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REVIEWS:

* The Avengers (5/6/12)  * MEMORIAL DAY 2012 – Red Tails, Memphis Belle, Flyboys, The Blue Max (5/28/12) 
* Prometheus (6/11/12)   * The Amazing Spider-Man (7/9/12)   * 42 (4/17/13)   * Iron Man 3 (5/9/13)  
* Godzilla – 2014 (5/18/14)   * Jurassic World (6/21/15)   * Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2/18/16)
* Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (6/21/16)   * Captain America: Civil War (5/11/16)


VIEWS ON FILM BY CEJ -
The GRINDHOUSE: Reviews




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No Spoilers Review:

"IRON MAN 3"
THE GOOD, THE BAD
& THE UGLY ... OTHER


BLACK GOES DARK IN AN ATTEMPT TO DISTINGUISH HIS
"IRON MAN" FROM THE REST 


by CEJ
(posted 5/10/13)

IRON MAN 3 (2013)
(Marvel / DMG Ent. / Paramount / Walt Disney)
GullCottage rating (** ½ on a scale of 1 - 5)

Dir. by - Shane Black
Written by - Drew Pearch, Shane Black
Based On "Iron Man" by - Stan Lee,
Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby

Prod. by - Kevin Feige
Exec. Prods. - Jon Favreau,
Dan Mintz, Charles Newirth

Dir. Of Photography  - John Toll
Edited by - Peter S. Elliot, Jeffrey Ford
Production Design by - Bill Brzeski
Costume Design by - Louise Frogley
Music - Brian Tyler
Running Time: 130 mins.


CAST:

Robert Downey Jr. ( Tony Stark / Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Sir Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin), Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Ty Simpkins (Harley Keener),  William Sadler (President Ellis), Miguel Ferrer (Vice Pres. Rodriguez), Paul Bettany (Jarvis' - voice), Stan Lee (Pageant Judge)







     No qualifying, quibbling or two ways around it, IRON MAN 3 is a double-barreled worldwide box office sensation.  Opening overseas a week prior to it’s U.S. theatrical debut to the tune of nearly $200 million, the latest adventure / installment in Marvel Studios’ saga of born again (so to speak) high tech arms manufacturer-turned-avenging-angel hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) walloped domestic box office expectations (which were already pretty high) with $175 million in North American ticket sales, the second highest opening ever behind it’s immediate predecessor, THE AVENGERS - released this time last year, for a (still clicking and counting) $700 million globally.  Many are predicting it to surpass THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING as “the most successful three-quel of all time.  And it’s amassed an astounding (and rare) “A” rating with Cinemascore - the industry standard opening night polling of moviegoers, which places it just behind the recent “A+” Jackie Robinson biopic “42”, and tied with THE CROODS, as the most popular audience film of 2013 thus far.  Whew!  But does it live up to the hype? …

      Sorry guys, and we may take some brickbats for this, … but no, not really!







     Is it a helluva great cinematic ride?  You bet!  But with the comic-book-adaptation film having achieved new levels of critical acclaim and artistic execution (as well as expectation) with Chris Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy and Marvel’s own IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS, “a great ride” may be enough to scratch the action movie itch, but no longer necessarily makes for a great movie - action, comic book or otherwise.  With the aforementioned films (hell, toss MEN IN BLACK 3, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in there as well) narrative logic and (yeah, here we go again) believable characterization are the essential cornerstones onto which all the “larger than life derring-do” will be … SHOULD BE! constructed.  “C’mon dude, it’s just a comic book movie!” some will say.  And yeah, you’re right.  Therefore logic and characterization are even more important.




 
    When director Richard Donner brought the original THE OMEN to the screen in 1976 then SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE in ’78, his key mantra for both films was “verisimilitude”: the process of making the characters of those films so believable and likable and realistic and identifiable to audiences, that when the grand scale horror and / or fantasy elements kicked in, we the audience (subconsciously projecting ourselves into those characters - as we now so much relate to them) make that horror / fantasy that much more horrific and fanciful in our minds than anything which could be projected on screen.  For this reason THE OMEN (much less explicit than contemporary horror films) and SUPERMAN (long before the era of CGI) still hold up today as among the best examples of their genres; just as potent and enjoyable today as they were over thirty-five years ago.  It’s a delicate group psychology / “tonal high-wire act” - the crafting of an engaging genre film, which is why so many crash and burn on the ash heap of “cheesiness”, or decide to “re-invent” themselves halfway into production as campy - when filmmakers can’t figure how to successfully make those disparate elements coalesce convincingly.  And yes - that's right, we’re talkin' you CONGO - right at the top of that list!



