Saturday, 27 April 2013

Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Drew Pearce & Shane Black
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle

Marvel’s latest instalment in their comic book franchise and the first in the self-title ‘phase 2’ may just be the best comic book film ever made. In fact, it may just be the best film ever made.

The above statement applies only if the viewer is simply content enough to see another Marvel film, regardless of its quality. For anyone else looking for a departure from the usual mindless SMASH BOOM BANG CRASH that is 90% of modern Hollywood blockbusters, and hoping Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black will be the shining light to lead the way, will be left sorely disappointed.

This is the point in a review where a genuine appreciation for some comic book films must be made clear to avoid potential dissenters claiming I hate the genre. Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman (1989), X-Men, X-2, Blade, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and even Captain America are all examples of films in the genre I have respect for. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue.

The crux of the problem with Iron Man 3, and indeed the trilogy as a whole, is the character of Tony Stark. Many adore the one liners and ‘witty’ dialogue he comes out with, and in the first film this was a refreshing and welcome change, but the apparent need to make two sequels and The Avengers outing has turned what was once a nice twist on the archetypal leading man into little more than a mouthpiece for cheap gags. Moreover, it is because of the relentless gags and comedy that the trilogy offers little in the way of genuine excitement.

From the very first scene Stark is cracking wise, which sets the tone immediately; this is not a ‘darker’ story or one ‘grounded in reality’ as the trailers and posters may have us think. This is essentially a $200 million slapstick comedy for it offers joke after joke after joke but precious little in the way of excitement; yes, the CGI is excellent and the set pieces are large, but nothing ever feels at stake in this film, in no small part to Stark’s seemingly incurable verbal diarrhoea. Like Quentin Tarantino or David Mamet, Shane Black’s dialogue is unmistakable and often copied by lesser writers but this marks his first screenplay involving existing characters and his words merely add gasoline to the raging and destructive fire that is Tony Stark.

When Stark is threatened or feels pain, he never shows any sign of a change, he simply quips in the same way he speaks to anyone else; compare this to when Joe Hallenbeck is threatened in Black’s screenplay for The Last Boyscout. Hallenbeck continues his usual dry one-liners, but it’s allowing him time to think up a solution to get out of the predicament he’s finding himself in and jump into action afterwards. With Stark, everything is pre-planned and the gags are just there because he has nothing else to say.

Dialogue aside, let’s focus on the action and spectacle. The positive aspect is that the film is not crammed with action from start to finish like a Transformers film and the attack on Stark’s house and the mid-air rescue of 12 Air Force One passengers are certainly well staged, directed in a way which allows the action to make sense, and fairly original, if never wholly engaging because of the set-up which leads to their execution. A perfect example is the moment before Stark’s house is attacked where one character sees a missile heading towards the house on the TV screen, points and says “should we be worried about that?” Imagine Martin Riggs saying such a nonchalant line before the helicopter attack in Lethal Weapon. You can’t, but you can imagine it in a lesser action movie and Iron Man 3 is simply a lesser comic book movie.

Tellingly, after the credits roll the film ends with the words ‘Tony Stark will return’ but not a mention of Iron Man. This is fitting because in Iron Man 3 it makes no difference who wears the suits because apparently they are one-size-fits-all; no matter if Tony Stark is an engineering genius who has spent years perfecting his suits, Pepper Potts can wear it and control the weapons too, so what makes Tony Stark special? Moreover, what difference does the suit make because by this third entry Stark is as farcically indestructible as John McClane in the later Die Hard films; without the suit he still slides down metal bridges, crashes into steel platforms, and jumps off high structures without any fear. It loses any sense of character in the final third and Robert Downey Jr. may as well be a CGI creation himself.

Of course Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is reduced to the damsel in distress and has to be rescued in the final act, just like in the previous two films. Admittedly the script allows for a change in her character, but this may just be the most ludicrous part of the film which won’t be revealed here. If that happened in a non-Marvel film, no one would let it slide and it would be called out for the utter nonsense it is, even for its genre.

The one saving grace comes from Sir Ben Kingsley as ‘The Mandarin’ and in the genuinely excellent twist, but in a spoiler-free review his contribution can’t be discussed here in much detail. Sadly, its effect does nothing to off-set the total lack of tension or fear built up by villains who can blow themselves up and can melt metal with their hands. They are as menacing and credible as The Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man and that, to make it clear, is not a compliment.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: The film isn’t a total disaster like the previous film and is adequate enough to pass the time for a one-off viewing for there will be a lot worse than this in 2013, but it is nothing more than adequate at best. Iron Man 3’s real success is making those truly great comic book films look even greater.

No comments:

Post a Comment