Friday, May 10, 2013

Iron Man 3, extreme Extremis

There was never any doubt in the universe that there would be a third outing for my favourite super-hero of all after the success of the previous instalments coupled with the cinematic phenomenon that was The Avengers. With the loss of Jon Favreau however, who favoured Cowboys and Aliens [how did that work out Jon?] over bookending one of the greatest trilogies of cinematic history, it meant the quality was uncertain. Even when Fav’s replacement, Shane Black was announced it was met with excitement and trepidation. Black was a very unlikely left-of-field choice to take over as director of something as rich in super-hero lore as Iron Man. The man wrote Lethal Weapon, the excessively dark original movie where Martin Riggs was mentally unhinged and had suicidal tendencies. Black previously directed Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so as potential candidates lined up for the job, Downey pushed for Black to take the reins and got him.

For Iron Man 3, Black took the best 'Armoured Avenger' saga from the 2000’s and seamlessly melded it with Marvel-style humour not seen since the 'Bronze Age' of comic books - and it worked! He managed to prevent everything from appearing silly somehow, especially the ideas that could never work in a live action semi-realistic universe. Even I was apprehensive about how Iron Man’s comic book arch-nemesis The Mandarin would be manifested considering he was both personification of pure evil as well as the wielder of 10 magic alien rings! Favreau had earlier avoided The Mandarin citing that the villain was “too fantastical”. Rather than being dismissive of the character outright, Black found a uniquely unorthodox way of dealing with this and the result is nothing short of pure genius - once you get over the initial shock! Black’s own signature wacky white-guy and straight-laced black-guy team-up even made an appearance here as Stark and Rhodey had a shootout with some bad-guys. For a couple of minutes it was like being in a cross between Lethal Weapon and Black’s other masterpiece The Last Boyscout.

Robert Downey Jr. obviously returns as Tony Stark, becoming the oldest actor to play a superhero in modern times. At 47, Downey showed no signs of slowing up and actually had far more action sans-suit in this instalment than any other. Stark’s debilitating issue this time is not the shrapnel near his heart or his over-fondness of fermented vegetable drinks, but instead nightmares and panic attacks borne from his experiences in The Avengers. Additionally, despite his personal growth, he is still a rich asshole who delivers some tactless home-truths to a young boy who helps him on his way. Once again Downey delivers a superb performance as the perpetually flawed Stark, a man who must now regain that which is so easily lost: confidence in oneself.

Stark is backed up by his ever-suffering girlfriend Pepper Potts [Gwyneth Paltrow] and Don Chedle as Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, no longer the sinister-sounding War Machine but the flag waving, Captain America-inspired Iron Patriot! Guy Pierce, someone who up to recently avoided these types of movies turned in a credible performance as a version of Dr. Killian from the Extremis comic-book storyline but it is Sir Ben Kingsley’s mind-fuck performance as the nefarious Mandarin that should net him his most deserved accolades since Ghandi. Supporting this grand adventure are Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan, The Pacific’s James Badge Dale portrays Savin, William Die Hard 2 Sadler appears as the POTUS and Paul Bettany’s vocal tones are once again lent to J.A.R.V.I.S. who certainly has more dialog than before.

The action here is probably more infrequent than in previous instalments, with little of note happening until the end of Act 1. However this paves way for more thoughtful character development which many said was lacking in Iron Man 2 in favour of “brainless action”. On the other hand, while it’s easy to understand some individuals disappointment with slower-paced second Act, I can’t fathom why the finale’s extraordinary finale, a true example of classic spectacular super-hero adventure film-making couldn’t turn the most staunch nay-sayer into a true believer unless… …unless they’re dead inside!

It’s far to say Iron Man 3 is more of a direct sequel to The Avengers even though it’s a bookend to an impressive trilogy of movies that are close to rivalling the sheer perfection of The Dark Knight trilogy. We have been with Tony Stark on his incredible journey and while there will likely be another appearance in The Avengers 2 and speculation is mounting on Iron Man 4 considering the phenomenal box-office success of this movie, the chapter in Iron Man’s book that was opened with the first movie in 2008 is now closed. If a new one is opened it should be something unique but bookended in it’s own right so we’re not left hanging when Downey Jr. finally says “I’m too old for this shit” – a distinct possibility considering how tight he rolls with Black who wrote that line before.

Final Verdict: This is a classic end to an explosive adventure and as a true fan of Iron Man I couldn't be happier with this finale. It is easily best written of the trilogy, certainly the darkest and most dramatic and it has the best score - this time from Brian Tyler. It's sagging second act and lack of Scarlett Johannson prevent it from achieving the rating exemption granted to Iron Man 2 however, but it undoubtedly deserves every star of the highest rating possible.

Colonel Creedon rating: *****+

1 comment:

Bruce Russell said...

This one will be a tough act to follow...