     Donner’s “versimilitude” dictum (along with on set rewrites and improvisation) would cause the world to fall in love with LA cops Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh in LETHAL WEAPON - often departing significantly from the darker, more “straight ahead contemporary noir” version of the original script by Shane Black …who also happens to be the director of IRON MAN 3.  And therein lay most of our “problems” with Tony Stark‘s latest adventure.  We love Shane Black.  His LETHAL WEAPON 1 & 2, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, THE LAST BOY SCOUT and even LAST ACTION HERO (hey, sue us!) are damned enjoyabe personal faves.  But they are all of a different genre - the action movie milieu.  And certain conventions are permissible and even expected in that milieu; not all of which necessarily jibe with the well wrought comic book adaptation.  For (believe it or not) the successful comic book / graphic novel adaptation is more than just action, action and more stupendous action out the yin-yang!

      IRON MAN 3 is great action movie grist for the mill.  But thematically, narratively and tonally, like a hero sandwich (we call 'em “hoagies” on the east coast) with too much bread and not enough meat, there’s just too damned much "Shane Black" and not enough straight up "Iron Man" / Tony Stark - y'know, that identifiable character we've come to know and love over the past five years. 


IRON MAN 3: Theatrial Trailer #3 (U.S.)




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play IRON MAN 3 score - "Extremis" (B. Tyler)



FEAR OF A
"BLACK" PLANET:



      In our review of THE AVENGERS we remarked how …

      “Marvel Studios heads Avi Arad and Kevin Feige have both for years been at the receiving end of positive and negative comment/postings in various articles and on numerous web boards. But one thing they’ve managed to get right more than wrong is their choice of directors. Arad once opined how the state of cinematic special FX is such that, for all intents and purposes, creating the world and scope of the superhero universe is no longer the biggest challenge or concern; but rather how now the greatest hurtle is in effectively capturing the TONE and FEEL of the character’s within their filmic incarnations. As such they’ve thus far been rather brilliant in their choices of talent who’s cinematic (as well as actual) personalities reflect the traits of the characters they’ve been commissioned to adapt from the hallowed pages of the Marvel universe.


Black, Downey Jr. and (Ex. Prod.) Favreau do San Diego Comic-Con 2012   


      Director Jon Favreau would bring the iconoclastic irreverence of his SWINGERS, MADE and ELF to IRON MAN and IRON MAN 2. The “dysfunctional family love/hate/ humorous dynamic” Tim Story brought to BARBERSHOP (and later to THINK LIKE A MAN) would be at the heart of FANTASTIC FOUR and FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER. Sam Raimi (EVIL DEAD, ARMY OF DARKNESS)‘s off-center but reverent love of classic genre would become the tonal voice of SPIDER-MAN 1,2 and 3. Bryan Singer’s socio-political vibe would infuse X-MEN and X-2. Kevin Branagh (HENRY V, HAMLET, MARY SHELLY’S FRANKENSTEIN)’s Shakespearean theatricality would power THOR. And Joe Johnston’s love of classic pulp Americana (THE ROCKETEER, OCTOBER SKY) would be a perfect fit for the retro CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
”.  

      As such the addition of Shane Black to the Marvel cinematic family of directors peaked a great deal of positive interest.  Born in 1961 in Pittsburgh, PA, Black’s love of film, comic books and crime literature lead him to a screenwriting career, which took first official form upon entering UCLA.  There his classmates included other budding film scribes Chris Matheson (BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE), Ed Solomon (MEN IN BLACK), and Fred Dekker (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS).  Dekker would end up as his roommate, and together the two would collaborate on a number of stories (earning the nickname “Black & Dekker”) - their most popular dual creative offspring being on what years later became the cult classic horror homage THE MONSTER CLUB (1987).  Dekker’s break into “the Bigs” would be the modestly budgeted but immensely successful horror / comedy filming of his HOUSE (1986) while Black’s would be LETHAL WEAPON, released the following year. 


