Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5 Problems With 'Iron Man 3'


When punters like myself go and see a film like this, we’re entering into a simple contract with the film makers; we provide $20 (plus) dollars and our bum on a seat, they provide Robert Downey jr (RDJ) in his iron suit, cracking wise while he zips around blowing shit up. Remove one element from this equation, and it doesn't work half as well. And in this case, the missing element is the iron suit itself, as RDJ spends the bulk of the movie in his regular flesh suit.  And while a bit of this is good, as it keeps the film from descending into straight formula, too much and it becomes the carrot that wags the dog. For a movie called 'Iron Man 3,' there are long stretches where the Iron suit is little in evidence, and when it is on display it’s either malfunctioning or being autopiloted, both of which left me feeling a bit flat.


It’s become a bit of an ongoing issue for me, but there is something wrong with the villains in a number of elaborate blockbusters lately. As in, they don’t seem to have any idea what they’re doing; no plan, no scheme, no insane vision. Or, if they do have a plan, it’s remarkably trite (witness last year’s ‘Skyfall’ for evidence of this). And this phenomenon is again on display here. So you have Guy Pearce, psychotic super brain, in charge of an army of genetically enhanced wunderkinds and backed by a  mountain of cash, cutting a pretty formidable figure as an enemy. He’s also set up a frightening proxy in the form of terror kingpin ‘The Mandarin,’ who is distracting the US Government and Iron Man and preventing them from spotting what he’s up to. Pretty shrewd so far. As to what he is up to, the end game for all these shenanigans, Pearce soon makes it pretty clear that he doesn't have a clue. Talking about kidnapping the President, he says ‘And then I’ll have the world’s most dangerous terrorist in one hand, and the world’s most important man in the other!’ Nya-ha! And then what? Crickets chirp, fringe characters exchange looks (one yells 'These people are weird!') and one confused punter (me) is happy that he brought enough mints to the cinema. Some of these jokers need to dream a larger dream.


The opening of any film is one of its key moments, particularly one as anticipated as this. The cinema quiets as the expectant buzz dies off and the lights dim. All eyes focus on the screen. We fade in and… blammo! Something breathtaking happens!

TITLE ON SCREEN: New Years Eve, Switzerland, 2000. 

TONY STARK (voice over): It was New Years Eve in Switzerland in the Year 2000.

Cue a few shots of a buck toothed, hobbling homunculus - Villain? Villain? Is it the villain? - making with the crazy talk and badgering RDJ.

TONY STARK (voice over): Little did I know then, but this wasn’t this last time I’d see that crazy nut.

To say the opening of this one was a bit heavy handed and obvious is to use a degree of understatement largely lacking from the movie. A key skill in genre film making is to make use of the conventions associated with that genre, honour them and pay due respect to them, while at the same time not drawing attention to the fact that you’re doing this. A key skill in good genre film making, in any case.


Writer-director Shane Black might be a pretty good action movie writer (Lethal Weapon 1 and 2) and a pretty hip director with the right material (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and a DAMN fine character actor in at least one cult movie favourite (check him out in the film pictured above) but his experience helming this type of film is precisely zero. And it shows. Apart from the issues with the opening, there's any number of directorial mis-steps on display as the film lumbers forth. It chops awkwardly in tone; zooming from heavy duty action to broad comedy and from political satire to downright silliness. None of these transitions are handled with a light touch. And then there's a bit too much of everything. Too much exposition and too much of RDJ wrestling with his demons and too many different ideas and techniques wrestling for screen time and WAY too much Gwynney and her shop mannequin acting style (admittedly a matter of taste) and two villains which was exactly one too many (the fact that one of the villains is a red herring is something that might have seemed clever on the page but just doesn't work on the screen). And all of this thrown together in a way that makes it seem like the director needed to trim his script one more time, and then have himself replaced behind the camera.


And it's just too damn long...

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