Day 91: Iron Man (2013)
So after the massive smash-a-thon that was Avengers, how do you take the next step? It’s a serious question. Marvel had completed the first phase in its insane saga, creating five brilliant movies (and Iron Man 2) in just four years. Avengers was a worldwide event, becoming the third highest grossing movie of all time. So it’s not a trivial issue. Just how do you follow the single most ambitious, epic, and successful comic book movie of all time? Almost a year to the day after the release of The Avengers Marvel answered: Like a boss.
Iron Man 3 is just… crazy. It’s bonkers. It’s a series of massive bait and switches where you DON’T EVEN CARE CAUSE THE SWITCH IS JUST AS COOL AS THE BAIT. Sure, the Avengers has the biggest action sequences you’ve ever seen. It’s got endless swarms of aliens raining from an inter-dimensional portal in the sky fighting a legion of good guys across a vast city-scape. Yes, it was awesome. But it’s almost too much. In trying to follow all the action from shot to shot from hero to hero, as impressive as each individual piece is it gets lost in the bigger battle picture.
The Iron Man movies have consistently delivered on the opposite of that. Tony Stark, with the occasional leg up from War Machine (now rebranded Iron Patriot) has been a singular ass kicking machine, no pun intended cause its not even really a pun. For some reason I’m way more invested in the action sequences in Iron Man 3 than I was in nearly any of the battles in Avengers. The dangers in Iron Man feel so direct and up close that I find myself as tense and frightful as I was at nearly any point in Gravity.
And those scenes? NUTSO. Lets review: Prehensile remote controlled Iron Man suit. Multiple helicopter attack on the Stark compound blasting it into the sea. Pepper piloting the suit. Blowing up a helicopter with a piano. Flaming, fire breathing, regenerating bad dudes. Southern Baptist terrorists. Assaulting Air Force One. Single handedly rescuing 13 people falling from a plane without parachutes. Solo assault on a terrorist compound using homemade weapons from hardware store supplies. And hmm… anything else? OH YEAH! 30+ IRON MAN SUITS IN A RUSSIAN ROULETTE BATTLE WITH EXTREMIS’D UP EXPLODEY BAD GUYS ALL OVER THE FREAKING PLACE.
Even after all of this, I STILL heard people saying that this movie was boring. I didn’t understand it at first. I couldn’t believe it. But then after talking to a few of them, I figured it out. They’re idiots. Because the parts that they were saying were boring? Yeah, that’s called plot development. That’s called emotional investment. Basically that’s what makes every movie in the Marvel Universe NOT Transformers. And that’s what it boils down to. This movie has some really fantastic character development and character acting. Robert Downey Jr. has always been just unbelievably perfect as Tony Stark. There is no other actor in the world that could have embodied the swaggering, genius, quick-witted playboy even nearly as well as he has. The entire MCU is built around Iron Man and GOOD. But in Iron Man 3 we see some of Downey’s deeper chops, as Tony deals with his PTSD fallout from his near death at the battle of New York. Throughout the film he struggles with panic attacks, diversions, and occasional crippling freakouts that keep him from performing important functions.
Those boring parts that people were talking about are reflecting the real life affects of immense responsibility. Sure, saving the world sounds great but there’s no way it doesn’t take its toll. I heard a specific complain about the second act of the film where Tony, after escaping unconscious in his suit from the attack on his compound, crash lands in Rose Hill, TN and attempts to track down the real source of the explosions The Mandarin is taking credit for. Lets ignore for a second the awesome, improvised fight at the END of this scene and give a big collective WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? This is easily the best-written set of scenes in dialogue and character content in any of the Marvel movies (except maybe Captain America) so far.
Tony links up with a young smart kid named Harley Keener while hiding out in Harley’s garage workshop. Ty Simpkins is ridiculously good here as Harley considering this is his first real dialogue based role (in his other credit Insidious he spends most of the movie in a coma) and Harley’s chemistry with Stark is amazing. As Rob from Madisonmovie points out “It’s great because it’s funny, but also because the kid is not just some cute tyke, but in many ways a young Tony Stark. Note how he describes his parents: “My mom just left for the diner, and my dad went out for scratchers. He must have won, because it’s been six years.” The way that line is written and delivered is classic Tony Stark, right? Sardonic humor masking pain.”
Seriously. Just watch.
COME ON. So good. So if you can’t stand the things that make this movie better than you want it to be, Marky Mark and the Transformer bunch has a new flick out in a couple months so just try not to drown in your own drool before then.
What about the other complaints about this movie? Also bunk. Just a warning, HUGE SPOILERS even though this review doesn’t make sense if you haven’t seen it. A lot of people are pissed about the Mandarin. Why? Ben Kingsley was a surpassingly brilliant as the character. For a full 2/3rds of the movie he is presented EXACTLY the way that the comics portray him. If they had stuck to the story and had he been the actual bad guy, then his performance would have been up there with Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight. But again, the movie is smarter than that. Using Killian as the actual Mandarin, pulling the strings behind the scenes is an ingenious plot twist. Plus we get to see Trevor! The bumbling, pantsless, beer toting brit is one of my favorite characters in the whole film.
And speaking of the acting EVERYONE IS AWESOME. Don Cheadle finally gets some solid, involved screen time and adds so much to the movie. Guy Pearce is gross and charming and evil and crazy in turn. Gwyneth Paltrow kicks consistent ass throughout the whole movie. Jon Favreau, a man as responsible for the success of the MCU as anyone, provides some of the best comic relief in the movie. Even the supporting cast of bad guys is awesome.
Seriously, I love this movie. I saw it in theaters with several of my friends and even my friend Derek, largely known for his inability to understand fun, was blown away, sitting in his seat with jaw slack and arms apart in a massive WHAT maneuver. For Marvel this was the next step. The first film in phase two ultimately storming towards The Avengers: Age of Ultron. But it’s really more than that. It’s a finding of their groove. It’s a near perfect combination of pacing, character development, next level action, story interplay, and universal story progress. We’re seven movies into this thing and I’m STILL EXCITED. So go give Iron Man 3 another run through and I’ll see you Thursday with Thor: The Dark World… for real this time.