Monday, May 6, 2013

Theatrical Review: Iron-Man 3

Rated: PG13
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: 3 (my mom & sister)
Sunday May 5, 2013
Time: 1:15pm
Length: 130min (+ 3/4 trailers)

[Social Commentary & Coming Attractions]

I'm pretty sure there were 4 trailers that played, but for the life of me, I can't remember what the 4th one was. 

The first was the first trailer for the sequel of fellow "Avenger" Thor, which should prove to be interesting. Firstly because it would seem that Thor is taking Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to Asgard in one scene. Then there's the fact Earth seems to be under alien attack and Thor goes to Loki for help.
The second was the impending sequel to "Star Trek," already making the rounds.
Then there's "The Lone Ranger," obviously nod to Marvel's new parent company, Disney.

I was a tad distracted for half of the previews and perhaps the first 10 minutes of the movie. The theater already had a couple dozen people and at least another dozen came in during the coming attractions. It's been quite some time since I'd been in a theater with so many people. Not quite as lively a bunch as "Avengers," but there were still laughs along the way.

One of my friends posted on Facebook a while back begging the question why people brought their young children to see a movie wildly out of their age bracket.
I don't remember if it was PG13 or R, never mind which film it was, but I can't help but share some of the concerns. The only thing that worries me about going out to the movies more than having to move because a tall person comes in late and blocks my view... is people who bring their kids along. Behind us, there were at least one or two kids elementary school age, and in front of us, a couple brought in a young boy and a baby less than a year old.

Speaking as an "Iron-Man" groupie and Marvel fangirl, I appreciate the notion of this being their first movie, but they're not going to remember this :-P
Plus you risk missing out on the movie because of them.
Thankfully, this distraction/disruption was very minimal, but I'm just saying.

[Revisiting History & Sequel Misfires]

There's a little added pressure on me this time around simply because Robert Downey Jr. is my favorite actor and this will be the first time I'll be formally (as formally as I discuss movies, lol) discussing one of his films on this site. So I'll give my apologies in advance if I'm not concise enough or happen to run long.

Before I mentally connected the actors with their designated roles, "Iron-Man" had me completely enthralled when I saw it on DVD. I was no stranger to superhero hero movies, but this was the first time I'd seen a film where they had a superhero grounded in real world situations. Around that time, the war in the Middle East was a huge thing in the news, and for them to put that spin on a superhero origin story... I was blown away.
The only thing that shocked me even more was the fact he ended the movie by giving away his secret identity.  My mind was boggled beyond words because that's the biggest taboo in superhero mythology.

I saw the sequel in theaters three years ago and loved the character development, Tony Stark coming to terms with his demons and all that.
Then I watched it again a couple months ago and wasn't as thrilled with it. The downward spiral of this character was a lot uglier than I remembered and the funny moments were horribly written. As if they were trying so hard to be funny that they came off vulgar rather than smart.

Sequels in general are tricky and the only other time I experienced one with Robert was for Sherlock Holmes... and for me, it didn't play out well. They went too big, too dramatic, and it ended on a cliff-hanger that might never be resolved. (Anyone who read the source material knows how "The Final Problem" finds its solution, but the question remains whether or not Guy Ritchie and RDJudsie will pursue it).

But when it comes to Tony Stark, every trip to the theater is guaranteed to be an enjoyable experience. I am pleased to say that "Iron-Man 3" has kept that streak going.

[Movie Review]

Other notable cast members include:
Gywneth Paltrow- Pepper Potts
Don Cheadle- Col. James 'Rhodey" Rhodes
Jon Favreau- Happy Hogan
Ben Kingsley- The Mandarin
Guy Pearce- Aldrich Killian
Rebecca Hall- Maya Hansen
Paul Bettany- Jarvis
Ty Simpkins- Harley Kenner

For the most part, I'll try not to give too much away, but want to highlight/discuss some key scenes throughout.

-new director-

For this time around, we have a brand new director at the reigns.
I was thrilled when I got the news that Shane Black would taking this one because I already had a lot of respect for this man's work.
Granted, I only have two other movies to back me up, but their quality more than makes up for the lack of quantity.

Movie buffs know him as the guy who wrote the story for "Lethal Weapon," which has a great mix of action and sharp/smart comedy.
Then there is his directorial debut, the 2005 film noir "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." 
A couple years ago when I was researching Robert's films, I marked this one as a "must-see" because it got great reviews and Rolling Stone writer Peter Travers even called it "the best Robert Downey Jr. film nobody's heard of." 

Once or twice on this promotional tour, Robert brought up the unfortunate truth few people saw it. If not for him, I probably never would have saw it, but I can assure anyone who is interested that it is worth looking into it. One of the funniest and cleverest movies I'd seen in a long time.


