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A Cheap "Shellhead" Play on Comedy and Action

  • May 5, 2013
Jon Favreau’s first two Iron Man films were more or less mixed bags for me. While I thought the first movie lacked ambition and did not take any risks, the screenplay and the direction was steady and was able to capitalize on its strengths rather than its weaknesses. It made the comic books come alive even in a rather underwhelming manner. The second movie proved to be a mere launch pad for the upcoming “Avengers” movie during that time. The first sequel was louder and proved to be a more effects-laden popcorn affair than actually trying to expand on the essence of the character. This second sequel now comes with a different director in Shane Black (who debuted as director in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and wrote “The Long Kiss Goodnight”). It manages to maintain that energy vital to an action movie, something the first sequel struggled with; but it may prove to be a lot disappointing to comic book fans.

This is the super-hero movie about comedic “Karma”…

                   A scene from "Iron Man 3."

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a man suffering from past events in New York (as chronicled in “The Avengers”), that he barely sleeps and he uses his time to create more armored suits, which creates friction between him and his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) who also serves as the head of his company. Tony’s friend, James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is now wearing the “war machine” suit that he had designed as an employee of the government who is now called “Iron Patriot”. When terrorists have surfaced headed up by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who has taken responsibility for a string of bombings, Stark has become more personally involved as it seems as if someone from his past had come back to haunt him….

                    Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in "Iron Man 3."

                    Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man in "Iron Man 3."

I am really uncertain as to how to begin this review. “Iron Man 3” is a film that is definitely entertaining and fun to watch as it boasts of an energetic momentum that is somewhat to be expected of super-hero movies. It is a movie made by Hollywood to attract mainstream fans and is a solid summer blockbuster. Much as I thought that the film maintained its forward momentum, I do feel that while it was entertaining, it entertains for the wrong reasons. The dry humor while timed impeccably and the way it approached the presentation of its main antagonists just caused the movie to fully lose the essence of the source material. I understood that the screenplay wanted to do some misdirection, and it does try to deliver a twist, but for me it did feel a little cheap.

Let’s go forward with the positives first. Robert Downey Jr. was in familiar ground in his portrayal, that he presents his character with the utmost of ease. He is charming and funnier as ever, and it was nice to see him operate without an armor. The screenplay has some witty dialogue that would undoubtedly make one crack a laugh, and the timing can be perfect. The film also has nods to the comic book, “Advanced Idea Mechanics” and “Extremis” all play a part in its storyline, and it manages to link the storyline to past movies. I do think the screenplay did a good move in mentioning the past events in “Avengers”, as it gave the plot a needed feeling of continuity with the previous films in the Marvel comics franchise. Guy Pearce was also quite effective with the way he played Aldrich Killian. His was a portrayal that made the villain quite convincing as someone who had a grudge against Stark. Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen was beautiful and despite her character being a little underwritten, her interplay into the script was quite competent.

                     Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin in "Iron Man 3."

                    Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in "Iron Man 3."

I do have to kind of wonder how the characters of Ellen Brandt (from Man-Thing, played by Stephanie Szostak) and Eric Savin (nods from “Civil War“, played by James Badge Dale) managed to get injected into the script, since they were actual characters from other books. I know they were probably attempts to give further nods to Marvel comics, and I could buy into them. The powers of the bad guys were all loosely based on the Extremis virus that made them seem like an “avatar of the Mandarin”. Cheadle’s role was also well connected into the script. I do have to admit, that despite some flaws, the screenplay was pretty solid in generating energy and comedy.

The special effects were as good as in the first two films. The action was fast, explosive and quite inventive in some areas. There was one really good scene with the rescue in Air Force One. I did also like the idea of the use of the Iron Man armory (references to the Hulkbuster armor, Stealth armor, Modular Armor etc.) into the screenplay as they served some sort of a remote armor. The designs of the new remote/modular armor mimicked the designs of the Mark 37 (Bleeding Edge armor) although it was reversed in color scheme. The use of this armor gave Downey the right timing for bits of comedy (but a little misplaced at times).

                     Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man in "Iron Man 3."

                     Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man in "Iron Man 3."

