(I have tried my utmost to omit any hint of spoiler)
Ah… At last it arrives.
The mega nerd society has been in a geeky unrest anticipating this behemoth of a cinematic offering since The Avengers made them come off to every repulsor ray emitted and Mjolnir-swinging action executed on screen. And on April 25 2013, every nerd on planet Earth but those living in America finally managed to get the foretaste of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ‘Phase 2’ via the international release of IRON MAN 3.
Being a natural nerd, I had a hard time suppressing every urge to dig any film clips or production leaks or whatever it is that gives me even the littlest drops of the IRON MAN 3 vodka leading up to its official release. The internet had been rife with speculations, coupled with occasional fan debates and skepticism. In a nutshell, ever since Marvel kickstarted this Avenger cycle, everything related to it had been a sheer phenomenon.
Hats off to the Marvel/Disney execs that had made all the right moves that rendered The Avenger Cycle (officially called Marvel Cinematic Universe) holding up well with films that, albeit seemingly cash-hungry, are good. But the real meat has always been this brash ol’ shellhead (or genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist - take your pick). The first Iron Man which was impeccably translated into screen by Jon Favreau & co. marked the fruition of an idea so ambitious it required several productions to get to ‘that place’. Yes, ‘the Avengers initiative’. For the first time ever in film history, Hollywood proved that money does create HUGE stuff. HUGE not only as in scope and ambition, but also HUGE as in quality and standard. Favreau’s Iron Man was a very refreshing take on an otherwise typical superhero tale: one realizes what he does for a living is wrong, he decides to save people. Instead of emphasizing on Iron Man heroic exploits, Favreau focused on what drove the shellhead going from mundane to humane. Although this kind of storytelling had been tried in many other comic book films, Iron Man offered a yarn that was filled with smart, hip jokes and one liners and also characters that were realistically not rigid. This, then, had been the basis of many other comic book spawns that followed thereafter. Favreau was one of the most praised guys back in 2008 with his remarkable Iron Man. Yet in 2010, he was amongst one of the guys who received most fan outrage and backlash with his considerably lack luster Iron Man 2.
But, the Man of Iron’s journey was far from over when The Avengers kicked life back to ol’ shellhead. Because, let’s face it, Iron Man is the reason why the superhero team-up happened and triumphed in such a glory. It was only logical then to keep mustering bucks through an all-new phase of Marvel Studios heroes (people don’t simply say ‘Marvel’ anymore) - the deftly coined ‘Phase 2’. And, as was the case with the first Phase, Phase 2 kicked off with Iron Man 3. This time under a new management. Favreau is ceased to only playing Tony Stark’s bodyguard, Happy, and the guy replacing his position on the flip chair is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s honcho, Shane Black. And heck, was it a good decision. There was a bit of controversy (depends on how nerds define ‘bit’) regarding Iron Man 3 helmer. One side wanted ‘this guy’, while the other one wanted ‘that guy’. But after seeing the final result of the film, I think the topic is hardly relevant.
As anticipated in a threequel, Iron Man 3 starts with a bit of an unknown past of Tony Stark and introduces the events’ catalyst in a much more personal way. Yes, the story is partly based on Warren Ellis’ totally awesome Extremis comic book arc (still my all time favorite Iron Man story arc), yet it is dipped in a coating of a plot that’s entirely its own. There are new characters to meet in this third outing, not to mention ‘nerd-only’ nods. Downey Jr. still has a very fun vigor that’s vitally needed for an Iron Man film, Paltrow measures well with every plot hooks and Cheadle surprisingly joins the film’s slam-bang action rather awesomely. As for the rest of the cast which are new comers, there are Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen whose performance I don’t dare to comment on, Guy Pearce - the guy who finally returns to his form - and Ben Kingsley whose role is impeccably suited to the Hindi pacifier. So, yes, in the acting department, Iron Man 3 has all the right guns.
Given this a Shane Black picture, the outrageously fun sense of humor that’s entirely Favreau’s Iron Man’s is given a brand new bone and it goes away with it. Every punchline works like a bag of popping candy powder - you get it, then you laugh with all your might with it. The dialogues are very Black (pun unintended) with cool traces of Favreau thrown in for good measure. But of course, every line of dialogue needs good delivery. And the cast of Iron Man 3 nails it. I would personally like to single Robert Downey Jr. out as he is the real driving force of the picture. The guy never runs off steam.
If you think the action in The Avengers was mighty, then you have got to see Iron Man 3 for a palpable comparison. The set-pieces are impressively ambitious in scale and awesomely fangasmic in execution. There are some rescue scenes between the first and second halves of the film that are genuinely breathtaking. Those who have seen the destruction of Stark residence in the film’s trailers will be in for a completely new sense of thrill in the film. Witness Mark 42 soar off to rescue half of White House after an Air Force One has been ambushed mid air. It is, in all sense, intensely and perfectly filmed. And… I’m going to save my rant on the third act as it is the film’s most glorious sequence. Here I go: THE THIRD ACT IS SPECTACULAR. Even that still sounds like an understatement. It features this whole array of set-pieces that nerds around the world will undoubtedly come off to. And also, Stark-Rhodey relationship is encased in a slightly Lethal Weapon flair in some scenes. Have I mentioned that Iron Man 3 also features the fastest outfit-swapping in movies since Sex and the City? What’s not to like?
Still, there is admittedly a lot of plot flaws in it, but I don’t have the heart to honestly spill it. Iron Man 3 is an accomplished picture - no questions asked. If there is a thing that I’d like to honestly bitch about, it’s the post-production 3D conversion. I apparently went to see it on 3D and I swear I missed several pivotal points in some of the most intense sequences rendering me trying to reposition my point of view for the sake of a better viewing. The conversion is very murky and it doesn’t give off any particular out-of-the-screen effect that 3D conversions set out to do.
Under a new management, the Iron Man ‘invidual’ franchise emits a refreshing breeze that’s crucially needed after the waning first sequel. Iron Man 3 is a brisk, humorous and often breathtaking superhero yarn. It waltzes effortlessly atop the bar The Avengers had raised.
Iron Man 3 offers comic book films in general a brand new standard, while still raising the bar for its own franchise.
After seeing this latest Shellhead offering, I have high hopes on Phase 2 and the next assembly that will top it off.
Great work, team.