Some of the elements from "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" came back for this, starting with a Downey voiceover. 
The opening scene is a flashback, taking place on New Year's Eve 1999 in Switzerland. Aldrich Killian approaches Tony Stark a proposition to go into business together and Tony inadvertently (per his narrative) creates a demon for himself by not meeting him on a rooftop to talk it over.
Instead, he's hanging out in his hotel room with botanist/one-night-stand Maya Hansen under the watchful eye of his bodyguard, Happy Hogan.

Fast forward to present day and we see what appears to be another Shane Black signature.
Along with his two previous films, "Iron-Man 3" takes place around Christmas time.
Tony Stark is in his lab grooving to a vinyl of "Jingle Bells" while testing out his newest set of armor, which attaches itself to him piece by piece. Admittedly, a little goofy in places to take seriously, but nonetheless, this new technology becomes important later on.

-where we last left off...-

Supposedly after the big intergalactic showdown (ala "Avengers") in NYC, Tony is suffering from PSTD. He isn't getting much sleep and he has a series of panic attacks, which are triggered whenever someone mentions New York or wormholes. 

Subtext was dropped in the first "Iron-Man" film about a series of terrorist attacks connected to "the brotherhood of the 10 rings." 
Now, in the terroristic, propaganda style, the mystery warmonger known as The Mandarin breaks through TV stations to post threats and takes credit for explosions that have been occurring throughout the country.
It is quite some time before we see how Iron-Man comes into all this, but there is an eerie foreboding about it.

On a Reelz Channel special focusing on this film, Robert mentioned that Happy Hogan plays a big part in the story. I was anxious to see what that might be, especially because Jon Favreau wouldn't be contributing much else. 

At Stark Industries, he's the newly appointed head of security and very keen on being sure everyone inside has an ID badge. Meanwhile, Pepper is in charge and confesses to Happy that she's worried about Tony and isn't sure if they should start to phase him out of the company. 

Aldrich Killian pays a visit, showing Pepper his latest technology, which involves tissue regeneration. Given all of the circumstances she and Tony have come into over the course of the past few movies, Pepper is unwilling to jump on board because she's afraid of what the technology could do, should it fall into the wrong hands.
But in Happy's view, as he's actively watching this meeting outside the office, he's concerned Killian might be putting the moves on Pepper and alerts Tony immediately.

The following scene brings us up to date with their relationship. She returns home to find her Christmas present (a hilariously oversized stuffed animal) and Tony in his Iron-Man suit. 
Not buying into their discussion as it's going, she goes downstairs and finds him controlling the suit from there... yet another piece of new technology.
He soothes her annoyances in confessing that he hasn't been well since New York and wants to make sure he protects her because she's the one thing he can't live without.
It's a nice moment when they come together and despite his qualms about sleeping, she talks him into coming to bed... where she witnesses him having a nightmare. It's pretty scary and heart-wrenching to watch and would have been a great opportunity for another sweet moment between them, if not for the fact he called his suit in his sleep and freaked her out.

Freak-out aside, the vulnerability Robert shows throughout the movie is what helped drive it for me because he always does it so well.

In the trailers, as well as a number of talk show appearances, we see a clip where Tony challenges the Mandarin and gives him his home address. It got me wondering: what happened to piss him off THIS much, when this is before his house comes under attack?
It comes back to Happy, who was following a lead about Killian and finds himself caught in the middle of another terror attack. Jokingly, I could say, "that's why Jon Favreau couldn't direct, he was in a coma for most of the movie," but that'd be insensitive, not to mention inaccurate.
In each Iron-Man film, you see more cool projection technology. While I can't imagine how Jarvis and the computers managed to recreate the crime scene in holograms, it was one of two moments in the movie worthy of a nerdgasm. It's here that Tony gets a new lead to investigate. A similar incident occurred in Tennessee with equally massive heat readings.

As was the case with the end of the first Iron-Man, one really should be careful about what they say in front of the press... as the trailers clearly detail, Tony's Malibu mansion is under attack, a few minutes after Maya Hansen comes by to warn him and Pepper about Killian, who she believes to be working with the Mandarin.
This scene is absolutely massive, but after a while, I admit it got to be a little too hectic and hard to sift through.
Either way, the end result is that Pepper and Maya get out all right, but the world believes Tony is dead.

-on the down-low-

Thankfully, most of the movie is shown from his perspective so the audience is well aware that he survived. In the direst of circumstances, the suit carries him all the way to Tennessee. While in Tennessee regrouping, the momentum and overall feel of the movie shifts dramatically, and I loved every moment of it. 
After the fact, I found the perfect analogy to describe it:

When Tony Stark is in his element, with all of his suits and technology at his fingertips, the movie feels like a big-budget blockbuster.
But when Tony Stark is left with nothing more than his body and his ingenuity, it has the feel of an independent film, which is driven by character development and storytelling, the nuts & bolts of film making if you will. 
Having seen a number of both types of cinema from Robert's repertoire, despite the successes he's had in the larger scales, I miss seeing him on the other side of things. Some of his best work comes from the indie stuff ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" especially, but also "A Guide to Recognizing your Saints" and "Fur: The Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," to name a few others).
Once again proving that Shane Black was the best director for the job.

