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Iron Man 3D – film review

May 1, 2013

IRON MAN 3D

Overblown finale and lacklustre 3D conversion mars an otherwise mildly enjoyable comic book romp.

Reviewed on Thursday 25th April 2013

Robert Downey Jr plays Iron Man in Iron Man 3

Directed by Shane Black. Screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black. Based on the Marvel comic book character created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby. Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle. Running time: 130 mins.

Billionaire industrialist Tony Stark is a haunted man. Unable to sleep and suffering anxiety and panic attacks, this once cock-sure and confident Avenger has become a virtual recluse after an encounter with aliens in New York very nearly claimed his life. When a potential terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) begins making threats of mass destruction towards the United States, Tony is forced to face his demons, get back in the suit and end this reign of terror.

First up, I must confess – I haven’t seen the previous Iron Man movies or The Avengers (not being particularly enamoured with the superhero genre) – so my opinion of Iron Man Three (as it is referred to in the actual titles) will be based purely on its own merits. My interest in seeing this film really stems from my appreciation of celebrated 80’s action screenwriter Shane Black – he who sold his first screenplay Lethal Weapon for the unprecedented sum of one million dollars (back in the days when screenwriters were treated like rock gods). This is Shane Black’s second outing as director after he and Robert Downey Jr last teamed up on the low-key crime thriller Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005. And the snappy Lethal Weapon-style banter Shane Black is renown for is very much in evidence here (particularly in the scenes between Stark and the young boy he befriends).

I guess it goes without saying, Robert Downey owns this movie in the role of Tony Stark. He is excellent in what may well be his final appearance in the Iron Man films – a departure I imagine which would be an enormous loss for fans of the series; seeing as his portrayal of Stark provides much of its appeal. Of the rest of the cast, it is Ben Kingsley’s channeling of Ringo Starr in his role as The Mandarin (in a reinvention of the comic book character which is sure to upset more than a few Iron Man purists) – which almost tips the film over into high camp. And what exactly is his gripe against the US government anyway? His motivation as the villain is never made clear. Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s love interest Pepper Potts is given little to do aside from essaying the obligatory damsel-in-distress routine. And Guy Pearce is fine in a villainous part which could easily be played by just about anyone. It was also quite a shock to see Miguel Ferrer relegated to portraying an ultra-bland (and uncredited) White House official after playing such memorable characters as Bob Morton in Robocop and Agent Albert Rosenfield in Twin Peaks – he is uttely wasted here.

It is no secret that Stark spends less time in the suit when compared with previous installments. And this wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that whenever he requires the suit to get himself out of a sticky situation – all he has to do is snap his fingers and it magically comes to him. This is apparently an attribute the suit never demonstrated in previous incarnations and was created purely for this movie to get around the problem that Stark cannot just drag it around with him wherever he goes. Now this idea that the suit can autopilot itself (in a swarm of unconnected flying pieces no less) to wherever it is needed is all fine and dandy – if it weren’t so contrived, convoluted and well – just plain silly. Talk about stretching the suspension of disbelief!

The visual effects are (as can be expected) top notch – with the stand-out scenes being the helicopter attack on Stark’s cliff-top residence and a startling mid-air rescue of jumbo jet passengers in free-fall (during which Iron Man employs a manoeuvre inspired by the Barrel Of Monkeys children’s game!). This sequence in particular is impressively realized and extremely well staged and would be in itself worth the price of admission. It is a breath-taking set piece which, disappointingly, the film’s finale never matches.

Iron Man Three marks the first time cinematographer John Toll (who recently lensed the sumptuous-looking Cloud Atlas) has jumped on the Hi Def bandwagon. And in typical HD fashion, the cinematography is sharp and hard-edged – but lacks texture and a certain atmosphere – the result being; it looks more like watching a blu-ray at home than a ‘movie-movie’ at the cinema.

As my regular readers know, I generally dislike 3D conversions – as they rarely are   (if ever) worth the additional price of admission. And the 3D in Iron Man Three is no different. Sure, you can throw in some nifty CG holographic representation of the inner workings of Guy Pearce’s brain (clearly a rip-off of a similar effect in Prometheus) and sprinkle floating feather down in a fight scene for no good reason other than to attempt additional depth, but when it all comes down to it – these are just cheap shots to coerce auds into parting with their cash for little – if any, return.

As with many big summer releases these days, Iron Man Three overstays its welcome by about fifteen to twenty minutes – with the action finale in particular being overblown, overlong and virtually incomprehensible. And it is here where my biggest beef with the film resides.

The final fifteen minute showdown is such a jumbled mess of color and movement – a CG assault on the senses (not unlike the turgid finales of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies) – it is almost as if the filmmakers are lacking in confidence themselves in staging a unique and exciting set piece we haven’t seen before and are therefore overcompensating by throwing a whole bunch of incoherent action at the audience in the hope that at least some of it will seem engaging. Well, I’m sorry to say – it isn’t. There is simply just too much going on – too many guns, too many explosions, too many iron men. And for me – it was half-way through this tiresome sequence that I was finally left behind. It’s a shame really – as all the good will which was carefully constructed over the first two thirds of the film is essentially destroyed during this frenzied and botched finale. As to who is to blame for this I’m not entirely certain, although I’m sure Shane Black must shoulder much of the responsibility. This isn’t to say the film as a whole is a complete waste of time – it isn’t. But it’s just a shame the qualities which work so well in the first half couldn’t be sustained until the final fade out.

3 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed in 3D at the Piccadilly Cinemas, North Adelaide, April 25th 2013.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos   and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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4 Comments
  1. Good review. 🙂 Didn’t see your review at the time. My reader doesn’t work properly – I never see your posts! I wasn’t overly impressed with the big finale of this either. Liked most of the same things you did. Ugh – the 3D was such a waste of time! Pretty bad that I was only reminded of the fact it was actually in 3D when I had to take the glasses off at the end. But I still can’t believe you watched this without seeing any other Iron Man or The Avengers! Lol. 🙂

    • That is so telling you only realized the film was in 3D when you took the glasses off. 🙂 I’ve been so unimpressed with 3D conversions of late – that I’ve given up expecting them to be any good before I go in. The only 3D conversion which genuinely impressed me was Titanic – but that was only because Cameron was willing to spend the money and effort in getting it right. Otherwise – I’m only seeing these things in 3D in order to warn others off from wasting their money. And it appears from the search terms being used to find my reviews, there are plenty of people out there who want to know whether a film has been converted or not.

      It appears people are gradually wising up to the rip-off.

      Yeah, I know – it is kinda’ weird I haven’t seen the previous Iron Man films or the Avengers. But then – I did see Jaws 2 before I saw the original Jaws (I was too young to see the first one back in the day). And I have seen both The Exorcist II: The Heretic and Exorcist III – without ever having seen the original (uh oh – yeah, I know – there goes Greg’s street cred!). I do have a copy of Iron Man which has been sitting on my shelf for over a year – so I should get off my ass and dust it off at some stage. 🙂

  2. gregory moss permalink

    Yeah, I know. It’s not due to any specific reason really, Ian. It’s just one of those movies which I’ve read a lot about over the years (in magazine articles and reference books) – to the point where – seeing the actual movie itself seems kinda’ redundant. Perhaps I should follow Tank and Fogs’ lead over at the Title Pending Movie Podcast and begin a weekly feature entitled ‘Has Greg Seen The Exorcist?’. – No, but I have seen The Exterminator – does that count? 🙂

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