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“Iron Man 3” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

April 30, 2013

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 8.59.41 PMSanta has come early this year folks! The “Iron Man” franchise has become the staple for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for crying out loud, it literally jumpstarted this epic cinematic universe, leading to the most epic Phase 1 finale, “Marvel’s The Avengers”. Now, a year has passed, and Phase 2 begins! Being that Robert Downey Jr’s contract has officially ended with Marvel with the release of this film, the question about him returning is a bit mum at the moment, although Joss Whedon has clearly stated recently that it’ll be his mission to bring Robert back for one more bout.

“Iron Man” was a gamble by Marvel Studios, after officially becoming it’s own entity and saving most of the best, they risked it all with “Iron Man”, which many superhero film lovers aren’t too familiar with, which is a shame, because Iron Man has some fantastic comic stories, but I digress. Casting, Robert Downey Jr. was the second biggest risk, many felt that making a past drug addict (SOBER) was a bit a of silly choice, but when it all comes down to it, that’s the PERFECT reason to cast RDJ. There are haunting similarities between the actor and the comic book hero in a lot of ways, “Demon in a Bottle” much? Robert has made a stamp on the character that most would dare not try to improve on. He IS Iron Man!

Jon Favreau directed by “Iron Man 1 & 2”, his vision was exactly what the character needed to reach a mass audience; funny, dark, gritty, and all around fun. Now, of course the biggest problems the first two films had was the script issues. Most of the productions neither film had a completed script to work with, Favreau clearly stated in a past interview that the films relied on a lot of improv, and for better or worse it shows, especially in “2”, which many considered to be the lackluster of the MCU canon, but again, I digress. During the production of the first “Iron Man”, Shane Black was brought on, unofficially, for a little story help with the script, in fact, it was his idea for Tony to say those magical words at the end, ‘I Am Iron Man’.

Shane Black directed and wrote one of the best dark comedy noir films, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, starring RDJ in the lead. By combining those two dynamics for a ‘final’ Iron Man movie, the mixture couldn’t be more exciting. And, the end result, we get a fantastic movie! As promised, “Iron Man 3” delivers on many levels, but the biggest thing I took away from it, is that it borrows those classic “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” elements that made that movie such a cult hit. The corky/snappy dialogue, the humorous partnerships, the playful RDJ narration, and of course, it’s not a Shane Black movie if it wasn’t set, as always, during Christmas time. However, be that as it may, the movie does suffer in one particular category, that the other two films had trouble with…it’s villain. I promise, NO SPOILERS!

It’s been nearly a year since the incident in NYC happened, and our hero hasn’t been the same since. Brash-but-brilliant industrialist, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is pitted against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kinglsey) has become the ‘face’ of the new global terror threat, he preaches slippery/sly phrase that give his radical followers all the more reason to cheer his attacks. A new technological power has come to the Mandarin, known as Extremis, a super soldier virus that turns normal people into, borrowing a cheesy phrase from the movie, a hot mess. Tony, won’t stand for it. This journey, at every turn, will test Stark’s mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 8.59.28 PMInfluenced by the ever popular Warren Ellis Extremis story arc, this film takes an interesting turn than the last two films. Though Extremis may be confusing for some noobs, for me, it adapted the bare basics to a point where it worked right for a full fledged film adaptation. “Extremis” characters, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) make their debut here, and fit in quite nicely to the pantheon of this cinematic arc, going so far as to tie in a specific scene from the first Iron Man, referenced by the character Yensen (Shaun Toub).

One of the greatest aspects about this movie was the partnerships, which is something Black is well known for (“Lethal Weapon” anybody). Tony partner’s with a 12 year old boy (Ty Simpkins) in the middle of the film, and without giving too much away, some of the best dialogue and character development comes from these two characters. But, Tony has friends his own age, in comes Rhodey (Don Cheadle)! I’ve always loved Don as Rhodey far more than Terrence Howard’s. Shane gave us a special treat pairing Tony & Rhodey, one could say their chemistry rings back to those classic Riggs & Murtaugh days.

It’s hard to explain the Mandarin without giving away spoilers, though I’m sure some of you have already snooped online about the ‘Mandarin twist’. Let me just say this, in the movie’s defense, it was a BOLD choice, and I give them major props for it. But, damnit, you’re toying with the heart and souls of high strung Marvel geeks. If you’re not expecting a major revolt, think again buddy! Because you’ve started something. But, I’ll digress with this issue too, mostly because, the movies tone. They’ve wanted to keep the real-life grounded tech world separate from the fantastical magic of Thor or even Dr. Strange territory. So, by doing the Mandarin in this world, your limitations will get the better of you. No Magic Rings, No Super-Duper Mandarin Powers, He’s Not Even Asian (but that’s beyond the point). What we get instead is something different, something, and again, not many Marvel fans are gonna dig, but the political and idealogical idea behind the Mandarin in this movie is…smart, when you really look at it from the base. It may not be something we were hoping to get, but the cinematic idea behind it is something I can appreciate. Thank goodness the rest of the movie makes up for this fan crushing hiccup. Fans, just go in with an open mind, it’ll be hard to accept, but in time I think it may grow on you. The Mandarin will always be THE MANDARIN in the comics, and thank goodness for that.

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 8.59.34 PMStrong supporting performances, tight visuals, interesting story ideas, new methods, and of course ROBERT DOWNEY JR! This movie could have the worst storyline EVER, with pissy visual effects, but all of it could certainly be made up for the fact that it’s lead by that man. Robert Downy Jr has created a character that has affected adults and children a like, he’s created the next level of Marvel fandom thanks to his performance. Look at the recent issues of Iron Man today, a lot of the character in those pages are inspired by Downey’s portrayal of the character. The movie ends in a way where he doesn’t have to come back as Iron Man if he doesn’t want to, but you know he will, no matter what he says, whether it’s about his families artistic integrity, or his future endeavors, Robert Downey Jr loves this role, he loves Tony, but most of all, he IS Iron Man.

3D GRADE: B+

MOVIE GRADE: A-

FINAL GRADE: A-

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