Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3 (The Spoiler Version!)

I don't expect an awful lot from an Iron Man movie in order to deem it a success. There is already so much accumulated good will for Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of the character that all I need is two hours of fun, funny, comic book entertainment. The great thing about Iron Man 3, however, is that director/co-writer Shane Black exceeds all expectations, delivering a rare sequel that is not just funnier, and more action-packed than its predecessors, but is also refreshingly smart.

While Iron Man 2 struggled to find ideas, Iron Man 3 has an abundance of them. It mixes beloved old characters, memorable new characters, outlandish over-the-top action, super powered heroics (and villainy), sharp one-liners, and, would you believe, even social commentary. And, despite a saturation of marketing material, it still packs some very well kept secrets. This is a triumphant start to Phase Two.

So here's your warning, folks. Once you click "read more" we're heading into serious SPOILER territory. And trust me, this is not a film that you want to be spoiled. If you're in the US and still waiting a week, then come back in a week after you've seen it. We'll still be here. But I know that many of our Australian pals have already seen it and I'd like to provide a forum for us to get down to all the gritty details. Again - DO NOT SPOIL IRON MAN 3 FOR YOURSELF. You have my highest recommendation - go and see it for sure - but only read the following article afterwards.

SPOILERS ABOUND!... after the jump!

Okay... now I should only be talking to those who have seen the movie. And I'll still try to keep the details a little bit vague.

Obviously I had a blast with the film. I'm sure there are plenty of things to nitpick if you wanted to really get down to it, but I'm reminded of Kurt Vonnegut who said, "Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae." And I kind of feel like Shane Black has served us up that delicious fudge sundae. It seems silly to complain about it when it exists to be enjoyed.

So why does this one work when the last one didn't?

I think there are a few key elements in play here. Granted a huge part of why it works is because Robert Downey Jr is so engaging and confident in the role. He's very playful here, and he looks like he's having a great time, but he's not at all complacent. In fact, I think he's working harder here than he ever has in a Marvel film and I praise the script for keeping him hilarious but also making him very vulnerable. He goes through some real emotions in this one, something that he didn't even do as he quipped his way through The Avengers. His performance is fast and fresh, but at times quite raw. You would think it'd be getting old but now but he manages to keep it vital.

The script is clever enough to give Stark scenes with characters that create a new dynamic. Temporarily teaming him up with a child is brilliant. It could have been terrible in someone else's hands, but it's the perfect choice for RDJ, and his banter here is probably the best in the film. He never condescends, and he never loses that edge, but at the same time it is very warm and genuine. And I feel like a lesser film would have clung to that dynamic and not let go. There's a point while watching Iron Man 3 for the first time, where Stark is doing his detective work in the small town and you feel like the movie is going to stay small. It would have been easy to keep him there with the kid for most of the story and only returning him to Miami in the final act. But the writers know when it is time to move on. After exploring the idea they segue neatly into the next big idea and I admire that drive to do as much they can. Similarly, the Gary the fan in the news van is another enjoyable new character who delivers an amusing scene but doesn't linger too long.

And I like how Tony's anxiety attacks are triggered by the crazy alien encounter that transpired in The Avengers. Our first taste of Marvel's Phase Two, this film is clearly set in a post-Avengers world where everything is changing. People know that a man with a hammer dropped out of the sky. They know that extraterrestrial life is threatening to return. This quite rightly scares the shit out of Tony and it promises much for the future. The best part is that is greatly expands Marvel's canvas and allows them to tell all manner of weird and outlandish stories that don't need to be grounded by what we already know.

The enemies are another smart choice. And I'm not talking about Mandarin or Killian - not yet - I'm talking about the glowing, super-charged henchmen. The idea that they exude heat and can melt the suits is clever, visual, and feels like a legitimate threat. It provides us with some really strong, intermediate battles before we get to the big bad, and I love how it keeps the action firmly in that super-powered comic book world. And I also enjoy the explanation behind it all - their reason for existing in the first place, and the comic book science that fuels them. And there's a delightfully dark undertone here too - these "villains" are war veterans who have lost limbs and have undergone desperate measures for help. Usually these would be sympathetic characters - the heroes - but they are twisted and evil here.  In fact there are many patriotic American symbols that get twisted or appropriated throughout the film.

So we need to talk about The Mandarin. I think that Ben Kingsley does a superb job, fully embracing all aspects of the role and appearing infinitely more vibrant than I've seen him in years. It's a challenging role, both for Sir Ben and the viewer. It's the thing that will be most talked about and I actually think there's a lot to unravel. Let's approach it two ways...

Firs, the comic book perspective. No, it's not the character from the comics, not by a long shot, and I have heard rumblings that his treatment has disgruntled some diehard fans. But I don't think that the choice made here negates a more accurate Mandarin existing. The first Iron Man began to create The Mandarin mythology, with the Ten Rings organisation. I see no reason why a future film (if this needed to be addressed at all) couldn't continue by picking up the threads from the first film. The Mandarin of Iron Man 3 could easily have been inspired by the whispers of that "real" organisation mentioned in Iron Man. It doesn't mean the real threat isn't still out there. And growing pissed off about what just happened. Short version: Relax. It's comics. They can fix anything.

