Friday, May 3, 2013

Iron Man 3: Iron Harder

The creative success of Iron Man 3 lies in Marvel Studios' gamble of hiring Shane Black as the writer and director of this movie. Black, of course, has worked with Robert Downey Jr. before in 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a movie that one wouldn't be wrong in suspecting had to something to do with Downey getting cast in the role of Tony Stark in the first place. In this sense, the reuniting of Black and Downing for Iron Man 3 seems logical and is really welcome when you consider how the presence of a strong voice in the writer/director chair can do so much to influence a movie for the better.

The biggest weakness of the Marvel Studios movies is that they can feel very conventional. There is little creativity to be found in the realm of the visual. The cinematography looks very similar going from movie to movie, making them, at their worst, feel more like assembly-line products than works of art. Of course, with The Avengers, Joss Whedon demonstrated how an author could get his personal voice and vision across in such a movie and Black thankfully follows in his footsteps. There is not that much innovation or particularly daring aspects to Iron Man 3 visually, but Black's voice can be felt throughout, just like Whedon's did.  

This time around Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is having trouble dealing with what he experienced in New York, during the events that take place in The Avengers. Only it's a bad time to be having such personal troubles since a terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is attacking America at full force. The usual characters, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Happy (Jon Favreau) are back. As well as the addition of a couple of scientist from Tony's past played by Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce. There are some really good twists to the plot, so I don't want to go that much into detail. Let me just say that the way in which The Mandarin is handled, and the Ben Kingsley performance are not only delightful, but also indicative of the voice and style Mr. Shane Black brings to the movie. 

Black rose to success by writing action movies in the eighties, such as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, and he very much brings the same sensibility to Iron Man 3. The Shane Black style of going back and forth between really dramatic and really funny moments works like gangbusters in the world of Iron Man. The typical Shane Black banter (minus the cussing) is there, making this the funniest Iron Man yet. And this is a great choice, since comedy and Downey Jr's charismatic performance have always been the franchise's strongest aspect. There is a middle section of the movie in which Tony Stark can't wear the Iron Man suit and it ends up being the most entertaining stretch of an overall highly entertaining movie. We all know the power of Downey as a performer, and Black does too. After all, that was what made the world fall in love with the first Iron Man, in which the action sequences weren't really all that good, but it was more than made up for with the writing and the performances (especially by Downey and Paltrow). 

Talking about the action, this is the first time I would catalogue the action in an Iron Man movie as satisfying. A sequence in particular, in which Tony has to rescue passengers falling rapidly from their aircraft to the ground is excellently staged and directed. There is also a lot of great action set pieces in which the Iron Man suit is not even involved. This speaks a lot about Black's background and approach. His interests as a filmmaker lie on the side of this particular story instead of the big Marvel mythology and the superhero stuff. For the most part this is to the movie's benefit, since it focuses on telling a good story and doesn't fall into the same stalling trappings of the info-dump that was Iron Man 2. Still, a part of me wishes there was a little more commitment to the more comic-booky stuff, which towards the end of the film feels unimportant, inconsequential, even illogical within this universe. 

The lack of interest in the more mythology-driven stuff doesn't bother that much when you have Shane Black putting some of his style in a comic-book movie. But at the same time, this is a Marvel Studios movie with a huge budget and millions of moviegoers to please, so Black's full imagination can't really go as wild as it does when he has truly free reigns. So, this is by no means Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but the presence of such a particular voice makes Iron Man 3 a better and more entertaining movie than what we usually get by the time a superhero appears on the big screen for the third time (Spider-Man 3, Dark Knight Rises, X-Men: The Last Stand all sucked, yes?).

Score: 8/10

Hope you liked the review. If you're already reading this, why not write something in the comments? I will write back, I promise. 

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