Movie Review: IRON MAN 3 (2013)

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  MOVIE POSTERIRON MAN 3, 2013
Movie Reviews

Director: Shane Black

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Review by Matthew Toffolo

REVIEW:

Tony Stark uses his ingenuity to fight those who destroyed his private world and soon goes up against his most powerful enemy yet: the Mandarin. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has literally everything a man could ever want. More money and fame than he knows what to do with, a great girl (Gwyneth Paltrow), an amazing house and even better toys and to top it off when he’s not jetting around the world as a billionaire playboy he’s the superhero Iron Man. But when a crazed terrorist (Ben Kingsley) starts blowing up pieces of the world Tony begins to realize he may be up against the one thing even he can’t handle: the second sequel.

Third time’s the charm, isn’t that how it goes? Except usually not, at least as far as film franchises go. Third time is usually where the gasp of creativity that breathed life into the series to begin with finally starts to run out, leaving the filmmakers with one of two possible options: either keep repeating what has worked already on larger and larger scales ad nauseum, or break the series apart and come at it from a brand new angle.

Very few series opt for option two, since it is a very risky proposition at the best of times. At best you’ll generally get some sort of middle ground in between options 1 and 2 – which pretty well sums up writer-director Shane Black’s (“Lethal Weapon,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”) stab at “Iron Man 3.”

He has, like many before him, decided to focus on what has worked in Iron Man before and provide more of it. Fortunately for him what worked before has been less big effects or ideas and more along the lines of star Robert Downey, Jr. doing what he does. Like no other actor in a superhero film (except perhaps Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker), Downey has made both the character of Tony Stark and the role of Iron Man his, and most of the joy of these films is watching him swagger and strut and attempt to hide Tony’s many faults through snark and arrogance. Of course, Downey has done this three times already now so he can do Iron Man in his sleep if he has to.

Fortunately, Black is not going to let anyone rest on their laurels. He’s given a real think at how to advance an Iron Man story beyond what has come before and the result is not only the cleverest action beats in the series to date, but the most work Downey has had to put into them. In fact, for all the many dozens of suits of armor flying around through the film and all the people wearing them (at one point it seems as if the entire cast is put into a suit at one point) Iron Man 3 actually boasts the least Iron Man of the series to date.

After brazenly calling out The Mandarin on live TV, Tony’s home soon comes under attack and is destroyed, leaving him on his own with only his mind and his wits to help him figure out what the Mandarin is up to and what it has to do with an old girlfriend (Maya Hall) and a shady think-tank called Advanced Idea Mechanics who have been cooking a up a means to make the human body stronger and better called Extremis.

It’s a bit of a gamble but it works as Downey is actually more relatable and more fun to watch out of his armor than in it, and he’s helped but tight script from Black and screenwriter Drew Pearce who have applied a liberal dose of comedy relief that has the benefit of actually being funny.

On the downside, along with the armor, a lot of Tony’s supporting cast tends to come and go for long periods, particularly once he disappears into rural Tennessee to follow up a lead. Sure they get stuff to do – Happy follows some suspicious characters and sets the plot in motion, Rhodey once again backs Tony up during the action finish after doing little else the rest of the time, and Pepper actually gets into the action movie game for the first time, particularly during the middle segment when she briefly gets a suit of her own.

But then they disappear so that Downey can go off and trade quips with a 10 year old for 30 minutes. Which is, it must be said, far better than it sounds due to Stark’s inability to actually be sappy but it’s still hard to feel like you’re being gipped somehow. After two films setting these characters up and making you care about them, they are shipped off because now no one knows what to do with them.

Those are generally small quibbles, though, as “Iron Man” continues to set the bar for Marvel’s solo superhero films through a combination of wit, charm and out and out entertainment. It’s not quite as good as “Iron Man 2” – but then I’m one of the few who thinks Iron Man 2 is the best of the series – but it’s not far off and certainly does no shame to the series. I don’t know how many more of these they can make, but so far it doesn’t look like they’ve run out of steam quite yet.

 

 

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Movie Review: IRON MAN 2 (2010)

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IRON MAN 2 MOVIE POSTERIron Man 2, 2010
Movie Reviews

Directed by Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, John Slattery, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Gary Shandling, Jon Favreau
Review by Joshua Starnes

SYNOPSIS:

With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances — and confront powerful enemies.

 

REVIEW:

Most sequels offer you one of two choices in their approach: either bigger, louder and faster (the most popular choice), or smaller with a focus on characters over plot. Both of these choices offer certain costs and benefits. One gives you more bang for your buck but tends to be empty and heartless. The other will offer a surfeit of heart but with so little actually happening that you can’t help but feel unsatisfied. The ideal sequel will balance the two, upping the ante in threat and using it as an opportunity to deepen its characters and story.

“Iron Man 2” isn’t an ideal sequel but it is awful good, fixing most of the problems of the first movie without giving up what made it work to begin with.

To be fair, much of what made the first film work was Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, and that’s still true in the sequel. Better yet director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”) have given him some real problems to struggle with instead of just being charming and funny.

Because Tony Stark is dying. The materials in power core that keeps him alive are also deadly poisonous, it turns out, and Tony can’t find a cure. With the end starting to look nigh, Tony has turned his attention to his legacy, finding a good person to run his company and pick up his Iron Man mantle after he’s gone. Unfortunately there’s a dark side to his legacy as well in the form of mad Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) who has figured out how to weaponize Stark’s power system and wants nothing more than to wipe Stark out once and for all.

