Monday 6 May 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

Year: 2013
Director: Shane Black
Screenplay: Shane Black, Drew Pearce
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau

Synopsis is here:

NOTE: The following review contains what could be considered explicit spoilers. The film may have raked in all the money, but one must believe that not everyone visiting has seen it. 

"Since New York, everything changed" states an anxious and perturbed Tony Stark. It is a statement I wholeheartedly agree with. The billion dollar blockbuster which was The Avengers showed us just how big Marvel and Disney want to make these comic book franchises. The Avengers may be mostly based within the state of New York, yet in terms of the stakes, you can sense just how high they have become.

The Avengers also brought about a straight headed frothiness often forgotten in this kind of venture; happily reminding us that these comic books can not only manage grandeur but can do so while being bright, breezy and colourful. Iron Man 3 feels rather wearily like two steps back. Now, we have "final" entry that is little too romanced by The Dark Knight than it needs to be. While the second film didn't much the scale of The Dark Knight, so much of Shane Black's screenplay has the tinge of Nolan's adaptation, that the film near loses its own identity. However, there was a good chance of that happening anyway, as Iron Man 3 also harbours an awkward mesh of Disney and ultra violence that comes close to undoing the work that the first two films happily put forth. Yes, that's an admission that I didn't hate the second film.

My main issue with Iron Man 3, stems from its jarring tonal shifts. The film looks set to delve into the more curious aspects of Tony Stark, who is now having nightmares and panic attacks due to the events in New York. Unfortunately, despite the large amount of time Stark spends out of the suit, the film does very little to look at his demons effectively.

In fact Stark and friends feel the best of curing what ails him is with ludicrous and abrasive violence. The kill count of the good guys is not only high, but doesn't feel wholly justified when put in consideration to the villains badly realised motives. We should be fine with Iron Man blasting away indiscriminately because he spends lots of time with some latchkey kid during the second act. Stark's Real Steel moments suffer from the same kind of clumsiness that affects Spielberg at his so called worst, and yet due to the "cool" factor that comes with Robert Downley jr, this seems to be bypassed. The jump from Fisher Price my first mechanic to blasting fools with little regard becomes a harsh discourse.

I began to find the whole thing reductive. As a Disney/Marvel franchise feature, going dark could be problematic, but hiring Shane Black makes a clear statement of intent. Black's traits are everywhere for all to see, but are shoved awkwardly into a third feature which had its character under a different arc. One where its character evolved from selfish arms dealer to all into someone who begin to understand the responsibility he held in his blood stained hands. IM3 decides to effectively blast that away for some kick ass action scenes. That said, sky-diving set piece aside, the films spectacle is only intermittently engaging.    

 Iron man is far happier dulling my expectations by messing around with its main villain, The Mandarin. It's understandable that some of the more controversial and prejudiced aspects of the character needed to be exercised, but why after to the blood and sweat are we left with yet another white collar industrialist as the man behind the curtain? The series has cumbersomely come full circle.

On the positive side, the cast are still finely tuned to everything thrown at them. Downley Jr and Paltrow bounce off that fantastic chemistry that makes them such a fun couple to watch. Black's screenplay does much to keep them separate, yet their moments together are still effective. Sir Ben's Kingsley guzzles scenery like toffee and I really can't fault anything Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle or Rebecca Hall have done recently, let alone here.

A lot of the dialogue is snappy and chucklesome and individual moments and scenes hit their mark as you'd expect from a writer of Black's calibre. Yet the entire feature doesn't settle well in the pit of my stomach. As murky as the politics were in Nolan's Dark Knight Rises, the film still managed to fit within its universe of necessary evils and chaos that its characters are meant to inhabit. At least Batman kept it all about the turmoil of Bruce Wayne, Iron Man 3 seems happy to dismiss Stark's relationship and anxiety as fussy, uninteresting and easily micro managed by an 11 year old. That may not bother the cool kids or bean counters, but it gave me food for thought.