Saturday, May 4, 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

Iron Man 3 Review

Last year, as I made my way out of the theater after witnessing "The Avengers," I was relieved that Marvel had finally gotten itself together. They came out hot establishing their "Blade," "X-Men," and "Spiderman" franchises. But after X-Men 2, something happened. The studio seemed to loose some of its magic. What prevailed was "Electra," "Daredevil," "Fantastic Four" and other franchises that failed. When "Iron Man" came out in 2008 and changed everything for the studio. For the first time in the history of cinema, a studio created a universe of characters that existed in the same world. It was similar to the worlds that Marvel and DC comics created for their readers. Marvel woke up and "Phase One" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe went off without a hitch. Two films featured in "Phase One" were "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2," two films I liked quite a bit.

Honestly, I don't think "Iron Man 3" should be given that title. The movie should have been called "Tony Stark." This is not a action-packed blockbuster like we have come to expect from the superhero genre. "Iron Man 3" is actually a character study of how our past comes back to haunt us, how our decisions that we make in our past come back to affect our future. It is a heavy theme to bring into a superhero movie, and after Christopher Nolan's turn at Batman, its certainly not the first time. But do these strong themes work for or against the superhero genre?

This third film picks up in 1999, before Iron Man, Avengers or anything of the sort. We see Stark at a New Year's Eve party with Happy Hogan (Jon Faveau) his trusted friend and driver. During the course of the night, Stark will brush off both Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) they both want Stark's help with their goals. Killian is apart of a brand-new, government-funded think tank called Advanced Idea Mechanics, and Hansen is moving forward with research which could lead to easier bodily repair.

After this flashback, we meet Stark now. He's been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. The events from "The Avengers" took a huge toll on our hero, and he is manically obsessed with protecting Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) from harm. He becomes even more of a headcase as he watches his television, learning about The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) a mysterious terrorist who loves the camera, and has been killing many Americans without leaving any bomb shards or any of other evidence. As Stark begins to put the pieces to this puzzle together, we begin to learn that The Mandarin may have connections to someone from Stark's past.

Mainly, this is how the film plays out. How Stark deals with his new enemy, while staying one pace in front of Potts to protect her is what "Iron Man 3" is all about. That is all good and wonderful if only we saw more Iron Man. Throughout the entire movie, tons of people will wear a Mach-suit of some kind. Starks enemies, Pepper Potts, Col. Rhodes, even the president of the United States in the movie gets more screen time in Mach-suit than Tony Stark does.

I am all for movies about people battling their pasts, or protecting the one's they love. The only problem I have is when we barely see the character in which the title suggests. That was a huge disappointment I had with this third chapter.

It doesn't derail the whole movie for me however. Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark, no doubt about it. He has given an unexpected life to this character, now I can't imagine anybody else in the role. Gwyneth Paltrow is still great as Potts. Don Cheadle still really good as Col. Rhodes aka WarMachine aka The Iron Patriot as he given new red, white and blue armor by the U.S. Government to combat The Mandarin.

Guy Pierce has perfected the art of being an insidious twit. Aldrich Killian is a juicy bad guy role that Pierce eats up delightfully. Killian has a right-hand man named Savin played by James Badge Dale (An actor you may recognize from "The Departed") who also does really good work. Rebecca Hall is good as Maya Hansen and Jon Faveau is still really funny as Happy Hogan.

Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin will no doubt cause a bit of controversy. When The Mandarin was created it was 1964, America was at war with Vietnam. When the story of Iron Man was first created it wasn't Arab terrorist that kidnapped Stark for his weapons, it was the Viet Cong. This was part of the reason to why The Mandarin became Iron Man's arch nemesis. The Mandarin had ten magic rings (one for each finger) and each ring had a different power. This idea was scrapped by the studio because they wanted to ground the character in realty. 

Hollywood's new obsession with "grounding everything in reality" is starting to wear thin. Marvel proved last year that they can make a very successful film that features aliens, galactic wormholes, Norse Gods, futuristic technology and a guy that turns into a giant green monster when angry. Nothing about that screams reality. But a villain with ten magical rings seems silly? I don't see where Marvel draws the lines. I will see say that the filmmakers created a clever way of updating The Mandarin character, but I think the movie would have been just as awesome with a bad guy with ten magical rings. The Mandarin to Iron Man is The Joker to Batman. He is Iron Man's main bad guy, and the character's cinematic legacy doesn't match that title. 

The grand finale fight scene at the end is pretty spectacular, but the person who finally defeats the big bad guy is not who one might expect, Stark fighting his demons takes up the films entire run-time. Had the filmmakers come up with a way to feature Stark and Iron Man in equal measure, they would have really had something here. But the movie is not terrible, it is still very good. Like I said above, the acting and action are awesome. The film has a clever sense of humor and I dug everything else about the film. It was just missing it's title character a little too much. This third entry is being hailed as the best Iron Man movie yet, I beg to differ. There is a lot of fun on display in this third outing, but this entry is far from the best.

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