Sunday, May 19, 2013

Iron Man 3: Quick Thoughts

As a long-time comics aficionado, I have delightfully enjoyed the renaissance of the superhero movie. Arguably, you could say that it started with Bryan Singer's X-Men, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, or even Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. But the one that I feel has really started the absolute frenzy was Jon Favreau's Iron Man: Not only did it do a great job of making a fun movie, with a somewhat believable premise, but it was a perfect blend of characters, action, and, most importantly, comic book story arcs that culminated in the blockbuster, The Avengers.

The third Iron Man movie came out a couple of weeks ago, and I finally got to see it. I was pretty excited, as, unlike the previous two, it was written and directed by Shane Black. Who the heck is Shane Black? Glad you asked: virtually every great buddy cop action adventure movie in the 1990's was a Shane Black creation: the Lethal Weapon films, the vastly underrated The Last Boy Scout, the truly magnificent The Long Kiss Goodnight...the list goes on. Hell, he even starred in one of the all-time classics: Arnold Schwarzengger's Predator. But two of his films were both underappreciated, and yet so very good for his mastery of not only the buddy/action/comedy genre, but the clear understanding of when its ok to laugh at yourself: The Last Action Hero and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the latter of which he also directed. Don't believe me? Go watch Iron Man 3, then watch either or both of those. Tell me it's not a direct progression.

In any case, the film was fun, enjoyable, and utterly watchable. Just some short thoughts below. Beware; some spoilers may be included. Warned? Ok, let's go:

  • This was very much a Shane Black movie, not just or maybe even, an Iron Man movie. The disjointed narration of Robert Downey Jr.? Straight outta Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And, of course, it's not a Shane Black film unless it's Christmas, especially in Los Angeles. 
  • The characters were a little more believable and developed, compared to the two dimensionality of Iron Man 2. Tony never seemed all that emotionally affected by what seemed to be a more imminent mortality in the previous film, other than the over the top stuff; this one had a real resonance from The Avengers. And Pepper was finally able to seriously kick butt; nice touch. 
  • This was more of a Tony Stark film than an Iron Man film, and that actually worked out ok. Loved the scenes with him and Don Cheadle doing their best Shane Black storming the fortress while cracking wise and showing each other up. 
  • My major disappointment was with the culmination of the Extremis storyline. Comic geeks know this one well (you should definitely read the short series that led to this), and I thought they adapted it well for the movie. I was only disappointed with the very end, where Tony goes under the knife, his electromagnet is removed, and he wakes up fine. In the comics, Tony "hacks" the Extremis virus to essentially incorporate the Iron Man armor to be generated right out of his skin, as well as other improvements. The fact that they showed Tony opening his eyes after surgery, with his monologue about how he successfully engineered Extremis to heal Pepper "as well as other things," set it up perfectly. All they needed to do was show the Jarvis display on that close up of his eye at the end, and you have the perfect set up for Iron Man 4, The Avengers 2, and more. It was right there. I feel like it's what the Marvel folks wanted and, for some reason, backed off. 
  • Much was made of the fact that this was the first major studio film with a significant investment from China, to the tune of $158 million. There was also significance to the fact that some of the film was filmed in China. Did we see that? Outside of a blurry background of Shanghai in the last fleeting sections of the film, I feel like it wasn't even there. Of course, there was an additional 30 minutes of the movie made specifically for Chinese markets, featuring a storyline that was practically reduced to a minute in this movie, and Chinese-favorite actors. Remember the Chinese doctor introduced to Tony in the Switzerland flashback? And notice the folks doing surgery on him at the end were all Chinese? Yep, connected...and nothing else. Guess we'll have to wait for the BluRay to see it all. 
  • Some nice continuity of the comics universe, as well as the Marvel movie universe. "Subtlety kinda went out the window when the big guy with the hammer showed up." I was disappointed that Tony's unarmored combat scenes didn't get a callback to Captain America showing him a few tricks; would have been believable and consistent with the comics. 
  • We have to talk about the two villain thing. Iron Man 2 tried it; failed. Pretty much every superhero sequel has tried it and failed; outside of The Dark Knight, I've never seen it work. Shane Black got it perfectly: we know one of the villains will come up short, so why not make that a central premise? Sir Ben Kingsley pulled it off magnificently.
Overall, a really enjoyable film, and I hope it does for Shane Black what The Avengers did for Joss Whedon: make Hollywood realize that these guys can be given free reign, and they will both honor the material, and make it even better.


sarahuaboston said...

Does Thor make a cameo appearance? If not, I'm not going to see it =P said...

Good review Josh. Following the Avengers is hard to pull off, but at least this movie does it quite well.

Joshua Tretakoff said...

Sorry, sarahuaboston: no beefcake in this one. Guess you'll have to wait until The Dark World.