Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: The Art of Iron Man 3!

I goddamn love movie art books. At last year's Free Comic Book Day I grabbed and reviewed The Art of The Avengers and this year I followed the proud why-not-call-it-a-tradition by purchasing the handsomely heavy Art of Iron Man 3.

Marvel has shown a knack for producing both beautiful and comprehensive art books that document the production of their films, and Iron Man 3 is no exception. In fact, I would argue that this particular tome is even more essential than its predecessors as it details some incredible and intricate design that barely flash across the screen. Have you ever wanted to see all 42 Iron Man armours, presented clearly, in order, with all of their code names? I certainly did and, as far as I know, this book is the first resource to do that.

Plus there's plenty of more. I'm going to barrage you with info and opinions... after the jump!

If you've glanced through any breed of film art book then you'll already know the drill. We see character/costume concepts, both used and unused, set designs, production paintings that illustrate key scenes, storyboards and promotional materials. I'm not going to waste your time explaining how an art book works, instead I'm going to highlight the key inclusions that make this particular art book worth it.

As stated, the obvious drawcard here is our first good look at all the alternate Iron Man suits. We've had some of these leaked already via various bits of merchandise, but there's plenty more where that came from. Did you know that the black stealth armour is the Mark 16 with the nickname "Nightclub"?

The Mark 20 is called "Python" and is a long-distance suit. The Mark 27 is a chameleon suit called "Disco".  Mark 32 is "Romeo", Mark 34 is "Southpaw", there's a deep dive suit called "Hammerhead". The book includes multiple, detailed views on some of these, but it all culminates in a large fold out section which shows every single one of them, all the way up to the Mark 42 which features prominently in the film.

If you have even a passing interest in the lore then this is unmissable. So much work went into all of these designs that is barely touched upon in the film. Your mind will boggle at the potential.

Although I did hope that this book might answer some of the lingering questions I had about some of the armours while reviewing the film. I speculated on the absence of the Mark 39, the deep space suit (dubbed "Gemini" here and described as "suborbital"). The book does have a feature page on Gemini (which has already been made into toys) and explains its function and early incarnations but fails to mention its intended role in the film or whether it was officially cut. I have a feeling that some of the information in here is indeed a little bit dated. The pages on Igor (Mark 38 heavy-lifting suit) show him in the familiar red and gold and reference the fact that it is reminiscent of the comics' Hulkbuster armour but clearly states that this is not its function... yet. In the film this same suit has been changed to blue, and in the fold-out timeline it is also blue, so clearly things were in flux and art must have been submitted at various times.

But isn't that the great thing about a book like this? There's just so much information to pour over and further speculate on.

I was just as fascinated by the villains. The Mandarin is a character with a rich history and multiple costumes I was interested in seeing the design process they went through. They definitely began with more traditional oriental designs, spanning from flowing mystic robes to feudal armour. It's also of note that the first few designs show a younger, more physically intimidating actor with an exposed muscular chest. They then shift to Ben Kingsley, however even these designs pendulum between the more traditional eastern style and a more modern middle-eastern terrorist.

And it's not just art. There are detailed photos of props too, the most intriguing for me being close ups of each of the Mandarins ten rings. You can see the intricate designs and differing colours of each and imagine how they might have functioned if things had gone... differently. The intent is definitely to reference the various powers that he exhibited in the comics.

OK we need a spoiler section. If you haven't seen the film yet then why are you even here! Go and see this great film and then come back for...

There are concept designs for Guy Pearce's villain Aldrich Killian, showing his shirtless torso featuring the elaborate dragon tattoo. When I watched the film and he referred to himself as being "The Mandarin" I thought he was being figurative, but I was surprised to realise that the dragons on his chest feature ten prominent rings running down the length of their bodies. More food for thought.

Also, as far as the BIG spoiler goes? It's not referenced at all in this book and there are no costume or character designs to support it. They've kept that completely under wraps, even in a publication aimed at those who are well-versed with the film. It reminds of the Art of The Avengers which detailed everything except for post-credits villain Thanos who was conspicuously absent from its many pages.

Okay you're safe now. Did you see the film? I wonder about you sometimes.

OK I've been talking all about the pretty pictures and ignoring the text. There's text too. Not an awful lot of it, but it's filled with helpful quotes from people who worked closely on the production. No, I haven't read all of it yet, but this is the sort of book that you can flip back and forth through for reference. Besides, I'm already sold, and you are too right? I unabashedly love this book. Print might be dying, but art books will always have a place on my shelf. Especially this one.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked the storyboards of the funny ways the IM suits were killing the Extremis soldiers. Makes me want to catch the film again and watch the background