Iron Man 3
This third Iron Man film is already being touted as the last one that Robert Downey Jr. will appear in but then there's a long time until another Iron Man film comes round anyway, there are other Avengers stories to be told and then another assembled Avengers story as well. Could this be the last outing for Downey's Iron Man and if it is, does it do him justice?
The Iron Man 3 trailer showed me two things that had me wary of the film, an American terrorist dressing up as a foreigner and a scene of a large number of suits, much more than we saw with the previous Iron Man films. Those two elements had me concerned. The villain seemed a little cartoonish and I didn't want to see a ton of Iron Men, I wanted Tony Stark as Iron Man and his ongoing relationships with the suit and those around him.
The film was not what I expected, and it turned out to be so in ways that were both good and bad. The Hollywood idiom of bigger and more definitely applies with the last act of the film but at the same time Shane Black writing and directing has delivered some strong positives, mostly everywhere but the last act.
It seems that with each film released in a franchise Hollywood decides it has to make everything bigger than the last film and add more of whatever they thought made the first one successful. To be honest this doesn't actually lead to better films, although franchise fans tend to enjoy it as they gain the key elements of what made the first film, story and engagement be hanged.
What a surprise then to see that the bring down for Tony Stark happens so early in the film and before long Stark is isolated, without an operable suit and experiencing panic attacks about his life, not least because he's not long back from battling aliens through inter-dimensional portholes. That is where something of a complication comes because it does seem rather odd that we're back dealing with earthly matters and that his friends aren't around to help, and here's where the first plot issue arrives for me, where are his superhero colleagues?
Do the Avengers only assemble all together and at the command of SHIELD? Don't they help each other out? It would seem when the news is out of Stark's fall and he's struggling at his lowest that someone from the team might pop-up and at least find out about him, even if it was just an agent.
I imagined that when the main villain and his army are revealed that the team would have sent someone, especially with Stark up against such odds and the President in such obvious danger. Talking of the danger he faced I had to admit struggling with how far the enemy were taken with their powers. From going from genetic modification to the extremes they did looked cool but seemed a little much in the end and leapt far into comic book territory. Oh I know the character is based on a comic book but they've done a great job of adding depth and bringing him to life in film.
Another thing I found a little bit of a stretch was the ultimate motivation for the bad guy, it just didn't seem great enough or that compelling to drive him this far, after all he seemed to be well on his way to domination regardless with his company looking as though it was outpacing Stark Industries. A bit more development and effort could well have produced the desired effect without trying to attack his country's government.
Then there's the issue with the suit. Later in the film we find that Stark wasn't without a suit and in fact had access to more than just one replacement, so why didn't he? Well some dialogue suggests that it's because there was too much rubble on top of the doors for them to slide open and let the suits out, which for sliding doors and an Iron Man suit doesn't seem that big a deal.
One more thing while I'm picking on the annoyances that I found with the story, was the new suit. Not only did it have jet engines in every single component, but it was now fully powered without Stark which to me seemed a major move away from the main idea. It does play out at the end of the film but for the most part I did find it a little confusing. What use was Stark and his power source? The suits were indeed taking over, and so that leads me nicely onto the positives of the script.
Stark is having anxiety attacks brought about by many things, and looking at the film they aren't all perfectly spelled out. One of these factors could well be that he has now built these suits to be autonomous and they don't really need him to control them, something that would undoubtedly affect someone of his ego, he's no longer needed. Then there's what has happened in the Avengers Assemble film, events that would undoubtedly lead someone to suddenly doubting their own position in the universe. There was also the rise of this other company to rival his, all this could be seen to be adding to his pressures, never mind that of him being the stay at home partner in his relationship.
You could see all these things, and a lot more throughout the film and they were never lingered on, never overplayed, but shown to you and left for you to make up your own mind. That was a strong aspect of the scripting and directing for Iron Man 3 and didn't just happen through these moments alone. There were a number of times the script delivered these nice subtle moments for you to pick up on but equally it gave us some big plot changing moments with surprising changes of direction.
I have to admit to being hit twice by the story when I really wasn't expecting it, and they were good moments. They were rather unexpected and very satisfying, particularly the main plot change which does give you quite the satisfying surprise. It marks Iron Man 3 above the comic book film that people would like to label it as, and raises itself from the previous film a further step.
There's a lot of intelligence in the script and it is very well crafted. At times I felt that perhaps there was a little too much crammed in there as we sped over moments that perhaps could have had some more time to develop, not to mention the ending which seemed a cascade of bow tying in as quick a time as possible.
However there were parts that brought it back towards the comic book. I was a little disappointed with the villain who really has two distinct sections to the film. To begin with his storyline presents a powerful and intriguing presence, one that does prey on modern political concerns and doesn't seem miles from a possible reality. Then there's the second half of his story which begins to turn into a comic book villain rather quickly and by the end of the big confrontation sequence it has completely changed around. While the move between these two story lines was well handled and delivered a wonderful moment, I do wish we could have stayed with the more convincing and less comic book villain. As it turned out it feels as though this was built just to enable the big final battle with the multiple suits, a thread that seems to have pushed a few contrived moments.
Surprisingly I enjoyed the time that Stark spent out of the suit allowing us to engage more with the character and understand him, showing us that he's evolved from just a man with a suit to someone who can deal with tough situations on his own. The interactions with the young boy are surprisingly satisfying and deliver a great deal to the story and his character.
For the most part the story of Iron Man 3 is very good and it makes a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy however it does try a little too hard to wrap up all the characters and story lines in as short a time as possible. At the very end it does feel like a rapid fire of scenes tying all the threads and characters up too nicely so that if this really is the end then everything is completely covered.
That's a similar theme for the credit sequence which turns to all the Iron Man films to show select clips and plays like a look back on the entire series offering closure. Is this really the end of Iron Man? The film is certainly suggesting this even to the very end.
There's a post credit scene for those who have decided to stick around and it's a welcome one, welcome but not helpful. The scene explains the voice over narrative that opened the film but not much more than that. There's some comedy and the faintest thought that it does point to more for Iron Man, but I'll leave the rest to you.
Shane Black has done a great job with the direction, the film looks great and has a nice change of pace to it when we spend some time with Stark, and Drew Pearce and Shane Black have to be credited with the strength of the script up until it turns into a big fight fest. Performance wise it's hard to say anything bad about the excellent Robert Downey Jr. and it's great to see Guy Pearce going at his character, but the winners here are Ben Kingsley for his turnaround performance and Ty Simpkins as the boy Stark meets.
Iron Man 3 is a very entertaining film with plenty of action and excitement for the audience. The first half of villain storyline is powerful and gives more than the average action adventure, more than the previous Iron Man films have. However then it begins to waver and goes for the "bigger and more" moniker rather than the intelligent and menacingly close to reality idea. Here we lose the strength of the villain story line in favour of one that turns quickly into something far more comic book and a little less believable.
There's a lot more Tony Stark to this film and this gives the film a chance to develop more character and relationship than the previous films did, something which I think delivers a good solid core to this film outside of all the action. The relationship thread with the kid gives a very different feel to who Stark really is as well as providing the therapy he needs. Nicely though the thread never loses that arrogant like-hate attitude of Stark.
With spectacular effects and action sequences the third Iron Man film won't be a disappointment to many, but it could have been quite a bit more. It certainly isn't disappointing at the box office and that undoubtedly means a fourth, eventually.