Sunday, 26 May 2013
Iron Man 3
Superhero franchises are known to falter when it comes to third instalments. It happened to Superman. It happened to the X-Men. It happened to Spiderman. But pleasingly I don’t think it’s happened to Iron Man.
I should clarify that before I continue. Iron Man 3 (or Iron Man Three as it was styled at various points on screen) is not a cinematic masterpiece that will change the way filmmaking works. It’s not the best superhero film you’ll ever see. It’s not even the best Iron Man film you’ll ever see. But as an action-filled blockbuster and taken on its own terms as the concluding part of a trilogy (that includes a brief sidestep into a team-up) it’s very enjoyable.
The plot is light as a feather but that shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re going to see Marvel films and looking for something with a strong narrative you should probably re-evaluate what you’re hoping to get from your trips to the cinema. What the film opts to do instead is set up the various characters and factions early and then string set pieces together with scenes that the cast pursuing their goals.
And what set pieces they are. From the obliteration of Stark’s ocean view leisure palace to a fight scene with molten lava henchmen the film gives you plenty of chances to gawp. The best is saved for last as the film culminates with Robert Downey Jr free running his way around a ship, hopping from one Iron Man suit to another in a sequence that luxuriates in its overblown extravagancies and ridiculous nature.
Downey Jr is as good as he’s always been in the role, quipping himself senseless and providing a believable anchor for proceedings. The dramatics are a bit overblown at times though. We just want to see Stark having fun, not suffering crises of confidence.
Joining him are fellow regulars Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau as love interest Pepper Potts, firm-handed career army man BFF James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes and overzealous bodyguard BFF Happy Hogan. I’ve never had an easy time believing in the on-screen chemistry of Downey Jr and Paltrow. There never seems to be much passion between the two. It’s the same here as in the previous two films, but at least it stays the same and doesn’t get worse.
Paltrow gets a staggering amount to do in this movie. So much, in fact, that I suspect she had certain clauses written into her contract. She not only dons the Iron Man suit at two separate points but also ends up with superpowers. If she’s going to appear in future Marvel films she’ll need to have her role scaled down.
Cheadle gets rebranded as the Iron Patriot (one of the few nods to modern Marvel storylines possible, considering ho uninventive the company is these days) and does little until the film’s closing action scene (although there’s a humorous sequence that sees him taking a phonecall while quizzing suspected terrorists that proves a highlight before that). Favreau spends most of the film lying in bed with jokes being made about the televisual preferences of his character. That’s fine for what it is.
Joining them as this film’s bad dudes are Guy Pearce as misunderstood scientific genius (is there any other kind?) Aldrich Killian and Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. Pearce’s performance is fine but he’s tasked with the difficult job of being the character that keeps the film chugging towards its inevitable explode-a-thon of a finale. As such he’s more often tasked with spouting exposition than getting to act.
Ben Kingsley, on the other hand, is brilliant. For most of the film the Mandarin is a threatening terrorist that mixes Osama Bin Laden with a southern preacher. He’s chilling because he’s the sort of villain the real world actually has: a psychotic and a xenophobe. But after a clever twist that reveals his true nature Kingsley is left playing a totally different character and has great fun doing so. Not only is it enjoyable but it’s clever. The Mandarin is a dated concept from the comics used because he’s known for being one of Iron Man’s chief rivals. It’s fitting for him to finally make his debut on the silver screen but Marvel had to alter the character in order to make him work for modern audiences.
Iron Man the third is an improvement on Iron Man 2 but doesn’t quite hit the heights of the original. I think the reason there is that nobody really expected much from that first film and it was so well put together that it was hard to improve on. The second and third films have spent at least some of their time trying to hit the same filmic notes rather than just being as good as possible. Marvel Studios have done a good job rounding off the saga of Stark as a solo artist. Whether tha character appears again or not, we’ve got a solid series of films to enjoy here.