Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3, a review

When Shane Black was announced as Jon Favreau's successor, I jumped with glee. Largely because Black has directed (and written) many of my favorite films and I couldn't image how good Iron Man 3 would be. Having now seen Iron Man 3 and taken a night to reflect, I can safely say that I'm simultaneously glad and disappointed in the overall product.

With his sanity beginning to crack a bit, Tony Stark has to rise up and take on a terrorist with ties to his past. The sins of the past, as it were.

NARRATIVE

As always, the gem of Marvel's current universe seems to revolve around Robert Downey Jr's effortless performance as the brilliant Tony Stark. Here is no exception. With Kiss Kiss Bang Bang firmly set in cinematic stone, Black and co-writer Drew Pearce give Stark more one-liners and gadgets than Pierce Brosnan ever had. The stylistic choices, given Black's commitment to a more Tom Clancy-esque treat offer us plenty to deal with. The writing is uniformly solid, with witticisms and nice little reversals throughout, though the third act suffers from an over-reliance on 'Transformers' which brought it down quite a bit.

The supporting cast is given far more to do, with Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow actually being heavily involved in the plot and action. They both even get their own little moments for once (though the action scenes seem more at home in the latest Indiana Jones film than they do here).

However, the pacing is where things begin to fall apart. Act one contains far more personal material than the rest of the film, and the relationship between Potts and Stark is centered perfectly. However, once act two begins, the separation happens and, strangely enough, there is a great deal of meandering for at least 35-45 minutes. It adds little to the plot or character development, and the tension is sapped.

The finished product lacks catharsis and the ending has little emotional circularity. The bad guy dies, the victims are saved (even though thy are said to be pretty darn evil) and Stark creates yet another fireworks show. Given the psychological heft in the first act, its a shame that Downey isn't given more to do than just save the world.

Guy Pearce is suitably slimy as Don 'Let's Rumble' Rumsfeld in a Trump haircut, but he's more firebrand than actual character. Ben Kingsley, one of the few delights here, is, well, delightful. See it just for his two scenes.

TECHNICAL

I mentioned the 'Transformers' style ending, and if you enjoyed said film, you will enjoy this more than I did. That said, Iron Man 3 certainly looks impressive, particularly if you consider the Bondian elements than the first films lacked. The effects snap crackle and pop, particularly in the early assault on Stark manor by a trio of attack helicopters (by far the film's best action sequence).

The editing, in a similar breakfast cereal vein, whizzes and crackles (save for that sagging middle act). Musically, it is suitable and worthwhile if a bit forgetful. The cinematography is stunning, employing more whiplash than Michael Bay (I swear this is the last time I pluck that particular harp string) and enjoys the momentum created by the sometimes perfect pacing.

THEMES

Politically, the film is more difficult to pin down. The pot shots at American media propaganda are amusing (i.e. Iron Patriot) and the oil 'scandal' thrown at the President is about as timely and winsome as a 9/11 joke. But, it works and keeps things culturally contained.

Moreover, the film offers an interesting if brief treatise on the sins we create. Stark pays, in some respects, the price for being a pompous ass in his early career. Curiously, the film shows him in a state of 'redeeming' but he is still contained in his original sin. The idea being that even though one can be redeemed or move towards reconciliation, the sins of yesterday are still in the rear-view mirror.

An allusion, perhaps, to King David makes this more interesting than the film divulges. But, at least, the film offers far more to think and ponder than most summer blockbusters.

CONCLUSION

Despite a lackluster middle act and a lack of potential being utilized, Iron Man 3 offers some impressive action sequences and another dapper performance by Robert Downey Jr. Shane Black concocts some elaborate scenes of bait and switch, but one wishes that this was adapted throughout.

The film suffers not because it is a bad film (it surely isn't) but because it could've been far more than it currently is.

3 out of 5.

--Nick

1 comment:

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