Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Standard With a Few Surprises -- Reflections on "Iron Man 3"

This is a pretty serviceable Iron Man film. Far superior to the 2nd entry in the franchise, but still lacking the anarchic fun of the first film. In this installment, Tony Stark pisses off a terrorist called the Mandarin, gets his house destroyed as a result, and has to find a way to save the day. Shane Black, who has written some great films (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), brings his darkly comic sensibilities to the table as director and gives us a good time at the movies.

The best thing about the movie is Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. He is full of surprises, and manages to recharge the film enormously whenever he’s on screen. I imagine several comic book purists were really pissed off by Black’s treatment of the Mandarin, but I thought it was original and a fairly decent satire of our media’s love affair with terrorism.

Otherwise, Iron Man 3 is a pretty standard superhero flick, hitting all the required beats on its collision course with a pulse-pounding, blow-em-up-good ending. On a sidenote, I keep wondering how long audiences will indulge Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark. Obviously, he’s very convincing in the role, but it feels remarkably true-to-life somehow. At times, he is grating even though the film is trying to make him endearing. In The Avengers, this quality was an excellent foil for Captain America, Thor, et al, but in his own films it seems to make him just seem more and more like an unlikable jackass. Is this what we want out of our heroes? Is it what we deserve?

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