 (2005)

      One of the most popular writers of the 80s / 90s, Black would score record paydays for LETHAL WEAPON 2, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and THE LAST BOY SCOUT, and he’d even do a little acting here and there in, among others, PREDATOR (1987) - as comic book loving soldier Hawkins; in the Dekker directed ROBOCOP 3 (1993) - as Donnelly; and in James L. Brooks’ AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997) - as Brian, manager of the popular Café 24 coffee shop frequented by the film’s main characters. 

     He’d take an “extended career hiatus” for nearly a decade before returning to critical acclaim with 2005’s relentlessly enjoyable pulp mystery / comedy KISS KISS BANG BANG starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer.  It’s title taken from James Bond’s nickname of the late 1960s, the film’s neo-noir narrative would be partially based on Brett Halliday’s fifth “Mike Shane” detective novel BODIES ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM (1941). 

     Opening at 2005’s Cannes Film Festival, KISS KISS would receive a limited U.S. release later that year.  But it’s critical accolades and solid worldwide performance re-established Black as a formidable writer, and now director, capable of tapping into international sensibilities.  Oh, and by the way, the scene where Downey accidentally pisses on the corpse in the bathroom is a "milk through the nose" gut-buster.  But we digress.  Having established a friendship and creative rapport with IRON MAN 1 & 2 star Robert Downey Jr. - a master at rolling those quick-witted “Shane Black-isms” off the tongue, Black was in good stead to take up the vacant director’s chair when previous IRON MAN series director (and now Co-Executive Producer) Jon Favreau decided against returning to the helm the third entry.


_______________________________________

THE GOOD:



      ... And there's quite a bit of it!  This is hardly a "beat up on Shane" review!  And as promised - NO SPOILERS!  Nothing here you haven’t already seen in the trailers (which admittedly show too much) or TV spots.



IRON MAN:  EXTREMIS (2005 - '06)  




Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian / Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen    



1) The Integration of “Extremis”

      In IRON MAN 3 the past of Tony Stark (he now experiencing post traumatic stress after the events of THE AVENGERS) returns to haunt him in the form of cutting edge bio-tech scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who’s work Stark dismissed many years prior, and whom now appears to be in unfathomable collusion with international terrorist “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley) - come to American shores on a terror campaign (apparently) in retribution for U.S. involvement in the Mideast and other hotspots.  The Mandarin’s high tech weapon of choice: literal human time bombs augmented with super human strength and agility via a process Killian has co-authored - “Extremis”.    

      All three IRON MAN cinematic installments have cleverly integrated material from the IRON MAN: EXTREMIS book series (Stark‘s imprisonment and escape from an Afghan terrorists cave, the suit of armor “suitcase“), but none more so than the new film .  Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Adi Granov, and released as a six issue story arc between 2005 - 2006, EXTREMIS is cited by many as one of the all time best IRON MAN comic book narratives - so much in fact it would in essence reboot the character into his modern literary incarnation, and forever alter his graphic depiction on page … and by extension film.





      In the comic book's story arc “Extremis”, initially created as a cancer cure by Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian (who commits suicide early on), evolves into a military nanotech version of the still sought after - and technologically elusive - “super soldier serum” of CAPTAIN AMERICA lore.  Interfacing with the brain’s “repair center”, it instructs the body in the rebuilding of it’s own damaged biology, and is also programmable before injection to augment and enhance the test subject with superhuman abilities if deemed required.  Upon facing off with a rampaging test subject named “Mallen”, Stark is critically wounded, and survives the operating table by undergoing the “Extremis” process himself - the nanotech transforming him into a sleeker, more powerful version of Iron Man, who can now even “will” his armor to assemble around him from the suitcase via thought command.

      In the film Maya Hansen is ably portrayed by English actress Rebecca Hall (VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA, FROST / NIXON).  And while Guy Pearce’s Killian is first introduced as an almost spoofish buffoon, he eventually evolves into the series' best villain since the first film’s Jeff Bridges.  Certainly more interesting / intriguing than Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko / "Crimson Dynamo" from IRON MAN 2.   


CBM (ComicBookMovies) Interview: "Guy Pearce Explains 'Extremis'" (4/24/13)




_______________________________________


2) The Integration of “The Mandarin”






      First appearing in TALES OF SUSPENSE # 50 (Feb. 1964), the Mandarin would grow over the years into Iron Man’s most formidable arch nemesis - as surely as James Bond’s “Blofeld” and Sherlock Holmes’ “Professor Moriarity”.  Created by Stan Lee and illustrated by Don Heck (WEIRD TERROR, the “Silver Age” IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS), the character was born in pre communist China, lost his parents to violence at an early age, then, as a gifted prodigy, molded himself into a genius level scientist and martial artist of near superhuman capability.  His already impressive resume would get a considerable upgrade upon discovery of “the ten rings.  Found in the crashed remains of an alien spacecraft, each (one worn on each finger) possessed a different power.  

