Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Man on Film: Iron Man 3

Perhaps it was a blessing that the resounding opinions I had heard about Iron Man 3 were negative ones because I was not nearly as disappointed in the third film in the series as I had anticipated being. Hearing from everyone you know who saw a film that it sucked will do that. Of course, when I first found out that Shane Black had been brought in to write (credited with Drew Pearce) and direct this one, I was excited, so there was only so much tempering of expectations possible by way of negative chatter.

While Iron Man 3 was far from a perfect event flick, it actually achieved a better narrative balance than the previous two installments. It's easy to gloss over these points, but the first two Iron Man flicks sputtered toward their respective conclusions, and the villains were far from well-drawn. Their pacing was sorely lacking, and each narrative lacked a cohesion and direction that inhibited the ultimate success of each film. Iron Man 3 may have been somewhat lacking a bit in the huge action set pieces, but what was lacking in the area of genre-prescribed bombast was compensated for in pathos, snappy dialogue, and a more personally affective narrative. Tony Stark's struggles were at least as much internal and psychological as they were conflict put upon him by antagonists, and Black's entrant into the franchise deftly shifted back and forth between the two, maintaining strong pacing that walked the fine line between being deliberate enough to still tell a nuanced, personal story and moving along just quickly enough to not give cause to look at your watch.

Of the films in the series, this one gave Robert Downey, Jr. the most room to stretch out and exercise his deft acting chops. Tony Stark is run through an emotional gamut in this film, and we get to see Downey knock it all the fuck out of the park. The audience is also treated to a film in which Tony Stark is rarely actually in the suit as Iron Man, a problem for some but frankly those scenes are less compelling to me than if we are treated to Stark himself having to work through problems, at least in part because the Iron Man action scenes are so inorganic. Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, and especially Ben Kingsley are all serviceable at the very least, but Iron Man 3 is the Robert Downey, Jr. show, make no mistake of that. Thanks to Black's flair for writing magnetic but struggling action heroes, we get to see Tony Stark and Robert Downey, Jr. at their best in the series.

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