Monday, February 24, 2014

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3
As a fan of the Marvel Studios movie since I first saw Iron Man in the theaters in 2008, of course I was going to see Iron Man 3 the weekend it came out. Iron Man 3 was the first Marvel Studios movie to follow the huge 2012 blockbuster The Avengers so even though it was highly anticipated, this was one of those movies that was going to make a lot of money regardless of quality. Iron Man 3 was the top grossing movie worldwide in 2013 (second in the USA behind The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) making over $1.2 billion internationally. Coming in to Iron Man 3 I was just hoping it would be on par with Iron Man 2. Iron Man 3 met my expectations, though the movie is pretty different than the last two films in both story and tone.

Jon Favreau directed the first two Iron Man movies but was replaced for Iron Man 3 with Shane Black, who gives the film a noticeably different feel. I found this a refreshing change of pace as Black puts his own sense of style and humor into the picture. I found the comedy to be the film's strong point as I was already in stitches as soon as Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" started playing over the opening credits! Robert Downey Jr. is hilarious as usual in these movies with some great snappy dialogue. Downey tends to ad-lib a lot and there are some hilarious moments where he is basically riffing the movie with references to A Christmas Story and Westworld. I laughed more throughout this movie than I do for many straight-up comedies, though to be fair I tend to find humor can work better in non-comedies simply because it's not expected as much. There is more to Iron Man 3 than just comedy as there are some cool action sequences such as the "monkeys in a barrel" scene. It's also interesting to see Tony Stark out of the suit for the majority of the movie since he is Iron Man and the question is raised if he more than just a guy in powerful battle armor. This also allowed supporting characters Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts, and War Machine/Rhodey to be more involved with the story.

Besides directing Iron Man 3, Shane Black also has a writing credit on the film. I discovered that
Black also worked on the screenplays for The Monster Squad and Last Action Hero which is evident in this one with the meta humor and way the kid (Harley played by Ty Simpkins) was handled. I liked the portrayal of the Mandarin and the tacked on kid sidekick as a satirical commentary on more serious superhero and action movies. I wonder if the Mandarin was intended as a parody of Ra's al Ghul and Bane in Christopher Nolan's Batman films. I'm guessing it was probably playing off them a little but was more of a riff on movie villains in general. Either way I liked the take on the Mandarin and thought it worked well here, but can see why fans of the Iron Man comics (which I never read) would've preferred a more traditional approach.

Despite the clever and witty writing there are some issues here. For example, what are Aldrich Killian's motivations? I understand his beef with Tony Stark but we're supposed to believe that he turned evil just because Stark, an idiosyncratic playboy, didn't show up for a meeting one time? I know this incident was supposed to be the last straw for Killian but it simply doesn't work. If we saw Killian pushed to the edge before meeting Stark or if he was truly wronged by Stark it would've been fine but it seems that he's only bad guy because that's what it says in the script. This is an odd incongruity given the meta stuff in the rest of the movie which you'd think would parody something like this. I'm guessing Killian came from the film's other writer (Drew Pearce) or they just ran out of time to develop Killian more.

I think the Iron Man trilogy may be a bit underrated as a whole since it is part of the Marvel Studios franchise and most people focus on the first one. I still think that the original Iron Man movie is the best of the three. To be fair though I need to re-watch that one as it's been a while since I've last seen it and I've watched the other two more recently. I had a ton of fun with Iron Man 3 in the theaters and it held up a second time, which is great given the film's surprises and emphasis on humor. Iron Man 3 is neither as consistent as the first nor as thought provoking as the second, but despite some plot and pacing issues it's a still fun ride that is always entertaining
It will be interesting to see how exactly Iron Man will come back for Avengers: Age of Ultron since Iron Man 3 felt like an ending story, especially with the montage over the closing credits. Will Tony Stark return to the suit or contribute to the team in a different way? We'll have to wait until May 2015 to find out.

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