      As The Mandarin, the gravitas of Sir Ben Kingsley commands the screen in every sequence in which he appears during the film’s first half.  And in those sequences we only see him in a series of cryptic, quick-cut, Osama Bin Laden-like “digital recording” threats hacked into the satellite grids of the world’s TV networks!  When Stark finally catches up to him face to face, Kingsley’s performance shifts into another gear so smoothly and effortlessly, it’ll be a damn shame if Sir Ben isn’t singled out for some sort of Supporting Actor honors early next awards season.  


THR Interview: "Sir Ben Kingsley On Playing The Mandarin" (5/3/13)




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3) Going Back To Basics





      The first half of IRON MAN 3 comes dangerously close to becoming “tech dependent”.  Audience’s original introduction to Tony Stark in the first film was as the brash but brilliant inventor / mechanic.  A popular (and very funny) Facebook meme features side by side images of Stark (Downey Jr.) and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) with the caption "Wealth - The Greatest Super Power Of All!".   But in fact, Stark actually does possess a superpower before he becomes Iron Man: his super brain, capable MacGuyver-like, of turning spare parts in a terrorist cave into a suit of armor able to affect his escape.  That same super intellect (along with a crisis of conscience) would then transform him from fallen into high tech avenging angel.  The second film, IRON MAN 2, becomes disturbingly more tech dependent, with Stark, every time he needs to know something, going to computer manservant Jarvis (voice of Paul Bettany) to holo-map out the best manner in which to build a contraption to solve the task at hand. 

     This “Jarvis addiction” reaches a zenith in the first half of IRON MAN 3, becoming genuinely irritating and narratively distracting.  That is until Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce (the upcoming SHERLOCK HOLMES 3 and GODZILLA reboot) toss it all out the window halfway in by having Stark literally “fall Icarus-like from the sky”, burned and battered, into suburban Tennessee, where for the next half hour his armor is inoperative, and he must - with the assistance of an endearingly precocious local 10 yr. old child science prodigy named Harley (the wonderful Ty Simpkins - the creepy little boy from INSIDIOUS; and wow! Is this kid a find!!!) once again use his wits, dry wit and science / mechanical acumen to both get out of his predicament while also moving the story along at a briskly entertaining pace. 




4) The Darker Tone

      The best sequels maintain the DNA of their original, but aren’t clones.  They’re unique and distinct experiences in and of themselves.  While maintaining genetic links to that original, they must ultimately be a different KIND of film.  After the hardcore Asimov-Clarke like science of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN would ingeniously go retro and become an old school WW2 submarine thriller a’la THE ENEMY BELOW and RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP.  THE VOYAGE HOME would become a social satire, and THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY would morph into a MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE-like political thriller.  Chris Nolan’s second Batman film THE DARK KNIGHT, would emerge, in narrative and stylistic execution, as less a “straight up” comic book film, and more as such a film filtered through the sensibilities of a Michael Mann crime thriller along the lines of THIEF, MANHUNTER, HEAT or COLLATERAL.  And with IRON MAN 3, Black wisely takes us into darker thematic territory to create a film noticeably "of another cloth"; this "dark cloth" alternately both intentional and unintentional.  





      As mentioned earlier, Stark is experiencing a version of “post traumatic battle stress” after the climactic incidents of THE AVENGERS.  He can’t sleep and he seek's the solace of hiding in his work; developing a series of remote Iron Man suits which ostensibly can be used drone-like in dangerous combat and rescue scenarios, but which subconsciously (for him anyway) provide a greater personal buffer between him and the basic human need most "normal" people feel to interface with other human beings.  This up close "human contact" thing is of course something which Stark has never been that good at. 





