Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Too Many Irons In This Fire: “Iron Man 3”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
On the off-chance that your family hasn’t seen Iron Man 3 yet, I have a controversial suggestion for you: Don’t go. Oh, I know, the kids have been begging. They’ll kind of hate you for a little while if you don’t take them. But maybe years from now—at a wedding, or your retirement party—they’ll come up and say, “Hey, thanks for looking out for me. I finally caught Iron Man 3 and wow, was it kind of lousy.”

Though if you do end up at the multiplex this weekend, I totally understand. Hey, I went to see it. Even sprung for the 3-D. Why? Because I’d seen parts 1 and 2, that’s why. And The Avengers. I liked The Avengers a whole lot! So I was actually looking forward to this.

A bit of flag-waving in Iron Man 3
And now I can report: Iron Man 3 is…
• too confusing and too mature for kids
• not particularly good in almost any regard: story, script, casting, performances

Taking a page from The Dark Knight Rises, our hero gets his butt kicked and then has to regroup at a faraway place (Tennessee instead of a big stupid hole in the ground) before returning for vengeance. So, not very original, but a straightforward enough plot, right? Except the Iron Man filmmakers had to junk it all up. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., of course) is suffering from panic attacks because of the New York battle scenes in The Avengers. Funny, at the end of The Avengers, I seem to remember ol’ wisecracking Stark eating shawarma with his buddies.

"That's SIR Mandarin," says
Ben Kingsley.
But the filmmakers retroactively (and shamelessly) “September 11th-inize” our recollections of that movie, and then make Osama bin Laden the new bad guy here. Except they call him the Mandarin (Osama Ben Kingsley?). But wait, there’s also profit-mad Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who is angry because Stark once snubbed him at the Great Gatsby’s New Years party. (Note to the kids: If a character’s name combines “kill” and “villain,” he’s probably up to no good.) Then they paint Don Cheadle’s metal suit to look like Captain America and not one person says, “Hey, he looks like Captain America.” Next, the President (who looks like George W. Bush) is in trouble and somehow ends up in Cheadle’s suit. Pretty baffling stuff, and—for the third Iron Man movie in a row—we learn that the real evil is the military-industrial complex. Except when Stark is playing with his remote-control drone Iron Men. Then it’s not evil, it’s cool!

So, all that is pretty “grown up” and complicated, and when you toss in relationship woes, various scantily clad women, and assorted drug and alcohol references, this didn’t seem like much of a movie for the children.

Don Cheadle never asks before
he borrows your clothes.
Oh, but they still want kids in the audience. So they’ve been running that dumb Verizon FiOS commercial for months where the kid dresses up as Iron Man for his science fair. (And just guess what company has very prominent product placement in this movie!) Then they dream up one of the least believable kids in screen history, precocious young Harley, who Stark befriends in Tennessee. And the truth is, nothing is very believable in this movie. The sets are cheap. Scientists look like slick gorgeous actors instead of, you know, scientists. And as for realistic emotions—well, no spoilers, but at a moment when Tony Stark should be incredibly depressed and upset—you guessed it—he’s cracking one-liners again!

Honestly, the kids might not notice. There are a bunch of awesome Iron Man suits whizzing around and there is an absurd number of explosions. Hey, relax, it’s just a comic-book movie, right? I just think kids deserve a lot more. Create a world we recognize, so a hero will truly stand out and truly be needed. Maybe Man of Steel will do a better job. It can’t do too much worse.

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