Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review of Iron Man 3: The Suit's On, But Nobody's Home

Having read two Star Trek Into Darkness reviews that dissed the movie in favor of Iron Man 3, I was really excited to go see the latter. I had enjoyed watching Star Trek Into Darkness, even with its gossamer-thin plot, and so was looking forward to having a good time at the cinema with Iron Man 3 since I trusted the words of the two reviewers who insisted that Iron Man 3 was far superior to Star Trek Into Darkness. Boy was I in for a bitter disappointment. If anything, the plot of Iron Man 3 was even more haphazard and had plot holes even bigger than Star Trek Into Darkness, which is saying a lot.

At least the villains in Star Trek Into Darkness had credible motives for committing heinous acts. In Iron Man 3, the villains cartoonishly don't. They commit acts of terror simply because it is currently fashionable for summer blockbuster villains to do so. And that left a really sour taste in my mouth. Look, I am not asking for deep political insights from a popcorn movie, but if the scriptwriters want to insert an element of terrorism in the story, they should have seen it through and not just tag it on because it is at the moment the "in" thing to do.

The rest of Iron Man 3, like its titular character, is similarly in shambles. Iron Man 3 takes place after the events in The Avengers, in which Tony Stark almost died trying to save the city of New York. Stark now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He is unable to sleep and spends most nights tinkering on new versions of his Iron Man suit. Just hearing the words "New York" sends him into panicked anxiety attacks. While I do like to see my superheroes show some human vulnerability, the fact is that in the case of Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man, his sheer cockiness is what I fell in love with, not this nervous train wreck. (I'm not trying to discount the fact that PTSD can happen to anyone or the seriousness of PTSD, but I really didn't pay for a movie ticket just to see my favorite superhero reduced to a quivering heap each time he hears the name of a city)

Speaking of wrecks, the new Iron Man suits are also a mess. I do not expect total continuity in between movies, but I guess between The Avengers and Iron Man 3, it seems that Stark has decided to outsource the manufacturing of his suits to a shoddy workshop in China, because they seem to have a tendency to totally disintegrate at the slightest impact. Not that it seems to matter much, because Stark hardly spends anytime donning a suit anyway. Instead he is mostly controlling them remotely or running around for most of the movie simply winging it without them. What is the point of having a movie called Iron Man if our hero is hardly going to be donning an Iron Man suit in the first place? Several times throughout the movie I was sorely tempted to mutter that the studio should simply have changed the title of the movie to Tony Stark.

Robert Downey Jr. does the best with what he is given, but at times the inept storyline succeeds in swallowing him whole. Ben Kingsley does a hammy performance as the Mandarin, and Guy Pearce excels as a sinister though very one-dimensional Aldrich Killian. Don Cheadle returns as decent sidekick Colonel Rhodes, while Jon Favreau, director of the first two Iron Man movies, reprises his role as Happy, whose function this time is not so much comic fodder but simply to prod the plot along. The lovely Rebecca Hall joins the cast as Dr. Maya Hansen, a former lover of Stark (if you can, check out her BAFTA-nominated turn as the mercurial Sylvia Tjetjens opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC2's 2012 TV series Parade's End) but it is Gwyneth Paltrow who really shines this time as a Pepper Potts who by movie's end, finally gets to shed her damsel in distress role to kick some real ass.

Not all the movie is bad though. Some of the action scenes are really well thought-out; the scene where Iron Man attempts to saves 14 passengers in mid-air despite his suit's capability to carry only 4 people is particulary inspired. Also, the third act at one point almost lifts the movie out from the doldrums before unfortunately loses steam midway and sinks back into its hackneyed plot. Similarly, the witty one-liners, which work well for the most part, gets a bit too much near the end; in scenes which are supposed to be emotional, these one-liners are jarringly and gratingly out of place, turning what are supposed to be dramatic moments into moments of utter banality.

My verdict? If you are able to catch just one summer blockbuster that is out in cinemas right now, I'd suggest you go with Star Trek Into Darkness instead. If you are still planning to go see Iron Man 3 though, be sure to stay for the after-credits scene. 2 out of 5 stars for me.

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