Dragging his power-drained suit behind him, Tony comes across a cabin in the middle of nowhere and a young boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins aka the biggest scene-stealer of "Iron-Man 3"), somewhere between the ages of 12-13. The film had gotten so heavy at this point that the comedy between them was a welcome change of pace. While laying low, he finds more about the bombing, deals with a couple more panic attacks, and plots his next move.
Tony also sees first hand what Happy encountered before getting caught in the explosion that leaded him in a coma. An agent, claiming to be from Homeland Security, slaps cuffs on him and tries to take him out in an explosion of her own. Harley helps him out of that jam, only to land them in another with a bald-headed henchman we see a number of times in the film.

After taking care of him, Tony builds himself an arsenal (with stuff he purchased at Home Depot), gets a location on Killian with help from Rhodey (who's clad as the newly christened "Iron Patriot" on missions in Afghanistan... another great exchange between them), and takes off.
His parting scene with Harley was one of the biggest laughs of the film, closely followed by their introduction when his demands include a tuna-fish sandwich.

Once or twice through the course of the Tennessee sequences, we catch up with Pepper and Maya, who brings her up to speed with Killian, but shortly thereafter, they get kidnapped by more of Killian's henchmen.

-into the lion's den-

Armed with all kinds of home-made (and Home Depot provided) artillery, Tony makes his way into enemy territory, a mansion located in Miami. For a while, I was really convinced he was on the right track and doing extremely well, considering he's without his trusted technology.

It's also here the audience is made truly aware of all the bad guys in this film. Other than the fact Tony Stark gets captured, I don't want to give too much about that. But I will say that Ben Kingsley really steals the show.

The last time Robert was captured with Shane Black at the helm was the torture scene in the 3rd act of "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"... an equally painful & awkward electrocution scene.
Fortunately this time around, there is no torture although the drama reaches its highest peak in the film so far because it looks like an extremely hopeless situation where everything is to the enemy's advantage.
All I can say is thank God for clich├ęs.

Right away, I recognized the 'escaping captivity' situation from "Lethal Weapon," but plenty of room was left to insert some comedic exchanges before Tony makes his great escape as well as during said escape.
We even have a henchman who surrenders, saying how he didn't even like working there anyway :-P

-the rest is history-

The threat of terrorism really hits home in the 3rd act of the movie, especially when it comes to the people involved.
The site of the final battle battle is a massive oil rig, which (per the end credits) takes place off the coast of North Carolina.
Tony Stark, Rhodey and even Pepper all have amazing moments here, although Rhodey's moments are grounded more in comedic relief. 
The trailer showing multiple Iron-Man suits showing up for a battle merely prefaces this final action-packed assault.

My previous experience with an action-scene of this magnitude was the final of "The Bourne Legacy" and my thoughts were that it ran too long and didn't seem to lead anywhere.

The finale here, however thrilling it is and how many nerdgasms are liable to occur, it felt endless and extremely chaotic, if not a little psychotic.
My guess is that somewhere during the filming of this sequence, Robert severely sprained his ankle and shut down production for 47 days (yes, when I got the news in August, I literally counted the days after the injury occurred... and I am so glad they still managed to get it done by its designated release date and Robert bounced back as well as he did).

It's at this point where my discussion of the movie has to end because I don't want to give too much more away. 
All the better to experience things as they're happening because when movies have gotten as predictable as they have, I love keeping surprises, especially the great ones.

As always with Marvel movies, it's highly recommended to stick around during the credits because there's an extra scene afterwards.
While on the credits, though, my jaw just dropped when they were listing all the "Digital Effects Team"... there were SO many people that it took over several screens before they finished scrolling...
A big round of applause to all of them, they really did an amazing job with this.

Throughout "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," you'd hear Robert narrating during a number of scenes and  stopping the movie a number of times to explain things (another piece of the movie's overall genius), but at the end, you see him directly talking to the screen.
Here, his narrative only comes in at the beginning and the end... and in the extra scene, I'll just say he wasn't just talking to us this entire time. A great comedic moment for sure.

Afterwards, it also said that "Tony Stark Will Return"...
I'm assuming in the Avengers sequel, but the movie wraps things up so nicely... kinda like a bow on a Christmas present... you can't help but wonder if this is the last time we'll have an Iron-Man film.

Right now, it's anyone's guess, as is whether or not Robert will reprise the role.
It's hard to say. I'd be fine with whatever decision he makes, but if he calls it quits, I doubt I'll be able to see anyone else in this role.

And for the record, this was a great sequel... but as far as "the best Iron-Man" is concerned, my allegiances are still with the original.

Grade: A-

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