'IRON MAN 3' Review by Steve Oatney —
This fantastic third installment in the Tony Stark saga (fourth, if you count ‘The Avengers’), is a worthy story to be told, and a worthy film to watch. Could it have been better? Of course. Could it have been much worse? For sure.
Director Shane Black took the reigns from Jon Favreau and pulled off another fun blockbuster of a superhero flick. Below are some aspects that I think Shane Black and writer Drew Pearce included to steer the ongoing Iron Man story in a positive direction:
— They made Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) a more troubled soul and showed him suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder type symptoms. He is chased by his inner demons, has difficulty with panic-attacks, and cannot sleep. Great idea, though I would have liked to see it pushed even further into an even darker place for Tony. His small, and often humorous, panic-attacks were a bit too comedic and, in my opinion, would have been much more powerful if they were portrayed as scary and/or dangerous to his physical and mental well-being.
— They introduced an iconic Iron Man arch-enemy straight out of the Marvel comic-books, “The Mandarin,” originally created by Stan Lee and designed by Don Heck. While the on-screen character was deftly played by Ben Kingsley, he was not much like the genius-scientist/martial-artist/wizard that came from the sequential-art pages. I’ll not give a spoiler here, but let’s just say that Kingsley got to play a unique and twisted twist on the Marvel villain. Yes, I said “twisted twist,” yeah, so!
— They gave Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) a real meat-on-the-bones integral role this time! While the brilliant actress got good amounts of screen-time in the first two films, in ‘3’ she didn’t just get to help the hero, she became a heroine, full-on! For me, I just cannot get enough of strong female characters (hint hint, DC Comics, lets get Wonder Woman to the big screen). With acting talent, such as Paltrow’s, it is easy to take a character like Pepper to the next level, and kudos to them for doing so! Did I believe that her character might make all of the decisions she made in this film? Well, maybe not, but being in a relationship with Tony Stark would certainly bring out hidden aspects of a person’s personality, for sure, so I’ve let go of my criticisms of her somewhat hard-to-believe heroic choices made.
— Guy Pierce doesn’t tend to let me down, and didn’t in IM3, either. Loved him in Memento, L.A. Confidential, and The Hurt Locker, to name a few, and I count him as a reliable actor pulling off every character I’ve seen him embody. In IM3, he plays Aldrich Killian, a brilliant scientist who’s company strives for years to perfect a human-regenerative vaccine called “Extremis.”
— Extremis can not only heal the body, but also regrow lost limbs (not unlike the work of Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, from that other Marvel comic web-tastic film franchise). Of course, with a drug of this sort, it is bound to have major side-effects, and this one surely does, in spades. SPOILER: Those in the Extremis program can also super-heat their body parts at will, giving them the ability to melt or burn anything they touch, though some become victims as they are unable to control the explosive nature of their special-ability.
Admittedly, this is a very cool power, and is based on the wonderful comic story-arc by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov. However, I found it quite odd that each time the Extremis villains utilized this heat-power, that neither their clothes nor hair ever burned away. At one point, one of them even slowly walked through a gas-fire, in a kitchen, and came through the other side without their clothes ablaze. Fire-retardant fabrics must be standard issue for all of those folks, eh? Guess so. Still, the special-effects used for the Extremis effects are stellar.
— Armor, a few words about armor… without the iron, there would be no Iron Man, right? Well, if you like the ever-developing versions of Tony Stark’s protective and multi-functional armor, then this movie will not disappoint! Another MINI-SPOILER: If you haven’t seen all of the preview trailers, then you might not know that Stark has many new suits of armor, with all sorts of new capabilities. The kid in me loved seeing so many of them using their individual tech to battle baddies! I’m not so sure that they were all necessary, but it sure was fun, and filmmakers know that they now have to contend on a playing field with high-tech movies like ‘Transformers,’ ‘G.I.Joe,’ and ‘Pacific Rim’ coming July 12. LAST SPOILER: I’m not sure that I followed the “clean-slate” protocol at the end, but I suppose I do like the idea of a clean-slate for Tony & Pepper from which to move forward.
— A child element? OK, so they can’t yet have Tony and Pepper have a child, as it is too soon with ‘The Avengers 2,’ and other films on the horizon. It would just be too complicated to fit a baby into the storyline, but they found away around that by using Ty Simpkins to play Harley Keener, a young boy with a bit of a tinkerer/inventor’s soul who buddies up with Tony when Stark comes to his town to investigate a mysterious explosion cover-up that Tony felt had a connection to the terrorist activities of The Mandarin. The conversations and interactions between Tony and Harley were usually rife with comedic repartee, but unfortunately felt forced to me. Tony, I get it, he is a brilliant philanthropist, playboy, and genius, so a quick-witted tongue is accepted, if not expected. For this little boy to keep up with Tony seemed a bit far-fetched, but again, it was fun, and well played.
— “Iron Patriot,” the red-white-and-blue armor that Col. James Rhody (Don Cheadle) wore was much anticipated, with early on-set leaked photos, and more recent previews showing the patriotic Stark tech. Yes, very cool armor that would make even Captain America jealous, but Rhody’s role felt a bit less kick-ass than when he donned the ‘War Machine” suit. Plus, the fact that there was no mention of the Captain, even though the new suit looked like the Super Soldier in metal, was a missed opportunity. Is a Chris Evans cameo out of the question? It would have been great to see an Avenger pop up in this flick, somewhere. Ah, wishful thinking (don’t miss the after-credits, by the way, wink-wink). Rhody does get a bit more out-of-suit action scenes and impressive stunts which certainly set him above your more typical serviceman, and furthermore showed himself as as extreme marksman with handgun accuracy that would impress The Punisher (another Marvel character who likes guns, maybe you’ve heard of him).
— Jon Favreau may not have directed this installment, but he reprised his role as “Happy Hogan,” the previous bodyguard of Tony Stark, who is now head of security for Pepper Pott’s Stark Industries team. A nice change for him which gave us more of a glimpse into the character well played by Favreau.
— Finally, a few additional roles played by Rebecca Hall and James Badge Dale were notable, and the always wonderful Paul Bettany who has played the voice of Jarvis, Stark’s computer, in all three films, is the best-of-series actor who never gets any on-camera time.
All in all, I really enjoyed Iron Man 3, and will recommend it to those who liked the first two. For me, I rank it third among the three, but very close to ‘2’ in quality. Keep going Marvel, I love what you’re doing!!! —