At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Iron Man 3 “2013”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Iron Man 3 “2013”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Superhero/Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stéphanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Ty Simpkins, Adam Pally, Shaun Toub, Stan Lee, Dale Dickey, Jenna Ortega, Bill Maher, Joan Rivers, George Kotsiopoulos, Josh Elliott, Megan Henderson, Pat Kiernan, Thomas Roberts; Voice of: Paul Bettany/Runtime: 131 minutes

I think it’s safe to say that, back in the long-ago year of 2013, iconic studio extraordinaire Marvel Studios was in a vastly different place than it is at the moment I am choosing to sit down and write this for you dear reader. This is because, unlike the anxiety and uncertainty-stricken waters it has been cruising through lately, this was a year where Marvel could best be described as on top of the world. Indeed not only had Phase 1 of the MCU managed to work a heck of a lot better than anyone could’ve predicted, but their first big crossover film at the end of it, 2012’s The Avengers, managed to be critically adored to say nothing a smash success commercially to the tune of a genuinely superheroic 1.5 billion dollar total box office haul. As a result, fans across the world were now eagerly waiting to see just how in the world Marvel would get Phase 2 underway. So as you can imagine it was quite exciting to learn that Phase 2 would begin with a 3rd solo film for fan-favorite character Iron Man and, even more intriguingly, it would finally bring ol’ Shellhead’s most iconic nemesis from the comics known as The Mandarin and bring him into the grounded reality of the MCU. Of course, in all fairness, it was the latter move that did raise a few eyebrows out there. Not because The Mandarin was a bad or out of left field choice, seeing as the organization that kidnapped Stark in the first film WAS called the Ten Rings, but because (if we’re being honest) the depiction of the character in the comics has had a bit of controversy to his name. Of course when you are a character whose father was a caricature of a power-hungry, mystical Asian man and who definitely was also guilty of keeping alive several extremely insensitive stereotypes about the Asian culture….then you can kind of begin to see why there might have been some trepidation on the part of the fans about how this character was going to be brought to life. That and when you also factor in this slice of cinema’s choice of director, the iconic yet untested in the way of superheroic cinema Shane Black, you can see why some fans might have been a tad nervous about this whole affair would play out. Thankfully, and with the passage of quite a significant stretch of time in all fairness, I can say that those distinct worries on the part of fans were definitely unwarranted. To be sure, how this film does approach the iconic villain is sure to ruffle a few feathers out there, but overall I really did dig the heck out of this movie dear reader. Indeed, with the aid of top-tier work on both sides of the camera, Iron Man 3 is definitely an enjoyable follow-up that not only fits the universe in which it is a part brilliantly, but also permits the titular character to find new and intriguing avenues of growth whilst still providing him with an distinct yet still potentially perilous mission to contend with all wrapped in a genuinely exciting superheroic saga.

The plot is as follows: Following a plot-integral prologue set at a New Year’s Eve party in the long-ago year of 1999 that I shan’t spoil for you here, Iron Man 3 gets its superheroic narrative underway as we see that, in the aftermath of the events from the first Avengers film, our favorite man of metal (thought I was going to say iron there didn’t you?) is at a bit of a crossroads in his life. This is because whilst he is in a committed relationship with his lady love Pepper Potts, his friendships with BFFs Rhodey and Happy Hogan are as solid as they have ever been, and he is regarded by more than a few people across the planet as a superhero, he still has a few glitches in the ol’ hard drive that could do with a wee bit of tinkering. Namely that not only is our intrepid hero suffering from a severe case of PTSD to say nothing of equally as severe and frighteningly frequent panic attacks brought on by his experiences during the Battle of New York, but he is also having serious problems when it comes with trying to sleep at night. As a result, not only are his relationships being significantly tested, but he is also coping in the only way that he seemingly knows how. Namely by spending his time constructing and designing as many new Iron Man suits as he possibly can. As more than slightly chaotic as things are however for ol’ Shell Head, we see that it isn’t long before things are about to get a little lotta bit worse. This is because, for an indeterminate period of time prior to the start of the main narrative, there have been a string of horrific bombings which seem to be the work of an enigmatic yet deadly terrorist calling himself the Mandarin. As bad as these bombings are however, we see that soon one hits a bit too close to home for Tony for reasons that I shan’t spoil here. As a result, we see that Tony (in that delightful way of his) impetuously calls out the terrorist via the press and challenges him to come and get him. Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that shortly after this that Tony’s luxurious Malibu home does come under horrific attack from a trio of gunships. An attack which not only decimates Tony’s home, but also quite a few of his Iron Man suits in the process. As a result, we see that Tony must now utilize his own ingenuity and intellect to try and embark on a dual-tiered mission. Not only to get to the bottom of the bombings, but also to find who is responsible and stop them before they can cause any more destruction to Stark, the people in his life, or the world at large. As for if he is successful in this mission or not that I will leave for you to discover for yourself….

