able to bring so many elements together to create a rather complex character of surprising depth. One can only hope he returns in future installments.


(probably more like 3.25, but Downey bumps it up)

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