     The best sequence in the film by far has one of the remote suits (in a respect representing Stark's aforementioned subconscious) nearly attacking Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) - who now lives with Stark in Malibu, when she attempts to awaken him from a nightmare: an action which the suit interprets as a threatening act against Stark.  For a brief moment, the audience is genuinely shocked into ground level reality.  And it's arguably one of the most adroit representations ever on film of how psychologically we all tend to need, while at the same time somehow need to repel, those close to us in order to protect our inner selves.  If there was ever any doubt before, it's surely made clear in this sequence that Stark is anything but a superhero.  But then again, he's never claimed to be one.  In fact he continues to deny the fact.  Here he’s a f**ked up guy (granted a multi-millionaire guy) with a part of his personality with which everyone can actually relate.  And referring to our Richard Donner dictum of “versimilitude”, this realization which Stark has always known, now driven home in spades to the audience with that "attacking suit" sequence, goes a long way towards making the later larger-than-life aspects of the narrative that much more engrossing later down the line. 


IRON MAN 3 clip: "Stark Threatens The Mandarin"




      Whereas IRON MAN 2 ultimately emerged as entertaining “more of the same”, for awhile here at least in IRON MAN 3, Black’s slightly off-center take on the material becomes an intriguing amalgam of character piece and political thriller.  But alas, this is only for awhile …

_______________________________________




THE BAD:


      And these (for us at least - but apparently not for those who gave the film it’s Cinemascore “A” rating) nearly undue everything positive which has come before. 


1) A Pronounced Lack Of Narrative Logic

     
* The U.S. is the target of the world’s most wanted terrorist - The Mandarin, who has just set off a human time bomb in the heart of downtown LA; ... and SHIELD is nowhere in sight They’re not even mentioned once in the film! WTF!!! 


      The “bombs at public events" is an example of an unintended darker moment.  With IRON MAN 3 debuting in theaters a little over a week after the Boston Marathon bombing - and featuring a similar attack at a known event / landmark, it’s hard for audiences not to draw analogies between the two.  And this, coupled with the threat in the film to a high ranking U.S. official, causes one to wonder, “Where the hell is SHIELD?” - the high tech intelligence “homeland security” organization headed by Nick Fury.  It's presence was a major part of all preceding Marvel films - IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, IRON MAN 2, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE AVENGERS.  And in the first two IRON MANs every time Stark stubs his big toe or has one too many shots of tequila, Nick Fury or Coulson shows up.  But here, with the nation under siege, and Stark’s home attacked by an airborne military fighting force, … there’s no SHIELD anywhere abouts?  



      Sure, we understand the desire to not “leech” from previous material,  as well as the filmmaker’s desire to make a “stand alone” story.  We also understand the possible contractual / financial impediments of bringing Samuel L. Jackson back yet again for what is essentially a glorified cameo.  But logic must still prevail.  A simple mention to the effect of, let's say - because of the still controversial events of New York, SHIELD is at this time, under Presidential order, in official “lockdown” mode, ... or something like that.  You know what we mean.  Perhaps Stark receives a letter however, or parcel or e-mail or text from Fury which provides him with a key piece of info he can use.  Hell, maybe it's just a birthday card, the latest issue of Maxim, a dirty limerick via Facebook or Twitter, or a damned stick of Beemans, Bazooka Joe or Hubba Bubba chewing gum.  ANYthing to let us the audience know - yeah, SHIELD is still out there.  They're just not a part of this particular story is all.  


      Perhaps the filmmakers felt the audience wouldn’t care, miss, or even notice the exclusion - what with all the high-flying action and derring-do.  And there certainly is a lot of that on display in IRON MAN 3.  If the "they won't notice" thing is indeed the case, then this is sloppy story structure as well as a display of a lack of faith in the intelligence of the audience.  Bad move, guys.  Really bad move! 





     
* Stark’s mini “arc reactor” (the object in his chest keeping him alive by preventing the shrapnel shards from piercing his heart) is THE major factor of all three IRON MAN films as well as the major motivation of Stark as a character.  Also “Extremis” is THE major narrative factor of IRON MAN 3.  Yet both bio-tech issues, given so much gravitas, are dispensed with in the film’s final moments with off-the-cuff ease, and worse - with no explanation to the audience as to how?!?! 