Now right off, it should be noted that the work done behind the camera on this particular cinematic outing is pretty dang good all things considered. This starts with the work done on this slice of cinema’s script by helmer Black and Drew Pearce (the 5th Mission: Impossible movie) and, for all its issues, it really is quite solid. Not just in how advances the character of Tony Stark in the aftermath of The Avengers, but also in how it brilliantly ties in elements from the real world and uses them to further develop and flesh out the world of the MCU as a whole. Key among those elements is one in particular that yes has left fans divided, but which I feel does a brilliant job at both throwing the audience for a loop whilst also bringing some clever social commentary into the mix as well. This slice of superhero cinema also benefits quite immensely from the arrival of the iconic Shane Black into the director’s chair for this particular go-around. Indeed as showcased by the work he has done as a writer on such films including Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight among others, Black has consistently provided proof that he has a delightful talent for blending together witty banter, Christmas, and taut, edge of your seat action into a film. A feat that, given the superhero at the heart of this film’s snarky attitude, fits the rest of this film remarkably well. Of course, if you are worried that this film is just all talk and no action then fear not because Black definitely brings some action beats that between a rescue that even Superman might have trouble pulling off, the attack on Stark’s house, and a finale set at an oil tanker among others will definitely leave you on the edge of your seat. I also really dug the work done on this slice of superhero cinema’s musical accompaniment from Bryan Tyler. No there’s no AC/DC or old-school rock songs on the soundtrack this time around (much to my inner dismay), but in the name of impartial fairness I can definitely how this helps Black and co. from taking too much from the work done on the first two cinematic outings for the character by Jon Favreau and his pack of super friends. With all of that being said though, I do have one or two miniscule issues with the work done behind the camera on this slice of cinema. Key among those is the fact that this slice of cinema does have a bit of an issue in terms of credibility especially when taking into account that the events in this film occur AFTER what we saw shake down in the first Avengers film. I mean say what you will, but it does strike me as a bit odd that, with this film’s antagonist going after no less than the President of the United States, none of the other Earth-residing (Thor being given a pass here due to how tough intergalactic travel can be) Avengers offer their aid especially a certain stars and stripes rocking individual. Along with that, this slice of cinema’s script is guilty at times of not exactly giving certain characters, despite exceptional work from the actors themselves, their due in terms of material to work with. Even with those detriments in mind though, there is no denying that the work done behind the camera on this film is a genuine treat through and through.