 

They say you have to make one of these films to learn how to make one of these films and Favreau has certainly taken that lesson to heart, adding a great deal of style and panache to “Iron Man’s” already impressive repertoire. What was good about the first “Iron Man” is still good about the sequel and in many cases noticeably better. As good as Downey’s original performance was it is aided considerably by having to deal with the reality that he may not have cheated death after all, just put it off for a little bit. The quest sends him not just to cement his legacy but also an incentive to increase his already manic and unpredictable lifestyle–like spontaneously taking his Formula One driver’s place before the Monaco Grand Prix–which is the part of Stark that Downey really excels at.

It’s also a step above the original in terms of pure craft. While the original was solid but unassuming, the sequel looks every inch the big budget film it is. Matthew Libatique, who shot one of the best looking movies of the 00s—”The Fountain”—has substantially upped his game from the first film. The Monaco sequence in particular is gorgeous and illustrates in microcosm what makes “Iron Man 2” so successful. It’s extremely well paced, quick and funny and light on its feet before turning a sharp corner as Vanko attacks Stark on the racetrack while he is alone and unarmed. Even in the middle of a large action sequence Favreau keeps his eye solidly on his characters and working hard to make solid use of everyone, not just Downey, as his erstwhile Girl and Guy Friday’s—Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Happy Hogan—drive against traffic in a Formula One race to get Stark’s armor to him.

IRON MAN 2 POSTERIn fact almost every character gets significantly more to do, from Pepper struggling with running the company to Stark’s best friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle) being forced to decide where his loyalties lie, to Stark or the US Air Force. New characters, like Sam Rockwell’s unctuous Justin Hammer (a sort of anti-Tony Stark) are just as good, and yet for the most part they don’t overwhelm the film.

However, while Favreau et al. have solved a lot of the problems of the first film, several of them still remain, not least its propensity to climax without warning. A great deal of work has been put into building up the action sequences, with Industrial Light & Magic putting in some fantastic effects work, only to have them suddenly finish. It’s not as noticeable as in the first film but it’s still there, particularly in any sequence involving Vanko.

More insidious it’s starting to develop the ‘comic book universe’ problem. These premade stories come packed with large amounts of ready made stories and characters, and plenty of fans who want to see them on screen. Inevitably this seems to turn to introducing characters just to introduce them, letting them eat of screen time that would be better spent somewhere else. It’s most noticeable in Scarlet Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, who while well executed serves no important purpose. She moves the plot along, but there’s nothing she does that couldn’t be done by another, already existing character. However she does eat up valuable screen time that might be better used by Rhodey who is not around near enough considering how important he is to the climax. He’s the only character who still feels underdeveloped.

It’s also risking getting stuck in a rut. Because there are as yet no super powered people for Iron Man to fight he keeps getting stuck fighting iterations of ‘other guys in Iron Man armor’ and there’s only so many times you can go to that well.

Still “Iron Man 2” is far, far better than it is weak. Action junkies may find the middle more than a little slow as it dwells quite a bit on his existential dilemma, but that’s also where many of the films best moments lie. “Iron Man 2” is one of those rare films with something for everyone, good characters, excellent presentation and well designed adventure elements. Worth every penny.

 

 

 

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Movie Review: IRON MAN (2008)

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IRON MAN MOVIE POSTER
IRON MAN
Movie Review

Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges,
Review by Salome Bell

SYNOPSIS:

When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark is forced to build an armored suit after a life-threatening incident, he ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against evil.

REVIEW:

You can’t send a boy to do a man’s job, and you can’t put a man in a role that calls for him to be smarter than he is.

Fortunately for “Iron Man,” Robert Downey Jr. carries enough weight for any ten metallic suits, and seems like exactly the kind of guy who could build them

Popcorn movies have a tendency to underwhelm, but “Iron Man” has managed a pretty miraculous feat — to sneak in almost under the radar with few television ads and deliberately vague trailers, and to be the best flick I’ve seen this year and a natural to go on my list of top comic book films of all time.

Everything works. The casting is perfect. Paltrow shines as the essential but overlooked Poppy Potts, despite a last-moment shoe choice that says just about everything you can about fashion victimization. Jeff Bridges has just as much chemistry cast as the mentor/father figure to Downey Jr.’s obsessed Stark. The script is everything you could want — witty, intelligent, and steering clear for the most part of the usual comic cliches.

Even the ubiquitous Stan Lee cameo is a treat, which I will not spoil. .

If there’s one thing I could criticize, it’s that the story bogs down briefly while it shifts its bearings between Stark pre- and post-captivity, where it seems to be reinventing its moral center, much as Stark is at the same moment. Current films self-consciously walk the thin line between portraying the U.S. as a benevolent superpower or as a force just as prone to cause problems as solve them. “Iron Man” knows certain people have to die, and that because it’s a comic book movie, it has to relish the manner of those deaths to show off Stark’s new invention. But it never feels comfortable; in these years since the fall of the U.S.S.R., Hollywood is still searching for the perfect hateable villain.

But, smartly, things get personal and everything falls as snugly into place as Iron Man’s hydraulic armor. This film thunders through to the end, at once a flick that a newbie with no clue about Stark or Iron Man’s pic-lit roots can love while providing enough insider tips of the hat to thrill the fans with the feeling that, “Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus watching over Marvel Comics movies.” The effects are seamless and organic so you feel every bump when Stark hits the ground (or a concrete wall), and Favreau has a brilliant touch with injecting just a little bit of humor into the darkest scenes. “Iron Man” is going to do well, really well, at the theatres, and it’s a movie not only a fan will want to own.

3 1/2 stars out of 4!

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