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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Let the Summer Movie Blockbusters Begin!!! The release of Iron Man 3 marks the beginning of what Marvel Studios is calling "Marvel: Phase 2". After the release of The Avengers in 2012, which brought all of Marvel's superheroes (those NOT owned by other studios) together in one epic, blockbuster; the Marvel movies can now continue in what is already a billion-dollar franchise phenomenon! With "Phase 2" underway, Marvel studios will set in motion a string of more movies to be released over the next few years which will include: Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Ant-Man (2015), Guardians of the Galaxy (2015), and then of course Avengers 2 (2015)!
Iron Man 3 takes place after the events in The Avengers when Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) sacrificed himself by taking a nuclear missile intended to destroy the Chitauri army in New York City but instead, took the missile through a dimensional rift and destroyed the mother-ship, thus ending the invasion! Since the battle of New York, Tony Stark finds himself plagued by panic attacks and nightmares. Unable to sleep, he loses himself in his work, making yet another upgrade to his Iron Man armor with 'Mark 42'. Meanwhile, his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now the head of Stark Industries, is having troubles. While on top of that, his best friend, Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Don Cheadle) has been using the 'War Machine' armor, now known as 'Iron Patriot', to wage a one-man war on terrorism and a new threat known as "The Mandarin" (Ben Kingsley), a mysterious enemy with a flair for the dramatic, who is making threats on the U.S. with random bombings. While Pepper is being wooed by fellow industrialist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce), head of A.I.M., Tony's former bodyguard 'Happy' Hogan (John Favreau), now head of security at Stark Industries, is injured in a bizarre explosion in Hollywood. At his wits end, Tony issues a public statement to The Mandarin in an attempt to draw him out, but The Mandarin's forces calls him on it and completely destroys his home and lab. Now stranded in the Midwestern U.S. and without power, Tony must find out the plot behind The Mandarin's attacks and regain his technology and his sanity!

The Mandarin
Directed by Shane Black, action-movie screenwriter (Lethal Weapon (1987), Last Action Hero (1993)) turned director (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Iron Man 3 is THE biggest budgeted and also the longest Iron Man movie to-date! While nothing can obviously top the sheer epic-magnitude of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 certainly tries to come close with it's over-the-top displays of firepower, featuring dozens of Iron Man suits for the climactic final battle! With this movie, like many superhero sequels, we are introduced to two villains, however one (without giving away any spoilers) is not what he seems. The main adversary, which is a formidable match to Stark both in technology and firepower, comes from Killian (whose character appeared in the recent Iron Man comic story-arc "Extremis"). Once spurned by Tony Stark's arrogance, Killian intends to develop his "Extremis" project, which not only allows damaged/missing limbs to re-grow, but also has explosive side-effects! The biggest apparent threat comes from The Mandarin and his terrorist forces referenced in the original Iron Man (2008) movie, as the supposed leader of "The Ten Rings". Fans were excited to finally see Iron Man's arch-enemy appear in the movie series, but his role in the movie does come with some disappointments. Dating back to his first appearance in 1964, The Mandarin had a magical edge to him with his 10 power rings. Much like Flash Gordon's nemesis Ming the Merciless, the character played on the publics' xenophobic fears of the Chinese-Communist, Cold War-era villain. It is interesting to note how Ben Kingsley often plays somewhat type-casted "Asian" roles (i.e. Gandhi (1982), Prince of Persia (2010) throughout his career, although born in England, his father was of Gujrati/Pakistani descent.

Iron Patriot?
While Iron Man 3 focuses mainly on Tony Stark dealing with complete loss of everything (as if him dying in the second one wasn't enough!) along with his mental instability, much of the comic relief comes from his interactions with a young boy named Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins) in the middle of the film. Seeking a  kinship with the boy, Tony is both impressed and annoyed with the boy and often engages him in childish banter most of the time. Aside from the special-effects driven action of the film there is somewhat of a buddy-cop element to his relationship with Rhodey (Cheadle) mostly in the final scene of the movie, whereas through most of the movie they hardly interact/fight at all as they did in Iron Man 2 (2010). Pepper's (Paltrow) character has a much stronger role in the movie until she becomes the proverbial "damsel in distress", but then is literally "transformed" into a much more powerful person in the end. The unexpected twists involving both The Mandarin and Pepper Potts make the ending of this movie such a confusing downward spiral that by the end credits you are so overwhelmed with everything that's happened, that you can hardly believe there will be any room for another sequel. As far as I'm concerned, the Iron Man trilogy ended with disappointment much like all the other Marvel movies in the past (i.e. X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3) even though audiences were promised a much stronger and satisfying franchise with the new Marvel Studios involvement. With The Avengers, Iron Man has become such a pivotal character in the franchise that anything else just seems wasted and unnecessary. This may be due to the fact that like X:Men 3, the loss of the director of the first two movies (Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau) leaves the ending of the series wanting and inconsistent. Especially considering the rumored falling out between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreau after Iron Man 2, but Jon agreed to return as Happy Hogan in 3. Although the end credits assure us that "Tony Stark will return!" most likely in Avengers 2, but after seeing Iron Man 3, I guarantee we will see much less of, and a much different Tony Stark in the future than we expect. As of now, Iron Man 3 has already earned $174 million, coming very close to the success of The Avengers and recently Robert Downey, Jr. announced on Jimmy Kimmel his $200 million Kickstarter campaign for Iron Man 4 which may just be a joke? If you go in expecting a full-on special effects overload with Michael Bay-levels of explosions, you get what you pay for. If you go in expecting a satisfactory close to the Iron Man Trilogy, you may be in for a disappointment.