Now if you noticed, I did say the word ‘comedy’ a little too often. Yes, it was well timed in the majority of the scenes, but after the 2nd act, it overstayed its welcome. I mean, I am all for a little wit and humor here and there, but when it comes to get serious, get serious. The film felt really cartoonish. I also had issues with the film’s overabundance in characters. The young boy (Ty Simpkins) was totally unnecessary and could have just as well been edited out (is this Disney's idea?). The film could’ve used about 10-15 minutes trimmed from its screen time. The biggest blunder that the film had done was after the big twist about the “Mandarin” character was revealed. After that scene, I was barely able to stay focused with the film, as it shamelessly insulted one of Shellhead’s foremost villains. The Mandarin should be someone who represented ‘anti-technology’ and was the one villain who was the exact opposite of Stark. I do not want to spoil this, but 'think' what was done with “Lex Luthor” in the “Superman” films and Bane in "Batman and Robin". It was an affront to the essence of the character. To make matters worst, the marketing people even plugged the Mandarin as a focus in its trailers to try to do a 'shock' twist. It was a very cheap move in my view.

                      A scene from "Iron Man 3."

So I guess while “Iron Man 3” was entertaining, I thought it was entertaining for the wrong reasons. For the commercial movie fan and children, I think it would deliver. It was brisk and loud, clever in some areas, and even had the sense to elaborate just “who or what is an Iron Man?”. I just had major issues with the way it was executed. It paid too much attention to the comedic side of the script, and did not generate any suspense despite its terrorism undertones. It felt like an animated film for kids, clever and yet underwhelming; which is surprising as to how it tried to incorporate real world events such as terrorism into its screenplay. I really did not like the way it handled the character of the Mandarin, but I guess that is just the “Iron Man” comic book fan in me. I guess we all “create our own demons” in comedy.  I think Shane Black saw a little too much of the kiddie show and not enough of the source material that this film would only be good as a RENTAL. [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

                      Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in "Iron Man 3."

Poster art for "Iron Man 3 3D." Poster art for "Iron Man 3 3D."
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May 11, 2013
I was exposed to this with a friend over the past weekend. Really disappointed...you can probably imagine why.  Given that I paid about $20 for a ticket, the "twist" at the end almost made me pull my hair out.
May 12, 2013
Trust me I felt the same. I mean, I don't mind humor but hey, this overdid it and just had too much tongue and cheek humor that it became annoying.
May 07, 2013
Great review man, I was wondering how this turned out.
May 08, 2013
are you going to be catching it?
May 06, 2013
Nice review. I think you hit it pretty spot on, so much so that I can't think of anything to disagree with or add to. Yeah, my only two cents was that this go-round it was much more comic-book-ish, which is why I think the wife and I liked it (said elsewhere that I found the first one flat-out boring, with the second one a bit better but still not all that interesting). There were a few bits I think could've been trimmed or boned up a bit in 3, but, all in all, it was a solid popcorn flick.
May 08, 2013
agreed. For me, it was a little too cartoony, and the humor just went a little too far. I also failed to mention its tonal shifts, and that really bothered me.
May 05, 2013
Hola pakman, something about this preview made me really not wanna see this and now you're review just reassures me that my intuition just might be right. Great review buddy I will probably just wait until this comes to DVD or I find a way to watch it for free lol
May 08, 2013
Keith, I did not hate this flick but I sure did not like it either. I tried my best to have readers make their own decisions, I did try to keep the review balanced, but this was very disappointing...it took everything I had to stay level-headed and not give it a 2 ½ Out of 5 Stars....which if I reviewed with my emotions I would have
May 05, 2013
Nice review! I did wonder how the treatment of The Mandarin would go down with fans of the comic book. I'm not too familiar with the comics, so the liberties taken with the source material didn't trouble me. In fact, I actually enjoyed that Black turned it into more of a witty crime/action movie in the vein of "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" or "Lethal Weapon", but I can see how that might upset or anger fans of the comic books.
May 05, 2013
Thanks, Simon. I guess it was just the comic book fan in me. I am just afraid that H-wood is beginning to revert to the old days when they made comic book adaptations without any consideration to the source material. Comic books these days aren't for kids after all. I also like Black's writing and I even liked his KISS KISS BANG BANG. This was why I wasn't too surprised with the execution, did not agree with some liberties it took, but I won't deny it was entertaining.
May 05, 2013
Cheap or not... well, for all you know, it'll be one of the top grossing films this year!!!
May 05, 2013
after I saw it, it made absolute sense why they released it first in Asia and some areas in Europe first. I still think Man of Steel may beat this in the box-office, but the way they handled this movie's marketing was real good.
May 06, 2013
Yeah, that didn't surprise me (the overseas releases) all that much either. I'm hoping big for MAN OF STEEL, but I don't have hopes I'm holding too high. Zack Snyder has been shaping up like a one-hit-wonder (with 300) in my book, though I did love his DAWN OF THE DEAD flick, too, now that I think about it.
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William ()
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