Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: "Iron Man 3"

Superheroes have been a consistent part of the movie landscape for some time, and though certainly not with the visibility of recent years they have definitely contributed a great deal to movie conventions.  Besides, isn't the superhero mythos just another representation of the American dream?  Going to a foreign place (be it emotionally or physically) and discovering you are in fact good at something?  Perhaps the best?  To be tested and prevail?  Well that is (once again) the challenge placed before RDJ's Tony Stark in the third and final (?) installment of the ever popular Iron Man franchise.

Predictably, following the events of Avengers Assemble Tony has been left feeling a little high and dry and while we don't (thank God) see a return to the alcoholic, petulant Tony of the second film, we do see a new version of our hero: one who has PTSD. Filtered through the lense of a man who feels himself falling apart, I found the events of the film to be well pitched.  After all, how do you top aliens trying to blow up New York?  Answer: you don't.  Instead we experience a series of events that would seem manageable but for the fact that they are blown way out of proportion by our lead's inability to cope.  This also means that smaller, less 'global' events can be used as a motivator without having to explain why Captain America hasn't shipped out to 'deal with the infidel menace.'  Good thing too cause he's got his own thing going on.

What (arguably) started with Batman Begins in 2005 and continued with the first Iron Man film in 2008 led to Avengers Assemble being a huge blockbuster last year.  What this progression has managed to do is break Superhero films out of the bounds of "just another comic book movie" and into the mainstream.  This allows us to look at these stories for what they are (and what comic book fans have always known they are) which is stories about people dealing with incredible circumstances.  The specifics may be different but what makes a story resonate is the humanity of those characters and this is one thing that the Iron Man series has always done well: allow its characters to breath.  This is especially evident with the villain as played by Sir Ben Kingsley.  Kingsley has said himself, the key to playing a scary villain is that you must be a true believer and if the performance is any indication, he believes.

Finally, much has been made of Paltrow's expanded role in this film and with the controversy surrounding the Avengers T-Shirts, it's nice to see Pepper Potts step out of Tony's protective shadow.  Paltrow has proven that she can go toe-to-toe with the best so it's nice to see the filmmakers and the studio allowing her to do so.  Even with Scarlett Johansson being a part of the main Avengers team and Colby Smulders' Agent Maria Hill demonstrating her toughness in the opening scenes, a strong female present is something that I found was lacking from Avengers Assemble.  With Potts starting out as a 'girl friday' and growing into an equal partner with Tony, she is a great example of how a damsel in distress does not need to remain so in order to be a good counterpoint to the hero.

Is the film perfect?  No.  But it's much better than the second and in good contention with the first for best of the three (for me).  My rating?  3.5 out of 4.

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