Far more important to me is what this choice means in the film. Because this choice is the real meat of the story and a sly comment on how our world sadly works. When we are introduced to Mandarin as a terrorist we buy it hook, line and sinker. Why wouldn't we? He's the middle-eastern bad guy who is committing all manner of atrocities and we hate him and we want him stopped. We are being manipulated. Iron Man 3 asks us questions that I didn't expect it to ask. Killian distracts everyone by allowing them to rally against a symbol. Underneath it all is business. It's such a bold choice and it gives us far more to chew on than any of the prior Marvel films. Do you honour some crazy old school comic villain, or do you make the choice that not only surprises us, but makes us think.

You know, I even liked Pepper in this film. It all gets a little crazy towards the end but I really did want her to be safe. Iron Man 2 was all long, dull scenes about strawberries. 3 raises the stakes.

Can we nitpick anything? Hmmm....

Considering the amount of merchandise coming out that surrounds all these extra suits, we only get flashes of a lot of them. The Red Snapper, for example, which we featured yesterday shows up for about 30 seconds before unceremoniously exploding. But even then, how can I be disappointed when they have a story motivated reason for existing (Tony can't sleep and is building like a maniac and neglecting the people around him) and the extra suits lead into an inventive and memorable final battle where he leap frogs between suits. It's just too good an opportunity to miss. Although I do want to talk about the mystery suit. Where was Deep Space? Production art for this space travel suit was leaked a while ago...

It could be an unused concept, EXCEPT, why are they making multiple toys of it, like this one:

Did you see this suit in the film? I'm pretty sure I didn't. And here's where it gets more interesting...

The prevailing rumour has been that the post credits sequence would be Tony getting a distress call from Star Lord and would fly off into space in this thing as a lead in to Guardians of the Galaxy. It's sketchy at best because I can't imagine the benefit of having Tony present at the beginning of a new franchise, overshadowing the new characters and getting in the way of their origins, but it would at least explain the suit. So let's talk about the REAL post credits sequence we got...

Stark is actually telling his story to a bored Bruce Banner. That's it! And that's the thing I was most disappointed with in the entire film. Don't get me wrong - it's an entertaining scene on its own merits, but I would rather have seen it cut into the ending of the film. Let Tony wrap up his narrative, share the scene with Bruce, then go and say goodbye to his home in Malibu. The great thing about the post credit scenes of the previous films is that they got us all amped up about what was to come. And they gave us the tiniest taste of what was to come. Even if it was just a glimpse of Thor's hammer, we at least got to go, "ZOMG! THEY'RE ACTUALLY GOING TO MAKE A THOR MOVIE? FOR REALZ? ZOMG?" I wanted something that would get us excited and drive us forward. Avengers had THANOS for god's sake! Iron Man 3 gives us another joke in a movie that is already filled with jokes.

(You know, at least 80% of our full audience LEFT as soon as the credits started. They either didn't know there'd be a post credits scene, or didn't care. Have they never seen Marvel movies before? Ridiculous!)

OK, here's a fun conspiracy theory. Is there a second post credits scene that will only be shown once this film releases in America? Do they not want to spoil their big surprise until it reaches the biggest market? Is Deep Space yet to come? I'm genuinely curious.

Oh... I know... I am going to nitpick something. Tony goes to a hospital and they remove the shrapnel from his heart. HE DIDN'T THINK OF THIS BEFORE?! It's like he built two elaborate contraptions and then finally went... "You know what... I'd better show this to a professional". Could have saved yourself a lot of hassle, Tony. Plus doesn't he have a large cylinder of flesh missing from his chest? What did they fill that in with? Arse cheek? So that's my criticism. Now this is a balanced review.

I loved this film.


  1. This was such an awesome, ballsy movie. Better than the second AND the first.

  2. I am with you in there maybe being another post credit scene once the film is out in America. The Avengers Shwarma scene didn't happen in Aus until it had been released in America.

    Yes, the nit pick about the arse cheek hole in his chest... I'm there, but it's fine right? It's fine.

  3. It felt more like RDJ was sick of wearing the light, or someone was sick of animating it.

  4. I just assumed that the big gaping hole in his chest was regrown by the same stuff that the soldiers were given, only Tony said he had to find a way to make it safe, because of Pepper, so he made it safe and was then finally able to get the shrapnel out of his chest and heal without dying from the huge gaping chest wound.

  5. You nailed it, Bek Jones! I think you're 100% right!

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  7. I reckon it would have been a little lame to see him get in another suit at the end after making such a big deal about destroying all the ones he had.

    "I can't imagine the benefit of having Tony present at the beginning of a new franchise, overshadowing the new characters and getting in the way of their origins"
    I totally disagree. Guardians of the Galaxy is the riskiest movie yet and I'd be surprised if at least one Avenger wasn't in there. Even if it's a cameo it'll be an advertised cameo.

  8. So whats he going to wear in avergers 2 ?...a cheeky smile and a birthday suit?

    Why blow up the armor ?
    Seems like a stupid way to end armer no chest reactor.
    Whats he suppose to do now ?

    1. build awesome shit and deliver gold one liners, I imagine