Thursday, 2 June 2016

Film Review #88

Iron Man 3 (2013)
Director: Shane Black Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 125 Minutes

Tagline: "Even heroes fall."

I think it's safe to say the first Iron Man film was rather well received and is still widely regarded as one of the best of all MCU films, while the second, though not matching the greatness of the first, was still a pretty darn good film. Both of them, however, were effectively intended to build up to the release of The Avengers. This third film was the first MCU movie to be released after that great ensemble effort, however, and while it is itself part of the build up the second Avengers film, the expectations were now sky-high. Could it possibly live up to them? The trailer certainly looked very promising and I think everyone just assumed without question that it would another superbly-entertaining adventure for Tony and friends, myself included.

It begins with a brief flashback to events preceding the first film. You know, when Tony was still a wise-cracking, womanising party-hound (not to mention arms manufacturer and dealer)? Here he meets Maya Hansen (Hall), a scientist who has developed a radical experimental new treatment known as Extremis which is designed to aid recovery from crippling injuries, and he also feigns interest in meeting scientist, Aldrich Killian (Pearce), instead standing him up, humiliating him. In the present day (six months after the events of the first Avengers movie), Tony is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Unable to sleep, he has been spending much of his time in his workshop making new (now automated) Iron Man suits when news starts to reach him of a series of bombings carried out by a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Kingsley).

When his friend and security chief, Happy Hogan (Favreau), is badly injured in the latest blast he vows revenge and publicly calls out the Mandarin. Sadly it doesn't quite go to plan and, as far as the world is concerned (including Pepper), Tony becomes the latest victim of the villainous fiend. Obviously he's not really dead though, and after a brief period of recuperation is soon heading back into the fray seeking justice... and vengeance. This of course means lots of the fast-paced flying, shooting, exploding action we're now so used to, and it has probably all been done just as well as ever here. Likewise, the returning cast are all great in the roles they're now clearly comfortable in, but there were a few things about this instalment that weren't so great.

Part of the problem for me was the Iron Man suits themselves. Take the new Mk 42 armour for example. It doesn't look as cool (too much gold for my taste) and the designs are getting far too intricate now (it almost seems like feathers linking together), but the worst thing is that the Mk 42, as well as all the other suits Tony has been building (which is a lot!), are controlled remotely by that marvellous Jarvis fellow. What this does is take all the danger and a lot of the excitement out of what are usually pretty gripping battle scenes. If Iron Man gets twatted now it's okay, the unmanned suit will just explode into a million pieces. I know it has always been extremely unlikely that a Tony-filled suit would get destroyed/killed but he has been known to lose a battle here and there. Now? Empty suits can just keep on coming until the bad guy is history.

And on the subject of the bad guy, that's another thing that isn't quite right about this film. The Mandarin may not be that well known but he's pretty well regarded as super-villains go, and his treatment here is to serve as a front for the true mastermind, the Extremis-powered Killian who assumes many of the Mandarin's characteristics. This did not go down well with many fans of the comic, and even though I'm not among them, I can understand their annoyance to find a character they were probably looking forward to seeing on the big screen being used as comic-relief (no pun intended!). Ben Kingsley is as good in the role as you might expect, but The Mandarin's threatening promo videos show that he would also have been good if the character had been used properly.

For his part, Guy Pearce does do a decent enough job. He basically is the Mandarin in all but name (and appearance I guess!) and makes a formidable opponent for Tony (and his suits) who is as entertaining as ever. His PTSD angle is covered quite well but he still manages to get a few jokes and wisecracks in, obviously, and is deserving of his star status once again. I just wish Marvel had built a better picture around him this time. It's really not a bad film but I was a little disappointed the first time I watched it, and a recent repeat viewing hasn't done much for my enthusiasm. Many MCU fans name Iron Man 2 as the weakest of the three but, for me, Iron Man 3 is not only the weakest of those but a contender for the weakest MCU film overall (so far). Not that that's saying much though, considering their consistently high quality!

RKS Score: 6/10


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