Friday, May 3, 2013

Iron Man 3 ★★★★

Finally, The Third Time Is The Charm

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

Providing a much needed breath of fresh air to the series, Iron Man 3 kicks off the summer movie season with a bang.

As a director, I must say I have never been a huge fan of Jon Favreau. As an actor, he's fine, but when the best movie he's directed is Elf (although I do love Elf), you know there's trouble. Thankfully, Favreau chose to leave the Iron Man series as a director to pursue other projects and was replaced by the prolific Shane Black. Black has only directed one other feature, the highly enjoyable Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but is clearly the man for the job, at least for this franchise.

There's a certain style that comes from a Shane Black script, most notably witty dialogue (perfect for Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark); voiceover narration; a noirish, pulpy feel to the story; and Christmas as the juxtaposed backdrop. All of these elements are in place for Iron Man 3, which Black co-wrote with Drew Pearce, and it serves the story in a variety of unique ways. The voiceover narration is one of those elements associated with the film noir style and it's use here gives the film less of a superhero feel and more of a detective-recalling-his-biggest-case vibe. To that point, a large part of this movie is uncovering a mystery that's set up in its first act, and Tony plays the role of lead detective perfectly.

Iron Man 3 is also violent in the ways Black is famous for, even though it's somewhat muted given its PG-13 rating and the studio's desire for it to fit within the Marvel universe, but Black still manages to make this movie his own. As opposed to the previous entries in the series, this time around, the violence matters. These aren't just CGI characters created to be blown up, though for those who want it, there's still an impressive amount of CGI in play. We believe that any of the characters could die at any moment, largely because of the tone Black establishes and maintains throughout, as well as Downey's best performance in the series.

At the beginning of the film, we're told through voiceover that Tony has made many enemies, as he reflects back to a New Year's Eve party in 1999 where he had a one night stand with a scientist named Maya (Rebecca Hall) and managed to blow off a crippled scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who was a huge admirer of Tony's. In the present, Killian despises Tony (why wouldn't he?), has gotten his disabilities in check, and now resembles the Guy Pearce we all know and love. Apparently, he is also working with a terrorist known only as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who shares in Killian's desire for Tony's demise. When The Mandarin attacks Tony at his home in Malibu, Tony is left for dead with only one non-functioning suit at his disposal, setting up some interesting plot reveals along the way.

The movie has also the task of picking up the pieces left by the end of The Avengers, but manages it quite nicely by removing any Avenger-esque subplot (a fault of nearly every Marvel movie to be released after the first Iron Man) and instead (brace yourself, this is a novel concept) placing Tony front and center. He's suffering from anxiety attacks after his near death experience, can't sleep, and has become more paranoid than ever about attacks from other worlds and dimensions. Tony's desperate, scared, and a little unhinged. This isn't the Tony Stark we're used to. Sure, he's cocky at times, but more as a deflection than ever before. He's lost the confidence he once had. As a result, he's created 42 new suits, each one a supposed improvement over the previous. These suits are meant not only to protect himself, but Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) as well. At one point, Tony says, as if to put it mildly, "Nothing's been the same since New York."

All of this is to say that Iron Man 3 is precisely the summer blockbuster that I hope both critics and audiences can agree on. It's a lot of fun, it's intelligent, and it's one of those rare movies that I look forward to seeing again.

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