Thursday, May 2, 2013

Iron Man 3 Reviewed

New York City is still rebuilding after an attack from Loki and Alien forces, and the world at large is reeling from the knowledge that there are super powered beings among us. One of those heroes of New York is merely a man in a high tech suit, haunted by the enormity of those events and his place in it. As Tony Stark contemplates his frailty in the scheme of things, he compensates by creating a suit of armor for every conceivable threat or emergency, which leaves little time for sleep and healthy relationships.

Iron Man 3 opens on a haggard Tony Stark perfecting his 42nd suit of which will literally jump to his aid at his merest thought..which should tell you something about his mental state. The world has become a very dangerous place with The Mandarin threatening terrorist actions and our government getting nowhere with tracking him down or even plotting his next move. Luckily, we have War Machine, now repainted and renamed Iron Patriot, to defend us. Thrown into the mix is Aldrich Killian, a ghost from Tony's past who has remade himself into a slick rival and returned with a new technology that boasts the ability to upgrade our human abilities. Now the film evolves into a veritable game of chess. Tony becomes entangled in The Mandarin's plots and is also in the sights of Killian. Killian would add his genius to the scientific co-op dubbed A.I.M. (advanced idea mechanics), but if Tony were to refuse, The Mandarin might take him off the board completely, so it's a win win! The plot whizzes along with Tony struggling with his own personal eternal question;  "Is it the suit that makes the man..or the man that makes the suit", while his whole world explodes around him, leaving him more vulnerable than he has ever been. Iron Man and Iron Patriot must stop the Mandarin and reveal Killian's role in all this chaos before more innocents get caught in the crossfire.

This is an interesting one. I can see people loving Iron Man 3 and leaving theaters with giant sized, kid-like smiles on their faces. I can also see those who have come to expect certain elements in an Iron Man film to feel a bit cheated, as, truth be told, this is more an "Adventures of Tony Stark" story than it is a high tech Iron Man shoot-em-up. Further, there will also be the comic die hards who I could see banging away at their keyboards with great fury after a screening. The movie introduces a bit of a twist that I found refreshingly fun, but certainly deflates the anticipation for further super powered action in the film.

At it's core, Iron Man 3 is about humanity. Tony has gotten a taste of a world he has little hope of controlling and notes his insignificance in the face of it all. Building all those new suits of armor is his way of trying to shield himself from what may come next, even though, deep down, he knows he can't be ready for everything...and this is tearing him apart inside. Later, when stripped of his armor and left to his own devices (no pun intended), he is forced to face this frailty sooner than later, and never before has the phrase "I AM Iron Man" meant so much. Pepper Potts remains by Tony's side. Having been there for so long, she understood what being with this man was going to mean from day 1, thought she'll still attempt to rail against his base nature. Her story is about her role in his life, which has now been escalated beyond imagining, and finding strength to defend herself, and Tony, at those crucial times. She will not be a wilting rose or the screaming female running through a horror film. Aldrich Killian was that kid who was picked on all his life for his intelligence, appearance and physical disabilities. His anger toward being dismissed by Tony Stark in the past has driven him to quite literally re-invent himself as the charismatic, euro-styled man of the future who seizes power the second the opportunity presents itself. If he can't get something by asking or throwing money at it, he will plot for as long as it takes to obtain it. His patience is only matched by his monstrous ambition. Looking at the film in this light, you could say Iron Man 3 is very much a worthy sequel to The Avengers. You have these insane moments where giant creatures fill the New York Skyline and a man in a high tech suit is flying to meet them head on. In counterpoint, we now see the aftermath of these world shaking events, felt physically and mentally. We also have the man who was Earth's hero, now stripped bare of all he thought made him powerful..forced to look at himself as the sum of his very human gifts.

All that depth aside...they sure do blow up things real good! Iron Man 3 excels in providing harrowing action that makes sense within the story and not just to provide mindless chaos for the masses. There is an intelligence behind every well crafted action moment I can't help but applaud. Now I'll return to a point I brought up before...that this is more a Tony Stark movie, with our hero spending a great deal of time without the benefit of his shiny suits. Luckily, these moments are just as enjoyable (if you are like me and just like to watch Robert Downey Jr work) and all wacky hijinks are kept to a minimum. That said, I am POSITIVE there will be many who will disagree with me on that point.

Iron Man 3 has everything I love in a colossal action blockbuster movie. Things exploding, those in peril being saved, a hero worth cheering for, a villain you love to hate, intelligent writing that is faithful to previous films, a lot of heart and a heaping helping of laughter. RDJ and crew are at the top of their game and have perfected their characters. Even Happy Hogan will give you something to cheer about! Guy Pearce's Killian drips wicked intent and presents us with a villain you'll flat out grey area and no sympathetic back story. Ben Kingsley very nearly steals the scenes he shared with RDJ, which is saying a lot! All of this is enough to make me forget about the horrible James Bond-esque music we are inundated with in some scenes. Guess you can't have everything. I'll also point out that Don Cheadle's talents are wasted here. If you want someone to just be a sidekick, you don't need an actor of this caliber.

As a piece of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, I found Iron Man 3 to be an excellent fit. Go in with an open mind, enjoy the Tony Stark you've come to love, be ready to jump out of your seat when the dozen or so suits of armor show up in the film's finale and stay til after the credits for a bit of light comedy acting like the extra french fries that fell to the bottom of your bag you discovered before you tossed it. Iron Man 3 may not be the movie you were expecting, but these days, with all the cookie cutter "play it safe" films being made, that is a damn good thing.

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