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Iron Man 3 (2013)

May 8, 2013

8/10 Empty Shells

Glad to have you back, Tony.

Iron Man 3 picks up with our genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist struggling to keep it together after his near-death experience in The Big Apple. He’s staying up for days, he’s having panic attacks in public, and he’s too damn busy with his suit collection to give Pepper the time of day. Folks, it ain’t good. On top of all that, an international terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin has been wreaking havoc in the US because the President’s a jerk or something. Next thing you know, Tony’s calling the dude out after his best bud almost gets vaporized, and things just go south from there. So after learning the hard way why don’t give your address to terrorists and with everything in his life hanging in the balance, Tony starts to rebuild.

Now that we’ve had some time to properly reflect on the matter, I think we can all agree that the last time we caught up with Tony in Iron Man 2, the overall experience left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, Iron Man was no easy act to follow, but following it up with one big teaser for The Avengers was not what the doctor ordered. It was a letdown alright, but in the spirit of letting bygones be bygones, here we are with our very first entry in a post-Avengers universe. And given the way that one went, one couldn’t help but be hopeful about this.

The first upside to life after The Avengers is that we’re finally done with all those goddamn Easter Eggs. No more nerds twerking in the aisles over Mjolnir showing up, no more waiting for the credits to end just to have Sam Jackson pay us another visit. I can’t speak for the masses on this one, but all that hooey was never much of a draw to begin with, and with each year we got closer to assembling these fools, it was becoming more about fan service than telling good stories. But that’s all over now. Now we can rest easy until The Avengers 2.

As for the current state of the Marvel movie universe, we’re left with the lingering effects of those Chitauri jerks as evidenced in the form of witty asides and Tony coming to grips with his own mortality after, you know, setting off a nuke in space. Oh yes, it’s a big ol’ upgrade from the way it once was, even if it doesn’t add all that much to the story here.

On that note, am I the only one who thought that Tony didn’t seem phased by almost dying and whatnot? For chrissakes, the dude was housing shawarma not ten minutes later. Well apparently it was a way bigger deal than he was making it out to be because it’s now the driving force behind his fragile state and is a big factor in why he throws down with The Mandarin. And I get it, now that he’s got Pepper he’s got more than just himself to worry about, but it still seems kinda weak as far as character development goes, especially considering the long list of inner demons that Tony’s had to fight in the comics. Not to mention the handful of times we’ve almost seen him die.

So Tony’s anxiety certainly isn’t the best thing this story has going for it, but that’s okay, because this here is a Shane Black picture. Shane Black knows what he’s doing, and if that name ain’t ringing any bells, it’s high time you did your homework.

For all you out there who have yet to see Iron Man 3, do yourself a favor and go watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang first. It’s a great little number by Shane Black (our writer/director of the hour) and it’ll only make you appreciate what he does here that much more. Before the credits even start, you’ll know this is one of his movies just from the sound of Downey’s rambling voice-over. Being familiar, being a fan and knowing full well that no one reads a Shane Black script quite like Robert Downey Jr., it was an awesome way to start things off. But alas, the excitement is short-lived.

See, the thing about the first Act of Iron Man 3 is that it feels a lot like the entirety of Iron Man 2. From side characters to side plots, mental states to past encounters, the first Act is juggling a bunch of things at once and doing its best to establish them all within a 30-minute span. Here’s what Tony’s new suits can do, here’s the people you’ll want to remember for later, yada yada yada. It comes with the territory on occasions like these and Joss Whedon proved that it could most definitely be done. But since it doesn’t give itself any time to breathe or play to Black’s strengths as a writer, it just feels rushed as a result. At least it affords a couple moments for Downey and Jon Favreau to chew the scenery, but these are also the best scenes by a mile and they just made me wish there was more to go around.

Given how attention-grabbing that opening monologue is, it’s too bad that the first Act rings more like Shane Black writing a Marvel movie instead of a Shane Black writing a Shane Black movie…that just happens to star Iron Man. The end result bordered on vapid and it was concerning enough to have me bracing for what followed. But, boy howdy, did things start righting themselves once that first half-hour wrapped up.

From that point forward, it goes right back to being a Shane Black movie, one that only gets better by the minute. The dialogue gets funnier to the point where I was laughing out loud from one-liner to one-liner, the plot goes in some wonderfully unexpected directions that would make Chris Nolan nod in approval and now I’m still wondering whether it’s better than Iron Man? As much as I dig that movie and everything it did right as a blueprint of sorts for this genre, there’s really something unique about the chances this one takes.

At the end of the day, it’s just a winning combination of writing, casting and directing that couldn’t be better suited for a franchise like this. Shane Black can write some snappy dialogue; no one can deliver it quite like Downey. Downey’s playing Tony Stark; Tony Stark is all about the snappy dialogue. Need someone to play the best villain in the series? Good call getting Ben Kingsley to steal the freaking show. Want to riddle your movie with some of the most creative and exciting action scenes in recent memory, scenes that at times rival those in The Avengers? Double good call giving the reigns to the creative genius behind Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Just some good calls all around, really.

