Sunday, May 5, 2013

As Another Movie Once Put it Best

Hey guys, remember when I said that this next entry wasn't gonna be a review?

Well, maybe not a lie per se.  More accurately, I decided to bump this one up as it's still pretty relevant, having come out this weekend. With that said, some of you can guess where this is going.

I will admit, I initially went into Iron Man 3 with some reservation.  I still enjoy the first movie, and actually consider it to be one of the better movies to have come out of the comic movie renaissance to this point.  The second movie? Let's just say I found the second movie to be something of a mess of muddled ideas and actors running away with their parts.  In fact, while I'd consider Iron Man to be one of the high points of the current generation of comic movies, I consider Iron Man 2 to then be among the lowest.  So my expectations were kept fairly restrained going into this one, even with the strong advanced reviews. So, I finally got to seeing it this Saturday and I have to say, I was satisfied and a bit surprised.

Part of the reason for the surprise was the fact that the film's promotions were simultaneously accurate and misleading in what they presented.  For those who need a quick, spoiler-free recap: the world is reeling from attacks by a mysterious terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley.)  As the world (with the rather curious exception of SHIELD, apparently) scrambles to find the man, our hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) steps up to challenge him.  Of course, Tony's been having his own problems - the events from The Avengers have left him with a case of PTSD that's affecting his life, his creations, and his relationships, and this is before the Mandarin decides to take Tony up on his challenge.  This is all in the first act, by the way. Much of the film then follows Tony's trying to find the Mandarin and becoming mixed up in a conspiracy involving a dangerous new biological agent with the ability to create supersoldiers. Suits fly, lines are quipped, and there's only so much more I can say for the story without spoiling things.

Also, the action figure designers need a towel after this awesome finale, I might add.

Anyway, to start from that point, the story is kind of a mix of feelings on this one.  As an overall concept, it's relatively solid.  Under closer inspection though, it does have some plot holes- such as the above-mentioned lack of SHIELD involvement.  When a man threatens, on a hijacked media feed, to kill the President of the United States, you'd think Nick Fury would at least send a consultant for the situation.  Also, much as I like the idea of addressing Tony not quite being over what he experienced at the end of The Avengers, it does feel like something of a discarded plot thread after a while.  It's an interesting idea that never really gets the time it needs to develop.  Despite these elements, the plot still moves at a largely good pace and manages to work in a few nice surprises along the way, culminating in what is arguably the most satisfactory final act of the three movies.

Like the story, the characters are kind of a hit and miss spread here.  I will start by saying everyone's acted well in this. The two standouts are RDJ,  who remains at the top of his game with this role, and Ben Kingsley, who plays the role so well I'd watch an entire movie devoted just to him.  The problem for others seems to be less with how they're acted and more in how they're written.  A major example of this is in Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen, a former fling of Tony's whose research is opening a pandora's box in terms of human enhancement.  Her role starts out interesting, as a means to introduce audiences to the idea of Extremis. Yet after that, she just seems to linger.  They make an effort to give her a little more by inverting the cliche of her role, but still doesn't really add much.  Likewise, Guy Pearce as sinister industrialist Aldrich Killian feels like there's no real personality to him beyond just being a bad guy.  Now, I will give him some minor leeway here since, to be honest, villains haven't been a strong suit for the IM movies anyway. Prior to this, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane was the only one who didn't feel like a muddled heap of quirks and ideas (which is kind of sad to say, since I usually love Sam Rockwell, but his Justin Hammer was just useless comic relief.)  Granted, this still doesn't make it right that Pearce's character is flat, so much as it's acknowledging this is more just a problem they've had in the series anyway.  Like I said above, character-wise, the Mandarin is actually the standout of the new characters in this movie - as a character, he's always been something of a tricky one to translate into film - by his original design, he was something of a racist caricature, and even as he was depicted in the promotional material to this, he seemed on the verge of being your classic 'brown terrorist' archetype that's been done to death.  The way he is actually executed, however, really adds much more to him and really handily sidesteps a lot of the pitfalls the character could have led to.  The one other new character that actually makes any sort of impression for the better was Harley, a child character introduced in the second act played by Ty Simpkins.  Rather than being the classic overly innocent kid who helps bring out the better side of Tony, the two actually verbally spar off each other, which actually makes for a nice change of the traditional dynamic. Also, while the kid does bring out Tony's better half, Tony is still himself, and at times a colossal dick to said kid, including driving off and leaving the kid in the cold. And it's hilarious.

Yes, I would watch a whole movie of this guy.  When you see this movie, chances are you would too.

I know I've come back to the idea of this film skewing expectations a number of times so far, and honestly, it's for a good reason.  In the newly transferred hands of Shane Black (taking over for Jon Favreau, who still remains playing bodyguard Happy Hogan,) the film does a LOT with the idea of messing with traditional cliches and expectations in terms of plot and characterization.  It's actually rather interesting when one considers that the promotions for the film, while technically accurate, were also presented in such a way as to give us a completely different impression of the movie.

In terms of technical achievement, the movie is solid.  The editing and music are good, if not anything that will immediately stand out as strong suits, and the effects continue to hold up Marvel's high quality.  This particularly pays off during the film's finale, in which the better part of the Iron Man arsenal is deployed in an impressive final battle.

Admittedly, half the stuff I want to really discuss about this movie, I can't get into without going into details that would give things away.  In fact, even as comprehensive as this writeup was regarding the writing, it still feels lacking to me.  Overall, it's a fairly solid final chapter to the Iron Man trilogy.  It certainly has its faults, largely results of the writing. However, the film still holds up despite them.  Even if parts of this movie have overall surpassed the quality of the first movie, I would argue the original IM remains an overall better (and summarily, the best) movie of the trilogy.  Thankfully, it certainly is an improvement over the second movie's let down.  I'm not sure how this one will branch into the eventual Avengers 2, but as it is, on its own merits, it still does its job nicely enough.

With that, the summer movie season is now officially in full swing.  I'm looking forward to a couple of titles, but all in all, still in 'wait and see' mode.

In the meantime, next time I make good on that non-review article next time...and if I lie then, THEN you can come after me for it.

(...I could regret that, huh?)

On the plus side, at least this means I've got 1.5 people waiting...
...theoretically, anyway.

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