Of course, the other big element that is working in this slice of superhero cinema’s favor would without question have to be the truly heroic work done by the exceptionally talented cast in front of the camera as well. Without a doubt this starts with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and again he is phenomenal. Yes Downey brings the typical snark and witty quips that fans have come to love, but he also does a terrific job here of also bringing a degree of gravitas and vulnerability to the role as well especially when things get a bit on the dire side. Indeed make no mistake dear reader: Downey IS Iron Man and his turn here is just further proof of that. Besides the genuinely heroic work done by Downey, we are also treated to wonderful reprisals from Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle as Pepper Potts and James Rhodes respectively. In regards to the former, we see that Paltrow does a great job at presenting new dimensions to Pepper especially when it comes to her increasing exasperation with Tony and his focus more on his suits than her. As for the latter we see that Cheadle is once again spot-on in the role (sorry Terrence Howard fans) and he and Downey definitely have a terrific back and forth dynamic between them that will consistently put a smile on your face. Alongside the work done by those three, this film also provides us with a terrifically slithery turn from the vastly underrated Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian. Yes, the film is guilty of severely underwriting the heck out of this guy, but even so we see that Pearce does a great job at making this guy someone who is downright hiss worthy in the best way possible. We also see that, in the role of Maya Hall, Rebecca Hall manages to do an exceptional job at giving us a character who is a lot more nuanced than what initially might be anticipated and, despite being limited in screentime for reasons I shan’t spoil here, she gives audiences one heck of a performance. This brings us to the performance that has had people talking since this film first came out and that would be the one given by screen legend Ben Kingsley in the role of the Mandarin. Now don’t get me wrong: Kingsley is (as to be expected from an actor of his status) really freaking good here and that is not in doubt. What is constantly questioned here is a particular reveal about his character and yet I honestly think that it’s rather ingenious. Not just because it gives Kingsley a heck of a lot more range with which to play as an actor in this film, but also because (without going into any spoilers) it makes sense given how it takes key elements of the modern day setting that this film is clearly taking place in and then flips them dramatically on their head in a way that we might not be expecting. Suffice it to say that it might not be a 110% comic book accurate portrayal of the character, but there is no denying that Kingsley does terrific here. Suffice it to say that when you also incorporate into the mix wonderful efforts from the returning Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan and new kids on the superhero block like Ty Simpkins who is a genuine delight as a kid sidekick that Stark gets for a stretch of the film, iconic character actors William Sadler and the late yet great Miguel Ferrer as well as other skilled thespians like James Badge Dale, and Stéphanie Szostak among others it’s clear that this slice of cinema might have some issues, but by and large the work done by this immensely talented group is by no means one of them.

All in all and at the end of the day is Iron Man 3 a perfect slice of superhero cinema? Sadly for as much of a fan as the character, to say nothing of the level of respect and admiration I have for the star portraying him, I have to say that is definitely not the case. With that being said though, is this the worst entry in the realm of Batman & Robin, Superman III with (of all people) Richard Pryor, or (on the Marvel side of things) that 1998 Nick Fury television film starring….David Hasselhoff?! Thankfully I can definitely say that is not the case though one of those examples is quite fun to watch from a so stupid it’s amusing perspective (lips sealed on which one though). All sarcastic observations aside though dear reader, there is no denying that for a lot of people who are going to find reason to not like this movie be it because of the script, the fact that Tony doesn’t really spend a whole lot of time in the actual Iron Man suit, how the film chooses to approach the iconic comic book villain The Mandarin (a subject that I can already see some of you fans of the comics out there coming my way to discuss in earnest both with and without the aid of pitchforks), or if you’re *really really* lucky all of the above as well as other things that I chose not to go into detail on here. Should you find it within your heart to be willing to push those elements to the side of your mind however, I think you will be more than pleasantly surprised to discover that this slice of superhero cinema actually is a genuinely great time to be had to say nothing of a more than worthy (like being able to wield Mjolnir worthy) follow-up to Marvel’s first big superhero band team up. Indeed with the aid of delightful work behind the camera from Shane Black and co., a collection of action beats that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and a gallery of performances (starting with the eternally delightful Robert Downey Jr. who is to Iron Man what Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine at this point) that are all incredibly well-done (controversy over one or two aside) no matter how big or small their amount of screentime may be, Iron Man 3 is one rollickingly engaging superhero saga that is sure to leave you and the Marvel fans in your life smiling with glee to say nothing of one you will want to enjoy time and time again. Make of that what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Iron Man 3 a solid 4 out of 5.