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Monday, May 6, 2013

Dan's Review: IRON MAN 3 Suits Me Very Well

IRON MAN 3 is the culmination of the "Comic Book Movie" genre. 
It has great action, story, wit, style and (real) substance. 
In perhaps his best turn as in-flux hero Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. reminds us why this franchise became so huge, so fast. Downey and director, Shane Black, have furthered a genre that has been increasingly obvious and easy. They delivered a complete film, that will entertain people of all ages and is far greater than the usual Summer Blockbuster.

When we rejoin Stark, he is struggling with hard emotions from his near death in AVENGERS.
He has basically cut himself off from everyone and has been "tinkering" away on more Iron Men.
It's obvious Stark is no longer the carefree version we see in flashbacks.
The line between him and Iron Man is fully erased.  
The suit is no longer the weapon. He is the weapon.
Stark knows we are not alone in the universe, so he keeps building, waiting for whatever comes.

The threat that emerges is The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a puzzling, meta-terrorist bent on teaching the West lessons via bombings and scary TV broadcasts. When The Mandarin's actions directly effect Stark he jumps back into action with actual reckless abandon. Our hero still has some past demons to overcome before he is ready to take on such a large task and he suffers from not being in fighting shape.

Stark's attention is further divided as figures from his past emerge who could be friend or foe. One is (in typical Stark fashion) a very brief, past lover who Tony claims he barely remembers. The other is ugly-duckling turned handsome, scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who Stark really doesn't remember. Both put Tony, his full time girl, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and pal Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle), in some tricky situations. Both Potts and Rhodes get more play than they have before and the film is better for it. We get real portrayals of how a people are effected by the happenings of "superheroes".

Previously we have seen Iron Man used more like an F or M 16. 
They had not perfected the human and machine element, until now.
Stark is completely on the edge and barely hanging on.
He is both loose with his actions and his jokes (he tells a sad, young boy not to be a pussy).
We remember that he is not a superhero, he is a man, that will probably die doing this work.

The sum total is very fresh for the genre that remakes and retells the same story over and over.
I liked THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), but I also liked when it was SPIDER-MAN (2000).
I know that the struggling hero is not exactly uncharted territory.
However, it feels brand new because everything is genuine.
From the beginning of the series, Tony Stark's life is truly in jeopardy.
He could have chosen not to be Iron Man, but that would not has staved his heart injuries.
You never really worry that Spider-Man may fall to his death.

Many would say that huge success of THE AVENGERS was the pinnacle of Comic Book Movies. AVENGERS is 3rd at the all time domestic box office and had the biggest opening weekend ever. I have almost nothing bad to say about it and I saw it in theaters multiple times.
However, I was more thoroughly entertained by IRON MAN 3.
It's fun to have Hulk, Thor and everybody else around, but it's a little crowded for Tony Stark. 

I.M. 3 has enough substance so that the plot moves and is even capable of real twists and turns.
In many other films, the ending is obvious simply from the trailers.
Half way through, I not only thought Tony Stark could die, but that he might die. 
Not that death in a movie means much any more. 
Now it seems anyone can be brought back via science, witchcraft or otherworldly means.

After seeing IRON MAN 3, I have come to a conclusion:
The Comic and Action genres have become one.
Now, don't get upset, there will always be room for each to have distinctions.
You will still get to see FAST & FURIOUS 6 (and probably 26).

What I mean is, I.M. 3 goes the distance and is more than a popcorn romp.
It reminded me of the Action classic, DIE HARD:
Tony Stark is a real man, whose actions have real consequences for himself and many others.
You feel his emotions, you calculate his actions and are invested in the outcome.
The Comic genre is no longer skin tight costumes and throw away dialogue.
It doesn't have to be bogged down by endless exposition and action sequences.

With (only) his second feature, Shane Black has surpassed many of the Comic Book Movies of his peers and helped the biggest genre going. He delivered a real film, with a thrilling plot, funny lines and great action. Some day, after more viewings, I may rank it higher than the original IRON MAN. For now I will give it a strong 4 out of 5 and recommend that you start your Summer Movie Season with a real treat. 

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