Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Iron Man 3

Directed by: Shane Black

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: Drew Pearce
Shane Black

Based on: Iron Man by 
Stan Lee
Larry Lieber
Don Heck
Jack Kirby

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Don Cheadle
Guy Pearce
Rebecca Hall
Stephanie Szostak
James Badge Dale
Jon Favreau
Ben Kingsley

Original Score by: Brian Tyler

Cinematography by: John Toll

Editing by: Jeffrey Ford
Peter S. Elliot

Studio(s): Marvel Studios
DMG Entertainment

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Release date(s): April 18, 2013 (London premiere)
April 25, 2013 (United Kingdom)
May 3, 2013 (United States)

Running time: 130 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $200 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $1, 149, 135, 928

Well, as they say, the ball is well and truly rolling, and with no expenses on any illegal substances of any sort, you're flying Air TTWD on account of just out and out grit. Frankly, I've surprised myself that the metaphorical glove still fits, as I thought it'd be a royal pain in the ass to get the ship out of the docks, but we are coasting on. Here's hoping I just don't hit an iceberg (I can make that joke being from Belfast by the way. Side note: at work I've had to tell people off for singing "They built the ship and the ship sank" to the tune of The Clash's I Fought The Law, as it's now considered 'offensive' to make Titanic jokes in Belfast)! So, for more inane rambles, hopefully in the vein of the opening of Woody Allen's Manhattan but coming across instead as banal, and the occasional movie review, keep your eyes posted!

Alrighty, so, today's film up for scrutiny is the latest instalment in the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3. Now, just for a bit of background, I liked the first Iron Man a lot, thought the 2008 Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton was a good flick, and I thought the Captain America: The First Avenger was decent enough. I haven't seen Iron Man 2, Thor or The Avengers, but what Marvel have done with their movie-making ventures since the first Iron Man is something that was quite unique to comic books, having other characters cross over into each others' films, much like they do in the comics, so that the characters all inhabit the same world. In this the first film since The Avengers, what Marvel have described the start of a second phase for their Cinematic Universe, we have Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) suffering from anxiety attacks after the events of The Avengers. He and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) are squabbling, and an emerging leader of The Ten Rings terrorist organisation, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), causes all sorts of problems and having the US government put Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), the former War Machine re-christened Iron Patriot on the case. Amidst all this, we have the ambiguous founder of the Advanced Idea Mechanics Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a figure from Stark's past and whose position in the proceedings we are uncertain of. Let's take a look!

Starting the pros here (as we always do), I was happy with Marvel's decision to hire Shane Black onto the project. Black has always been an entertaining screenwriter, and his directorial debut, starring Robert Downey, Jr., 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was a hilarious Chandler-esque raucous and one of the funniest buddy-comedies I'd ever seen. However, the film didn't do great at the box-office (more people really need to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), and Black hasn't seen much in the way of theatrical releases since. It's hardly a gamble getting him to helm the director's chair (Iron Man 3 was going to make money regardless), but his presence gives Iron Man 3 a freshness that same of the other movies in this universe are lacking. Also, as far as a film goes, it is without question the most distinctive picture of the franchise. Downey, Jr., a magnetic screen presence as ever, begins the film gibbering on, not unlike the narration of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the film is very much tongue-in-cheek. Also on the acting front, I was impressed Guy Pearce, who carries this controlling silence around the character of Killian. You get this real sense of underlying tension with the subtlety that Pearce injects into the character. He's a fine actor who deserves meaty roles, and this proves it. Unquestionably the show-stealer this time round is Ben Kingsley. It's been an interesting process with Kingsley and my good self (if I'm so bold as to address myself as such. Yes I am!), given that for a time he was oh-so-serious and strangely overbearing. However, since 2008's Fifty Dead Men Walking, he has become a generous actor, putting over a lot of young talent, and with this film, he does a complete about-turn on his onscreen persona. I'm going to try and not spoil this, but on the one hand, he does a suitably menacing job of playing The Mandarin, with a commanding power in his voice, but on the other, he does the complete opposite, a purposeful regression into degeneracy, the juxtaposition of these two different aspects having an almost meta effect. It's a performance of marvellous trickery, and Kingsley does it flawlessly. I know a lot of people are angry with this direction of The Mandarin character, but I personally thought it was executed rather well. As to be expected with a Marvel superhero film (and a $200 million budget), it looks fantastic, with the visual effects in the action sequences, most especially the Stark mansion, Air Force One and climatic scenes, being spot-on. Things fall apart in a believable fashion, but are able to get across the sheer magnitude of what's unfolding. Finally, John Toll's crisp, tonal cinematography a nice addition to the film, giving it a unique look while still maintaing control in the midst of the action sequences.

Now, while Iron Man 3 does have a good few things going for it, the film is also deeply flawed, and not just when it comes down to the script (admittedly, my usual source of grievances), but also when it comes down to the editing and the music. While many of the fanboys are losing their shit over The Mandarin, my issue is that despite it containing Black's obvious way with dialogue, it's still a bloated film that has too much exposition and ended numbing me. Also, some of it moves in predictable ways, in that I knew where some of it was going (not The Mandarin, granted) before it happened. This problem is also down to the editing. Many of the scenes go on way too long where they simply should have been cut. Even a mere couple of minutes could have been cut if expository 'ooh, look at that!' actorly glances were omitted. Another aspect of the film that took away from the film was the original score by Bryan Tyler. Although nowhere near as horrendous as Steve Jablonsky, Tyler has developed this trademark of honking histrionics that attempt to give the film's he scores a power and legitimacy. In the past it has worked (Frailty, Bubba Ho-tep, The Hunted, Bug, Rambo), but here as with a number of his recent compositions it comes across as overly grandiose, full of pomp and circumstance that just isn't necessary. I like some of Tyler's work, but here it was just too much, and marks 2013's return of the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra (EHO).

Alright, so here we go, concluisio on Iron Man 3. Shane Black is a welcome addition to the Marvel franchise, giving the film an energy, Downey, Jr., Pearce and particularly Kingsley deliver strong performances and it has tremendous special effects, mise-en-scene and cinematography from John Toll. However much it has going for it, Iron Man also has significant flaws in the script and editing departments, which make it baggy, over-expository and too long, and Brian Tyler's score is full of too much unnecessary pomp and circumstance, marking the return of the EHO. More good than bad, but still a bit a mixed bag.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Hot (unusually warm weather in my neck of the woods)

P.S. If this movie is set around Christmas, surely it should come out during the 'Holiday Season' as they call it in the States?

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