05 May 2013

Iron Man 3

Kara saw "Iron Man 3" last week, using her cinema gift card she'd got for her birthday last year, and recommended it. So I went and saw it today.

The poster. Funnily enough, this never happens in the movie.

This is the first movie in Marvel Studios' "Phase 2". Phase 1 started with "Iron Man", with Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. recruitment drive thread running through subsequent movies (often in post-credit codas) until they wrapped up in the box-office smash Superheroes-vs-Aliens action movie that was "The Avengers". Phase 2 will cover the post-Avengers Iron Man, Thor and Captain America sequels, among others, leading up to "Avengers 2".

First of all, this is clearly a stand-alone Iron Man flick. For continuity's sake, there are obligatory references to Tony's "Super-friends Club" and "That guy with the hammer", but no other Avengers make cameos, or fly in to save the day. (In fact, just mentioning aliens and wormholes tends to send Stark into an anxiety attack.) Stark is on his own against the villains of this story, one of whom has a personal connection to Tony. An eccentric genius snubbed by Stark Corporation 13 years ago carries a grudge, gets funding, weaponises his technology, and plots his revenge? Couldn't see that trope coming.

Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin.
Ben Kingsley is The Mandarin, a mysterious shadowy Bin Laden-esque figure of indeterminate ethnicity (possibly Central Asian, possibly Middle Eastern) who blows stuff up and then hijacks TV satellites to broadcast his video highlights to the world. His anti-America propaganda and self-proclaimed "lessons" for the US President have the powers that be on edge. They bring in Stark's old war buddy Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle reprising his "Iron Man 2" role), aka "War Machine", to fight the bad guys. This time, he's had a new coat of paint (remind you of anyone?) and been re-branded "Iron Patriot" because it sounds better. Tony of course thinks the old name was cooler.

The repainted and re-branded Iron Patriot.
I will go off on a trailer tangent for a moment. The trailers I'd seen for this film featured a lot of Ben Kingsley's menacing voice-overs, and big explosions as the Stark mansion falls into the sea. Big explosions in a trailer aren't always a good sign - they're often taken from climactic battle scenes. I was dreading that they had fallen into the same trap several other movies have, of showing too much in the trailer. I disengaged from "Transformers 2" halfway through - the characters were in peril, but I suddenly remembered all the pyramid shots from the trailers, and realised that since we weren't in Egypt yet, everyone was going to be OK. Even worse is the trailer for "Contraband" which highlights plot points from Act I right through to the final half-hour. The establishing shots of peaceful-normal-life before our main character is forced back into crime are actually taken from the final happily-ever-after montage.

Thankfully, this is not the case here. There's some early posturing and video-boasting by the Mandarin, Tony Stark issues an early "Here I am, come get me" speech, and the Mandarin sends in helicopters to take out the mansion. This all-out attack on the mansion, is quite impressive, as is Stark's response. He takes a leaf out of John McClane's book and destroys a helicopter with a piano.

The attack leads to several things. First, it really kicks Tony Stark's search for vengeance into gear. As this happens early on in the film, it also leads to many assuming Stark is dead - and thus more screen-time for Iron Patriot. It also continues the emphasis that this film is about Tony Stark, with or without the Iron Man suit. Unable to fall back on his technology and gadgets to help, Tony has to rely on his own wits and know-how.

Of course techno-wiz Stark can repair his flying armour. Eventually. But for the majority of the middle of the film, Stark has to use his own muscle, and his own brain, rather than rely on the armour or Jarvis for support.

The screenplay is written by Drew Pearce (creator of British superhero sitcom "No Heroics") and Shane Black (writer of "Lethal Weapon" and many others). Black also directed, as he did (again, with Robert Downey Jr) previously with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". This film has a bit more of a buddy-cop movie feel to it than the previous Iron Mans, but it still is packed with action, stunts and jaw-dropping special effects.

Battered and bruised, but not broken, Iron Man and Tony Stark share a couch.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the slightly-more-than-two-hours that I was sitting in my comfortable leather cinema seat. The 3D conversion was also not bad, and not distracting or confusing in the later fight sequences.

Highly recommended.

8 out of 10 arc reactors.

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