Apr 29, 2013

[Movies] Iron Man 3 (2013)

When a movie reaches its third installment, eyebrows tend to rise as expectations drop. Let's face it - sequel syndrome is rarely kind on movie franchises, but there are times that you get lucky.

When the first few trailers came out for Iron Man 3, I have to admit that I wasn't at all excited. I had definitely enjoyed the first movie and the sequel was still entertaining even if the villains weren't too amazing. But this third movie, well, I was more than just surprised. I was definitely impressed.

What has worked the most for this entire movie franchise all the way to The Avengers movie is Robert Downey, Jr. What started out as a rather amusing casting choice turned into an unforgettable role that I doubt anyone else can truly bring to life the way he has. So it didn't really matter how some of his past adversaries have been a little or even lackluster, this Tony Stark was more than ready to talk his way through (or even out of) every challenge.

And should this become the last Iron Man movie for Robert Downey, Jr., well, it's certainly a good way to cap off his run.

Synopsis: Iron Man 3 is the third installment in the Iron Man movie franchise as directed by Shane Black as opposed to Jon Favreau. While it is a sequel to Iron Man 2, it also manages to tie its internal continuity to The Avengers movie as well, which is a pretty interesting feat for any comic book movie. For far too long all of these movies have existed separately and Marvel decided to take the gamble to tying them all together.

The movie begins with Tony Stark's mansion being blown up. As we watch his various suits of armor subject to various explosions, we hear Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) narrate his thoughts as we go back to a night in 1999. On the brink of the turn of the millennium, we watch a younger Stark encounter the brilliant botanist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) while deftly avoiding the somewhat crippled Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who was eager to get Stark's support to form his new company Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM).

And then we're back in the modern day and we learn that a new terrorist leader known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is terrorizing the world. He routinely takes over all television networks to deliver his threats to the leaders of the world, but in particular the President of the United States. But despite all the various intelligence agencies trying to discover the identity of the Mandarin and more importantly his whereabouts. At the same time, Tony is still dealing with the trauma of barely surviving the events at the end of the Avengers movie and is obsessed with creating new suits of armor to face the even more diverse threats beyond this solar system.

One of the things that always set Marvel Comics apart (especially in the early years) was how their characters were never perfect. Beyond weaknesses or vulnerabilities, Marvel characters had true flaws and problems. Beyond trauma, they had issues in spades and this movie made sure to tap into that aspect of the mythos. Thus here we had a man who had been clearly shaken by dealing with an extraterrestrial (and even divine) phenomenon and had just barely survived to tell the tale.

Now matter how advanced his technology is or how amazing his suits of armor seem to be, Tony Stark is as human as the rest of us. And this movie decided to remind us of that fact in no uncertain terms by making him  struggle with his trauma and eventually rely more on his wits instead of his armor. And thus he inadvertently gets to prove what truly makes him a hero.

Admittedly the Christmas setting was a little weird - it's easy to rationalize but it's not exactly a home run. The end of the year is a good time for reflection, renewal and basically re-evaluating your life. Then again, Shane Black generally has a tendency to set his movies during the Christmas period as a bit of a signature. So go figure.

There's a lot of controversy around the character of the Mandarin. Even if you've only seen the trailers, one can 't help but feel that he's somewhat wrong or at least not in-sync with how we know him from the comics. Then again, his original character was based on a most inappropriate racial stereotype and it's not exactly something that we can "celebrate" given modern sensibilities. And the way that his character was ultimately handled in this movie was even more of a surprise, but I for one felt it made sense. The movie reminds us that the Mandarin is more than just a man and this attempt to update his character in the context of recent events like the global war on terror and such made for a most interesting turn of events.

I also loved how the character of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) was really brought into the forefront this time around. As if it wasn't cool enough for her to have become the CEO of Stark Industries, she gets to demonstrate that she's not just a pretty face as well. And no, I don't think it was just a matter of treating her character like a man. She remains a powerful character in her own right.

Guy Pearce seems to be practically everywhere these days. I mean seriously, it's like he's taking on movie projects left and right. He did make an interesting enough villain her outside of the Mandarin. In the past we had fellow industrialists trying to challenge Stark on financial grounds. This time around we had someone with the intelligence to go toe-to-toe with Tony and a similar drive as well.

On the whole, Iron Man 3 was certainly a rewarding experience. Sure it had all the flashy special effects and action that we expect from a summer blockbuster, but it also had a pretty complex and meaningful story at its core. They had a message that they wanted to deliver about Tony Stark being a hero beyond Iron Man and that worked out rather beautifully. Thus the movie gets 4.5 Iron Man suits blasting the bad guys out of a possible 5.

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