Yeah, it takes a little while to get there, but once the juices start flowing, this sucker’s firing on all cylinders. And with the exception of that first Act that’s easy enough to overlook when all is said and done, I can’t think of a damn thing worth complaining about. Maybe it doesn’t do character development as well as Joss Whedon did and I guess I can understand how some purists out there might be tiffed about some of the liberties it takes. But as someone who knows next to nothing about the source material, I really wish more movies of this sort would take liberties like these. This was a pleasant surprise, and even if I had been into the comics, I’d be surprised if I thought otherwise.

Not only that, but coming off the heels of a disappointing sequel and existing in the wake of Marvel’s magnum opus, Iron Man 3 had more reasons to fail than succeed. Yet succeed it did with flying colors. Kids, what can I say other than that it’s a total blast, it’s a bonafide crowd-pleaser and it’s a pretty swell way to kick off the summer. I wouldn’t call it “deep” by any means, but hey, that’s what Man of Steel is for.

The point is, a mighty good time was had by all and that’s more than enough to earn this baby an 8.

Shane Black and Ben Kingsley, man. Truly a thing of beauty.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2013 5:48 am

    It was entertaining stuff. I wouldn’t expect deep from any comic book movie, but I liked it plenty. I’ve never seen any Shane Black movies though, so I will take up your recommendation as soon as possible!

    It does of course still have a post-credits ‘bit’, though…

    • May 8, 2013 8:24 am

      Awfully entertaining if I do say so myself. I do think we’re at a point where it’s not unreasonable to expect some kind of depth beyond what we’ve come traditionally come to expect from comic book movies, but even so, some pure fun like this is always welcome. But def check out Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you’ll be glad you did and would love to hear your thoughts.

      And as for that post-credits bit, you’re right that it’s there, but at least it’s not another teaser for The Avengers.

      • May 9, 2013 7:07 am

        Well, it sort of is a teaser, given the “Tony Stark Will Return” and the appearance of Bruce Banner, but yeah, not to the extent of the ones with Samuel L.

        I think depth is the bit that’s missing. I thought Downey held it together and I guess I can credit Black with the lightness of touch and the comedy, so I will look forward to seeing KKBB.

  2. May 8, 2013 10:00 am

    I agree with 95% of your review, and I adore your writing style, btw. However, I wanted to point out a few things that I thought might bump your review up by a few tenths of a point. 🙂

    For starters, the first act was a bit of a dragger, but it feels identical to the way that I felt watching the first act of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which of course was a fantastic movie and one I still love. Maybe it’s just a Downey/Black trademark lol.

    Secondly, one of your beefs with the over continuity seems to be that Stark wasn’t phased by his experiences at the end of the Avengers, but now he’s somehow a nervous wreck. In my opinion, that’s not a plot hole… that’s human nature. There are a LOT of people who develop PTSD months or even years after the event that sparked it; the human mind over-analyzes details and literally drives itself insane, to the point where the victims of PTSD often exhibit signs of multiple personalities… laughing and carrying on normally at times, and then in a puddle of tears and anxiety in the fetal position at other times. So I think that’s some of what we experience with Stark.

    Thanks for your amazing review!

    • May 8, 2013 4:41 pm

      Haha. Thanks, man! Much appreciated.

      Sounds like I need to give Kiss Kiss another watch (which isn’t the worst thing in the world). It’s been a couple years and the structure of the first Act eludes me. Interesting point though, will keep that in mind on the next go around.

      And I totally agree with your point about Tony’s trauma. My issue isn’t that it’s unrealistic or a hole in the plot, it just felt like, “Oh, so that’s happening now.” Idk if that makes sense, but I was surprised that it was Tony’s big inner conflict this time around, it felt kinda tacked on.

      Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that it was a pretty kickass time.

  3. Halim Priyatna permalink
    May 8, 2013 12:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Halim Priyatna Blog's.

  4. May 8, 2013 2:02 pm

    Good Review! It is entertaining stuff but I expected more. Slightly disappointing.

    • May 8, 2013 2:04 pm

      Thanks! And sorry to hear that, man. What didn’t do it for ya’?

      • May 8, 2013 3:59 pm

        I didn’t really find the plot good enough and visually it is nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun BUT compare to Avengers, for example, it is weak. But bear in mind I have never been a big fan of Iron Man anyway (mainly because of Robert Downey Jr.. For some reason I don’t really like him).

      • May 8, 2013 4:02 pm

        My wife’s the same way about Downey, and I understand, he’s pretty “on” if you know what I mean. And you’re right, pretty much every Marvel movie from here on out is going to be compared to The Avengers (and for good reason). With that said, it’s certainly no Avengers, but it’s a damn sight better than Iron Man 2.

  5. May 11, 2013 8:39 am

    The story had a lot of potential and kept me interested for three quarters of the movie. Then it got buried under explosions.
    As has been said: entertaining, but it could have been better.

    • May 13, 2013 9:14 am

      Oh yes, there were many a explosion during that last quarter. Entertaining, yes, but I can dig where you’re coming from.

  6. September 20, 2013 7:10 pm

    Hi Aiden, your reviews are super fun to read…..what are the odds you’re Canadian? I’d love to work with you on our expansion. Email me if you like canewspodcast at g mail.
    Thx, and keep up the fun writing!

    • September 24, 2013 2:33 pm

      Heya, Jeff! Unfortunately, you’re out of luck. New Yorker, born and raised, so not sure how much help I’d be to you guys. Nonetheless, appreciate you reaching out and if you ever need use of an American movie nerd, feel free to hit me up. Thanks for reaching out and take care!


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