      To all of you with that “A” Cinemascore rating - c'mon, did we see the same movie?  Stark’s need to get to the core of “Extremis” takes on a personal level in IRON MAN 3.  By the end of the film it becomes as obsessively necessary for him to crack as his need to keep himself alive via his own “arc reactor”.  This when the two most beloved people in his life, Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan (Stark’s personal valet - portrayed in all three films by director Jon Favreau) become victims of The Mandarin’s “Extremis” fueled rampage.  Yet both issues, “Extremis” and a final solution / cure to the shrapnel around the heart, get short rift and no explanation.  As with the absence of SHIELD, this is sloppy … even lazy … storytelling which communicates a disdainful lack of appreciation for the audience’s intelligence.  It’s not only narratively appalling to think no one would notice the omission, it’s personally insulting and offensive to think the filmmakers feel we aren’t sharp enough to “get it”.  




      As with the SHIELD absence, there’s no need to go into immense detail about it - at least not this time around.  Yes, we realize it's the epilogue of the Final Act and you don't want to tack on two or three extended endings.  And we get how you've got to keep the narrative pace up.  But you’ve also got to (once again) at least acknowledge to the audience some awareness of the omission.

     When you do this you not only give yourself the elbow room of a "legitimate" plot gap, but you also paradoxically give yourself that which you didn't have before - more time to go into detail ... only later down the line; perhaps in the next film.  In this case, as Stark / Downey narrates the film in noir fashion, perhaps some kind of voiceover near the end to the effect of “… but we’ll have to go into that the next time”.  Y’know, acknowledging that both conundrums are serious ones, but that they’re so serious we have to allot them their justly deserved dramatic time / arena in the next installment.  Like Spock’s cryptic “Remember!” at the end of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, Darth Vader’s “I am your father” during the final moments of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, or even Nick Fury's surprise post credits appearance at the end of the original IRON MAN, it effectively raises (rather than answers) a question in the collective mind of the audience, makes them hot and bothered to get to the next installment; then plants mucho butts in the seats on opening weekend when said next installment arrives.  From a narrative structure standpoint  this gives the film makers themselves the gift of a couple more years to "come up with a good answer", and also provides the next film with somewhere to go.   


* Returning to the over reliance on high tech


      After nicely taking Stark “McGuyver” retro in the film’s mid section, all of THAT is jettisoned in the final act with Stark’s high tech (rather than his wits) coming in to save the day.






      This all however pales in comparison to our biggest problem with Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3, …
                                                                                                 

2) Too much Black, and not enough IRON MAN


      IRON MAN 3 ultimately emerges as more a “Shane Black film” than “an IRON MAN film”.  And under normal circumstances (the treasure that is KISS KISS BANG BANG for instance) this is a great thing.  But far too many “Shane Black-isms” clutter IRON MAN 3 to the degree of choking out that which makes the first film and THE AVENGERS so enjoyable, ... not to mention the original Iron Man character as realized in decades of comic books. 


RCN TV Interview: Shane Black - IRON MAN 3 (4/3/13)


 

      * The Christmas setting - just like in LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and KISS KISS BANG BANG.  C’mon Shane, that s**t’s  gettin’ real old.  It was stale back in the 90s; and it hasn't improved with age.  We get it.  It's your cinematic signature.  But please!  Do a Hitchcock-like cameo walk-on or something the next time around.  Let’s jettison the Christmas thing.  Jeez!

     
* The buddy movie quick-ironic-“smart alecky” witticisms tossed back and forth in the midst of dangerous situations.  When Downey and Don Cheadle (Col. Rhodes “Rhodey”) invade Killian’s shipyard headquarters at film’s climax, we could have sworn we were watching Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in some kinda proposed LETHAL WEAPON 5 sequel.  It also felt like the Canadian border warehouse finale of THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT as well the football stadium coda of THE LAST BOY SCOUT.  Been there; done that.




    
* The ohhh so cleverly original narrative “twist” about the true nature of the terrorist plot?  Not entirely original or clever.  Are we the only ones to notice it’s ripped almost verbatim from your own THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT? 

     And while we're at it: the helicopter assault on the Malibu cliffside house? - Same exact thing in LETHAL WEAPON dude!  And the cliffside house going over the cliff? - carboned from your own LETHAL WEAPON 2; once again verbatim.  C'mon!  That ain't right!  Things are starting to smack of a certain laziness (or is it insecurity) in writing!  We're falling back on way too many "presto out of the sleeve 'Black-isms'" in these sequences - ideas and material which have proven over the years to be "winners with the audience", and not nearly striving for enough "let's try something new". 

      Finally there’s …

     * Black’s darker tone.  While enjoying it to a degree, we mentioned it earlier as being entertaining “for awhile”.  There’s a certain dark cynicism perfectly suited to the film noir milieu, as well as to the humorous neo-noir so well executed in the past by Black as both writer and director.  But it doesn’t necessarily always jibe well with a comic book adaptation.

