Monday, 6 May 2013
SPOILER WARNING: This warning contains spoilers. Seriously, don't read on if you haven't seen the film.
The latest addition to Marvel’s cinematic masterplan, the first thing to say about Iron Man Three is that, at times, it is very funny, and these are the times at which it excels. Shane Black’s script is characteristically rich with one-liners that kept me happy through the film, mainly from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, but also with some crackers from the supporting cast, including computer JARVIS – “I’m alright, sir, but at the end of a sentence I say the wrong cranberry”.
Outside of the comedy, though, it’s all a bit meh. The majority of the action sequences bored me and left me impatient for more of the funny bits. The exception is the climactic shipyard battle; despite the deus ex machina army of Iron Men making it more of a toy advert than a film, the sequence was finely directed enough and contained enough hints of comedy to retain my attention – the Iron Man suit failing to reach a dramatically-posed Tony when it hits a piece of scenery and shatters was the best laugh of the film.
I was worried about how the film would portray the Mandarin, the comic book arch-enemy of Iron Man. A character developed in a less politically correct age, the Mandarin of the comics is an amalgamation of oriental stereotypes. Combining this with a Bin Laden-esque terrorist, the film appeared to be running the risk of being extremely racist in tone. But in having this villain turn out to be a decoy, the film finds a surprising and funny way around this while satirizing American cultural fears and creating a character that Ben Kingsley seems to have a lot of fun playing. This way, it’s only racist towards the British, and that’s a socially acceptable form of racism. The only downside to this is that Guy Pearce’s true ‘Mandarin’, as slimily charismatic as he is in the role, is a little too generic to get close to a place in the Rogue’s Gallery of great movie villains.
On the other side of the conflict, Tony Stark isn’t exactly my favourite hero either. The first reason for this is that his character arc throughout the film is really quite sketchy. The film begins with him having anxiety attacks about having survived falling through a wormhole… OK, not a bad set-up. I mean, I can’t exactly empathise with it, but I imagine I’d be a little shaken if that had happened to me. Unfortunately, the final act of the film seems to forget all of this, leaving us with a resolution in which Tony solves all his personal issues by blowing up all his Iron Man suits, a solution that isn’t at all a logical progression from the problem, and so is unsatisfying as an ending.
The second reason I don’t like him is that he's a knob. Wisecracking is funny. Outright arrogance is not, and he often crosses that line, not least when he meets a small boy and dickishly makes fun of the child’s family issues. His only acts of apology for this behavior are giving the boy weapon with which to violently attack bullies and a sports car which he won’t be able to drive for over a decade. What a role model, eh?
Meanwhile, Rebecca Hall is brilliant, if underused, as genius botanist Dr. Maya Hansen, Gwyneth Paltrow is a bit annoying as Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle adds a nice buddy cop element to his scenes as that colonel bloke, and Jon Favreau, refusing to give up his bodyguard character despite having given up the director's chair, is a pointless waste of screen time.
All in all, the best way to approach Iron Man Three is as a superhero film which is by no means meant to be taken seriously. Where it fails is in having an interesting or meaningful character story below the surface. Then again, Tony Stark has always been the second best billionaire-playboy-come-superhero for me, and if that’s what you’re looking for, go rewatch Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Iron Man Three makes the right decision when playing to its lighter strengths, as where it excels is in comedy – in particular Stark’s quips and Ben Kingsley’s every moment on screen after the decoy reveal. The film is by all means an entertaining two hours, if not much more.
Final point: I really liked how the title was written as Iron Man Three and not Iron Man 3. Not sure why I liked that. Probably just because it was unconventional.
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