Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3
Directed by: Shane Black.
Written by: Drew Pearce & Shane Black based on the comic by Stan Lee and Don Heck and Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin), James Badge Dale (Savin), Stephanie Szostak (Brandt), Paul Bettany (Jarvis), William Sadler (President Ellis), Dale Dickey (Mrs. Davis), Ty Simpkins (Harley Keener), Miguel Ferrer (Vice President Rodriguez).

Iron Man 3 pretty much confirmed my suspicions about superhero movies coming off the one-two punch of 2012 with The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises – mainly that there is nothing else that can really be done with them that hasn’t been done before. The two 2012 movies pretty much took superhero movies to their logical extremes – it’s probably not possible to make a superhero movie darker or more realistic than Nolan’s Batman films and still have it be a superhero movie (not something like Kick Ass). And you probably can’t really make a superhero movie any bigger than The Avengers – after all, who else can you possibly add to make it an even bigger movie. I have a feeling that from now on, superhero movies will be much like Iron Man 3. If they’re as well done as this movie is, they will be entertaining – a fun way to spend a couple of hours. But like Iron Man 3, they won’t really add anything new to the genre.

This Iron Man finds Tony Stark still reeling from the events of The Avengers. He has become increasingly paranoid and sleep deprived, and works all night, seemingly every night, tinkering with his suits. Meanwhile, two things happen – one a terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who has a Chinese name, dresses like a samurai, and makes videos like Osama Bin Laden lecturing America on their sins – has committed a number of bombings aimed at Americans. And the second is that two people from Stark’s past – botanist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and think tank leader Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) re-enter his life. And in a comic book movie, you know when someone from the past shows up, they usually aren’t friendly.

After two previous Iron Man movies, and The Avengers, we pretty much know what to expect from Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. At this point, his fast talking, charming ego maniac performance in these movies has essentially become shtick – although to be fair, it is still an entertaining shtick, unlike say Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which has gotten on my nerves in the last couple of movies. I could watch Downey Jr. riff as Tony Stark all day, and not get bored – which is a good thing, because that’s pretty much what he does in Iron Man 3. Unlike the first two movies, which were directed by Jon Favreau, this one is directed by Shane Black – more famous as a writer than a director – who helped write the other Iron Man movies, but this time is given full control. Perhaps that’s why this movie is more talky than the previous two – don’t worry, there is still plenty of action in Iron Man 3, and it’s handled well (although I did grow weary during the final, extended action sequence, which went on for too long, and essentially tried – and failed – to do something as big as The Avengers last year). Black, whose only other film as a director was the wonderfully entertaining Downey vehicle Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – which was all talk. That film was a critical favorite, and one of the key stops on Downey’s journey back to respectability.

The rest of the cast is in fine form. Gwyneth Paltrow has never really been given much to do as Pepper Potts, and that continues this time around – but she’s fine. Poor Don Cheadle has perhaps even less to do as Rhodes AKA War Machine, although he does have some amusing moments late in the movie. As for the newcomers, I don’t think I ever really bought Rebecca Hall as a botanist – not because she doesn’t seem intelligent enough to be a scientist (like say Denise Richards in that Bond movie), but because she seems too intelligent to be in this movie. Guy Pearce lays it on pretty thick as Aldrich Killian – but with a name like that he pretty much has to, right? The same can be said for Ben Kingsley, who is obviously having great fun playing the Mandarin. In short, they are a marked improvement over Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2, but don’t truly rise to the level of great super villain.

I realize this review makes it sound like I didn’t really like Iron Man 3 all that much. That’s not true. The movie is over two hours long, but is never boring. It is well written by Black and Drew Pearce. Robert Downey Jr. is always great fun to watch when he does his Tony Stark thing – which he does far more than in the previous two movies, as he’s outside the suit more than usual. You can tell Black wanted to push the movie into some darker places – apparently he wanted to address Stark’s alcoholism and depression (well known to fans of the comics) but the studio balked. This is a definite improvement over Iron Man 2, which was a rather lazy outing even if it too was kind of fun. In short, Iron Man 3 is precisely what you think it’s going to be when you head into the theater. That’s both a good and bad thing.

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