Thursday, 25 April 2013

Iron Man 3 (Film Review)

Perhaps the strangest thing about Iron Man 3 is that rather than its predecessor it more closely resembles Blade Trinity. Wait! Before you start running screaming for the hills, this is in terms of its narrative flaws. Much of the story feels like it's trying to do too much and lacks a lot of the talent it really needs to pull it off. Not to mention it's trying to resemble something completely different than what was previously built upon.
The obvious difference here is that Iron Man 3 isn't utter dreck with Ryan Reynolds providing the only entertainment, and is actually fun to watch.

Set some time after the events of Avengers, Tony Stark is visibly suffering. Many of his worst aspects have only been enhanced in time, with his paranoia and obsessive compulsiveness at an all time high. It's clear that his near death experience has badly shaken him and Pepper is the only thing keeping him sane. Unfortunately for him, it's at exactly this time that a new threat begins to arise to torment the United States. A leader known as the Mandarin stands tall, bombing targets without warning and waging a ferocious assault upon America. Stark is soon required to fight the villain but it's evident that he's at his weakest.

One foremost thing to praise is the film's depiction of Stark's war with the Mandarin's forces. While it would have been easy to display Tony showing up in the armour to punch goons repeatedly, it takes advantage of his weakened state. Reflecting upon it by robbing him of many strengths and forcing him to adapt in order to survive. This allows him to be much more of a gadgeteer than previously seen and pull some very A-Team-esque inventive stunts. While this could admittedly be more due to a certain "in a cave with a box of scraps" meme rather than the characterisation previously cited, it really does work here. 

Contrasting with this is the efforts of War Machine. Now the Iron Patriot, he is seen to be pulling the sort of assault tactics we would have been expecting of Iron Man not too long ago. Direct strikes and reactions against military installations in full armour to try and behead the terrorist threat at its source. Something which helps to display how Tony is growing as a character and ultimately surpassing what he was before despite his limitations.

Further improvements come in terms of the character interaction and plot. An often seen criticism of Iron Man 2 was that it relied far too much upon the witty banter of the characters and not enough of a strong story. This was apparently taken to heart as there has been a much clearer effort to provide a more engaging plot-line and cohesive pacing, rather than what felt like an excuse to have the characters make fun of things. While the humour is still visibly present and some of the best lines of the trilogy are given, just wait until you see the phone-call scene, it's an addition rather than the apparent focus. Furthermore the few scenes where the jokes do become plot relevant are delivered in such a way they're not overwhelming the plot. Just wait until you see Ben Kingsley actually being allowed to act to see what I mean.

Many of the action scenes felt better directed than in the previous instalment as well. Dropped at almost the exact points they needed to be at are frequent fights, skirmishes and brawls. Each delivered to create beats in the plot exactly as and when they are required, breaking up the exposition dumps and talking with bits to keep the audience interested. With each encounter past the initial fight there's a clear path of escalation, with Stark building up to bigger and badder enemies until the grand finale. Unfortunately while this is indeed a strength it's also linked to the first of its biggest flaws.

That Blade Trinity comparison at the beginning? Here's the first of them: Rather than keeping in line with what came before, it's trying to be a very different film to appeal to new audiences.

The previous individual Marvel films tried to keep things relatively simple an focused. Sure you had the big stuff taking place, with galaxy threatening doom weapons and red Nazis armed with Norse weapons, but it ultimately came down to a single focused battle. Unfortunately Iron Man 3 seems to forget about that with a finale more in line with a titanic battle, with dozens of people on either side smashing one another to pulp. It feels more like it's trying to keep pace with what was displayed in the Avengers while still relying only upon a single major character, most likely so not to feel like a step down.

It's trying to do the same thing Avengers did with its villains but it ultimately it lacks the scope and prior build-up to truly accomplish it. Trying to make a much smaller threat feel like something as big as the Chitauri invasion, mostly at the cost of Iron Man himself. The armour which previously withstood everything from nuclear blast shockwaves, to impacts by cars, and going toe to toe with Thor has suddenly become tin foil. Being scrapped and torn open with remarkable ease by an enemy which ultimately feels like they should not be so great of a threat.

The finale is far from the only scene which feels like it's pandering to an audience expecting bigger things. With moments in the climax like the Airforce One escape feeling like desperate attempts to keep up with the bigger film. Trying not to feel like a step down from the titanic events which capped off the first series of films, but ultimately failing for a good number of reasons.

The next major issue is something the plot clearly suffers from: It's trying to include far too much into too short of a film.

Even with the runtime of an hour and a half, the film simply tries to juggle far too many plots for its down good. All of the ideas are fantastic, more than enough to make up two films, but each one needed more time and focus. Between the inclusion of the Extremis, Mandarin, Tony's growing fanaticism, his losses, his past coming back to haunt him (again); and many others there's just too much here.

More than a few are completely pushed into the background with the Iron Patriot's involvement becoming little more than fan-service, and the much discussed "post-Avengers Stark" becoming a sideshow. Beyond a few initial scenes his apparent PTSD and shock serves as little beyond a few speed bumps in the road towards the finale. Adding little to his character and ultimately the film itself in the end. While any one of the plots it featured could easily have served as a major story themselves, there is ultimately just too much here for one film to handle.

The final flaw is linked into the aforementioned problem, with the writers simply not being skilled enough to handle the stories on screen.

While the plot might have been overstuffed, many points within the narrative felt either uneven or just mishandled in far too many respects. 
This is most evident within the opening when it flashes back to earlier years within Stark's life to try and contrast him with the person he will later become. The way it is presented feels extremely heavy handed, with continual narration, flashes forwards to what is to come and you'll be lucky if you don't guess who the real villain is within the first twenty minutes. Something which is a shame because the revelation they pull is one of the most entertaining scenes i've seen this year. Almost the entire time you feel like you're either watching a film whose story needed just that one or two more rewrites in the editing room, or needed to be severely tweaked by someone else.

When all is said and done, Iron Man 3 is a very fun film but it still can't hold a candle to the original and has some gaping flaws. It's the sort of film you'd watch for the big explosions and fun pacing but you know that it's as shallow as humanly imaginable.
If you want a full blown positive review then there's plenty you can see on Rotten Tomatoes, but honestly it's not that good. If you're going into it for the action, CGI, fight scenes and humour then you'll definitely get your money's worth. If you're going into it for a more balanced story, it's honestly a big step down in quality from Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. The ending is also something which is going to split a lot of people on whether it's good or not. Like with everything else it feels like one more addition to a story which could have been good with more build-up, but its vastly more reaching consequences are going to have far more impact than anyone would expect.

Definitely go see this one if you enjoyed the previous films, again don't get me wrong it is good, but don't place your expectations that high.


Iron Man 3 and all related characters and media are owned by the Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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