Monday, May 6, 2013
Movie Review: Iron Man 3
Directed by Shane Black
Written by Drew Pearce & Shane Black
Original Score by Brian Tyler
After a brief in media res opening (they're all the rage these days) which establishes the story that follows to be a narrative told by Tony Stark to an unseen someone, Iron Man 3 finds Tony Stark struggling to come to terms with the events of The Avengers. He's become more of a celebrity and hero than ever, even while he's having problems sleeping and clearly suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. What follows from this setup is a surprisingly introspective summer blockbuster. With the country under attack by a terrorist known as the Mandarin, Tony finds himself pulled out of his comfort zone, stripped of his usual resources and forced to once more rebuild himself from the ground up in order to expose the real threat of the Mandarin.
While this film suffers, as the previous ones did, from a surprising lack of Iron Man, it nevertheless is a ton of fun and a resounding success. Simply put, all of this works because of Robert Downey Jr., who continues to kill his performance as the arrogant, snarky, genius inventor with a (metaphoric) heart of a gold. If you had told me going into it that this film would feature an extended sequence in which Tony Stark pals around with a precocious kid, I'd have rolled my eyes and braced myself for the worst. But that sequence, which eats up a good chunk of the middle act of the film, works, because both Downey Jr. and the screenplay stay true to the character, never allowing the maudlin sentiment that too often seeps into a movie when a hero teams up with a kid to overwhelm Tony (it also helps that the kid in questions manages to avoid becoming a plot-based liability).
This movie concludes Robert Downey Jr.'s initial contract to play Tony Stark, and though it's widely accepted that he'll be at least back for the Avengers sequel, it's unclear what the future holds for this iteration of Iron Man. Without giving anything away, the film ends with a note of surprising finality, recalling the first film while offering up a note of resolution that could, if Downey Jr. does walk away, serve as an effect conclusion to this series of films (a remarkable thing in this day of franchises and sequel after sequel after sequel). There's been talk that Iron Man could be an evergreen character, someone like James Bond, with actors cycling in and out of the role for decades to come. Certainly, anything is possible, but for now, Robert Downey Jr. owns this role in a way few actors have ever owned a specific character. Tony Stark may be Iron Man, but Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and it's hard to imagine otherwise.
Other Thoughts (Spoilers Ahead)
While the events of Avengers are all over this film in terms of the way Tony is reacting to them, I was a little disappointed by the lack of some more overt shared universe elements. The conversation between Rhodes and Tony near the beginning of the movie was clearly meant to establish why the Avengers weren't involved with the Mandarin crisis, but I still wouldn't have minded some lip service paid to the notion of Captain America being involved (offscreen) in that fight, or maybe an appearance by Nick Fury somewhere along the way, offering Tony the help of SHIELD, only for Tony to turn him down because the fight's become personal (or something).
I thought the ultimate reveal of the Mandarin's actual role in events was fun and a neat little twist (and I'm glad I avoided spoilers, as I was generally surprised by the revelation), but it does leave me wondering about his involvement in the first film. It was hinted at then that the Mandarin was the force behind the terrorists who kidnapped Tony; are we to believe now that Killian was behind them as well, or was that simply a hint that never really developed?
On the flip side of that, I really liked that Yinsen (the guy who helped Tony build the first Iron Man armor in the first film) was at the conference in Bern at the beginning.
Comic book films in general don't always treat their female characters the best (see, for example, the way Mary Jane did little more than scream her way through three Spider-Man movies), in part because they're taking their inspiration from stories written by men in the sixties, so even though the rescue of Pepper served as Tony's primary motivation in the climax of the film, I appreciated that, in the end, she ended up saving Tony and was the one who ultimately dispatched the villain.
Having Happy serve as the head of security was a nice nod to the comics, as was the offscreen presence of Pepper's secretary Bambi, a reference to Bambi Arbogast, who was Tony's longtime secretary in the comics.
Can I just say how refreshing it is that this series of films is simply numbered? None of this hiding from the number/vague subtitle business here.
3 Iron Man armors out of 4