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THE OTHER:



      IRON MAN 3 is a technical tour de force.  C'mon, you knew we'd get there eventually - film craft "tech heads" that we are!  It’s dark hued cinematography by John Toll (BRAVEHEART, THE LAST SAMURAI, CLOUD ATLAS) is a work of celluloid (and yes, we realize that word is all but defunct) work of art.  With deep blacks and sharp contrast, it’s the most lush and elegant looking Marvel franchise film yet. 



     Also, of the three IRON MAN music scores, the one here by Brian Tyler (TIMELINE, CONSTANTINE, BATTLE LOS ANGLES) is the best - both propulsive and thematic … the other two films accomplishing one or the other, but never both at once.  Take particular notice of Tyler's nifty musical wink as the “Dies Irae” (“Day of Wrath) is slyly used as the Killian motif.  Whenever Stark or his companions confront one of the Extremis "soldiers", the famous classical quote comes to symbolize Stark’s past returning to wreck judgment upon him.  Simple but effective.  The only quibble? ...  and no fault of Tyler‘s, is with three different composers bringing three different musical modus operandi to three different films over the years, we’ve never had a single memorable IRON MAN theme bringing the necessary added emotional weight and sense of familiarity to any of the films.  Note the central obsessive driving motif over the course of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s DARK KNIGHT scores, as well as Alan Silvestri’s stirring THE AVENGERS for what a difference a strong central musical I.D. can bring to the proceedings.     





      At their core, comic books - and especially their filmic adaptations emerge as ultimately positive and reassuring (WATCHMEN both book and film notwitshstanding) .  Even something such as THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, which begins as nihilistic, evolves into a treatise on the need for self sacrifice for the greater societal good.  Few films have mined this delicate thematic well as effectively as the original IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS - both of them extremely though acts to follow. 

      By taking things a little too dark, we get away from Coulson’s belief in THE AVENGERS (in reference to Captain America’s “stars & stripes” uniform) that "With all that's been going on lately, and things which are about to come to light, we might just need a little 'old fashioned'".  While that sort of thing may reek of cornball elsewhere, it was powerful in THE AVENGERS.  Powerful enough to turn Starke's head, especially when Cap / Steve Rogers dresses down the millionaire, playboy, world-renowned scientist with that comment about fallen soldiers who “didn’t have any of that but were worth ten times as much”.   It’s a nebulous idea / notion we’re zooming in on here, but an important one. 


Rogers (Chris Evans) & Coulson (Clark Gregg) - THE AVENGERS (2012)    



      Someone (can’t recall at present who, sorry!) once referred to making films in a series (be it Bond, superheroes, ALIEN, PREDATOR, Sherlock Holmes or whatever) as "doing a new version of the Requiem Mass" in that "you can do anything you will with the music, ... but you can't fuck with the text, otherwise it's NOT the Requiem Mass". 

     Somehow with IRON MAN 3, Black "fuck's with the text" to the detriment of nearly undoing all the other really great stuff he struggles so hard to bring to the party. 

 
      IRON MAN 3 is certainly a no doubt helluva big screen cinematic ride - though it’s 3D presentation isn’t as impressive as some other films.  And there are rumors this may be the final film in the series, though Downey is contracted to the next AVENGERS.  We personally think this talk from the cast is merely standard contract re-negotiation tactics as Downey and Paltrow’s initial three film deal has now been fulfilled.  If IRON MAN 3 does however wind up as the coda to the series, it’s a better finish than IRON MAN 2, but not nearly up to the standards of the aforementioned IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS.  Those two films raised the bar to such a high standard, that “good” is no longer “good enough”. 


 Paola Rivera pulp novel-style posters, commissioned as gifts to IRON MAN 3 cast & crew



      We were initially disappointed we couldn’t catch the all day “IRON MAN marathon” of four films - the first two IRON MANs and AVENGERS followed by the midnight debut of IRON MAN 3.  But in retrospect we’re now glad we didn’t.  After THE AVENGERS, IRON MAN 3 would have been something of an anti-climactic let down to the entire day.  

      Just sayin’.   But then again, Cinemascore didn’t ask our opinion, did they?      :  ) 





                                                                                                                                                         CEJ 

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