Iron Man 3 is both a hit and a miss
Shane Black is that guy who wrote Lethal Weapon – the buddy cop movie that became the template for every buddy cop movie to follow – when he was just 23, the exact age most Bollywood screenwriters start watching the movies they can copy later on. Shane Black is also the guy who has written some of the most fun action blockbusters of the 1990s – The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight, each of them a buddy movie in its own way. Shane Black is also the guy who has written, what is, probably the most underrated AWESOME movies of, well, any decade – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is, again, a buddy movie.
Iron Man 3 is Black’s second outing as director and first full-fledged screenplay in the seven years since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And for every Black fan out there, there’s great news: This movie is every bit a Shane Black film. It’s got the chatty, conversational jokes found in every buddy movie, it’s got a remixed Jingle Bells track and a Christmas-y situation where sh*t goes down (a Shane Black specialty), it’s got twists that are as hilarious as they are unpredictable, and yes, it’s got a whole buddy cop thing happening between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). But if you are just an Iron Man fan and don’t give a rat’s ass about Shane Black, then things might get just a littttttle tricky.
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has been weakened by the explosion at the end of The Avengers, and when a new villain, The Mandarin, promises to wreak havoc, he must regain back his strength before fighting for the world again. At the outset, Iron Man 3 is an awesome, fun, out-and-out popcorn movie that’ll have you chucking throughout and will make you want MOAR of Robert Downey Jr, because, well, you can never have enough of him, can you?
It’s also got the moments you wait for in every super hero flick: big action pieces (wait for an Iron Man rescue of innocent civilians mid-air, as they fall down from an aeroplane), things blowing up left, right and center, a loved one who needs to be rescued from the bad guys, a dangerous and demented villain who really just wants to take over the world, and a central conflict that sets up the climactic battle (in this case, a psychological injury, carried over from The Avengers).
But dig a little beyond the surface, and there are far too many little niggles that accumulate together over the course of the film and turn, what could have been a perfect film, into an unnecessarily flawed one. The problem with Iron Man 3 is that there are two movies within it, which are always on the verge of flowing seamlessly into each other, but never completely do. One film is a Shane Black action comedy, which has quirky, informal and intimate humour, and the other film is the third part of a superhero action franchisee, where everything is BIGGER, LOUDER, PROPER and SPELT OUT IN ALL CAPS.
The result is a film that’s a fun but bumpy ride, and having come from The Avengers, which is possibly the most perfect summer blockbuster film ever, you can’t help but feel slightly dissatisfied. It’s tough to get into explanations without giving out spoilers but an example is Ben Kingsley’s big, dark, evil villain, The Mandarin, whom the promos have promised as the biggest threat to humanity since Sajid Khan. There is a plot twist involving him, and as much as I hate to admit, Kingsley, although kickass and completely genius in this role, is let down by a half-baked character sketch, that really has no culmination. Similarly, Rebecca Hall’s supporting role as scientist Dr Maya Hansen, is so random a character, that she could have been replaced by a door, and it would have made no difference to the story.
Then there’s the other villain, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who is probably the weakest villain yet in the universe of The Avengers. While his motivations and evil plans are definitely well thought of, he is just not badass enough to warrant a climactic battle. And as for the climactic battle, there are no reasons given as to why none of the other Avengers came to help, and why, the twist with the other suits could have come in anywhere earlier in the movie (you’ll see what I mean). Plus, there are times when things become a bit too farcical: *spoiler* when Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is undone by Killian, Stark doesn’t react enough emotionally to keep the proceedings real, and there’s even a couple of jokes after that, which are completely unwarranted, and give away the obvious ending.
The good news is that even though the studios want us to believe that every superhero film will now be dark and gloomy (as Iron Man 3’s promos promised), they are happy to take some bold risks and let directors have fresh takes on the genre. But ultimately, each superhero film needs a certain larger-than-life tone and an epic villain (unless you are a ‘real’ superhero film like Kick-Ass), and if you compromise on either, the results can never be fully satisfactory. Having said that, go to Iron Man 3 with an open mind, and your money will definitely be well spent.
Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on April 29, 2013
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