Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3

I saw the third movie in the Iron Man series today, in iMax 3d.  My recommendation (for those who haven’t seen it) before the cut, and a spoiler-laden evaluation after the cut.

If you aren’t sure whether to see this movie:

I cannot unequivocally recommend this movie in general.  I loved the first two in the series, and I think this one drops the ball pretty hard when it comes to the story, which basically makes no sense.  However, the two most important things about the franchise: the CGI superhero action and the humor – are both still intact.
Its special effects top those of the first two films, and nearly teeter into the realm of being impossible to follow.  Fortunately, director Shane Black (taking the reins from Jon Favreau, who still reprises his role as Happy Hogan) keeps things in control just enough to allow the viewer to keep up with the action – barely.  In contrast to the unintelligible mess Michael Bay made of the Transformers fight sequences, these are still downright clear.  The choreography of the action sequences is certainly exciting, but they strain believability much more than the previous films.

There’s actually more humor in this film than the previous two, but I get the feeling that is more because certain scenes are written specifically to be funny.  A lot of throwaway lines and improvisational feel throughout the other movies is reduced here, and replaced with separate chunks of humor that were trying too hard to be funny in the script, but are gamely salvaged by the cast’s talent.

"Wait, what's the name of that thing I don't give?  Oh yeah, it's fucks."

It actually reminds me of a lot of standard 80’s movies, especially with the “buddy cop” scenes between Tony and Rhodey, and an extended section in the middle where Tony makes a new friend.  I assume that’s Black’s influence, given that he made the original Lethal Weapon.

The big mistake the film makes is that it consciously decides to throw all links to reality to the wayside.  The creators correctly observed that one of the keys to the success of the previous Marvel movies was keeping the characters emotionally grounded and relatable (and this movie more than any other tries to focus on the hero as a person), but they missed the lesson about grounding the rest of the movie in the real world.  In the first two, you could almost believe that Iron Man could exist in our world if someone just invented an arc reactor and some repulsors.  That aspect saved the other Marvel movies from the typical superhero movie pitfall of seeming cheesy, staged, and “just for geeks”.  It is completely thrown out the window here.  Iron Man 3 constantly tries its best to break the viewers suspension of disbelief, taking liberties with physics, logic, and the resilience of the human body that create a distraction and make it more difficult to enjoy the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I love over-the-top action and impossible stunts.  I couldn’t get enough of the final sequence of The Avengers and I am one of the few who actually loves FF7: Advent Children.  However, there are ways to do that insane level of action without just shattering the rules of that world (see The Avengers or the Dark Knight movies), and Iron Man 3 fails in that regard, sacrificing all believability for the coolness factor.  It’s up to each viewer whether they thought that was a worthwhile sacrifice.  I’m just glad that in giving up the realism at the root of the franchise, they at least got something in return.

Taken as a whole, I’d say the movie is entertaining and worth seeing, if you are willing to totally turn off your brain (which I often am).  Otherwise, you’ll be distracted by the nonsensical story path, the constant breaking of the most basic laws of physics and the human body, Tony’s impossible athleticism, and the many out-of character decisions the writers had the characters make in order to force the story down a certain path. 


Let me start this off with a rant.


"Quick, grab my hand so we can both be dismembered before we die!"


Thanks for bearing with me there.

I assume if you’re reading this you’ve seen the movie.  As I already said, I enjoyed it overall, but it challenged, to the breaking point, my ability to suspend disbelief.  Unlike every single other Marvel movie, I spent more time during many scenes trying to find a way to make my brain accept the shattering of the laws of physics or logic long enough to actually enjoy the action.  I’m just going to call out the specifics of some of my problems with the movie.

First, overall, the weight and mobility of the suits is constantly contradicting itself and being inconsistent.  If every step the suit takes makes a loud kuh-klunk noise, then how is it light enough for him to backflip with only half of it on?  If Rhodey can’t even move inside a deactivated suit, how come the President can walk just fine inside of one?  Oh, his wasn’t deactivated, you say?  Then how come he couldn’t use the suit’s strength to save himself?  The physics of the universe were changed to suit the writer’s whims, when it should have been the other way around.

I think watching the Mark 42 assemble itself (and hilariously fall apart at unexpected moments) looks very cool, but the way they did it is problematic.  A chunk of titanium-gold alloy flying into Tony’s crotch at that speed should have dislocated something, perhaps all the way to an opposite wall.  

Pictured: the last moment of his life in which Tony Stark was able to walk.

Beyond that, throughout the film they make a point of demonstrating the ability of all of the suits to open up and accept Tony instantly, even in midair, so what’s the point of having the suit go to pieces?  It’s not for easier transport, since the parts fly themselves – but a full suit could fly itself even better, and he already has one that fits in a goddamn suitcase.  Why isn’t the Mark 42 one full suit that simply responds to his implanted microchips?  Oh that’s right, so the writers could make him do a badass fight with only part of the suit on, which I admit was totally fucking rad (even though there’s no way he could lift his leg with only one leg of the suit on).  Unfortunately, in the logic of the world it doesn’t make any sense.  

10 out of 10 dentists agree that this scene is both “dope” and “radical to the max”.

They really needed to figure out some logical justification for this thing, besides “it’s a movie”.  I mean, they came up with enough rationale for why he had so many suits at the end, which helped me ignore the fact that the final action sequence was less for story reasons and more at the studio’s insistence so they’d have a wider variety of toys to sell to kids.  Having the suit in parts also invites the viewer to wonder how the fuck he fit so many mini-repulsors in each piece, and how each piece powers itself separately.  Are there even tinier arc reactors hidden inside them?  Wouldn’t that be impossible, given that getting the arc reactor even that small was the catalyst for the entire movie series?

AND WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD HE BLOW UP ALL THE SUITS AT THE END!?!?  I get that he wanted to make a grand gesture to Pepper, but goddammit there had to be a better way than destroying BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF TECH that could have been used to save and improve countless lives and would be invaluable in case of another alien invasion.  WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK, TONY?  He actually just finished fighting a single man who was strong enough to tear apart any single suit in a single strike, and there is absolutely no proof that there aren’t dozens more of those Extremis-enhanced guys and gals running around loose right now.

Pictured: J.A.R.V.I.S. becomes Skynet.

Speaking of “what the fuck are you doing Tony”, why would you threaten the Mandarin and then not be standing at the ready in the suit, with Pepper safely miles away?  It makes for a more interesting movie to have them all get blown up in the middle of an argument, but it makes absolutely no sense for it to happen when they know he’s coming.  This could have been easily remedies by having AIM go after Tony without him daring them to do so, so it was actually a surprise attack.  It gets even worse when you realize that the only suit he even had on hand was an experimental one that immediately malfunctions.  This is not the type of thing a genius would do.  This is not the type of thing you would expect from a guy who could infiltrate a heavily-guarded corporate/terrorist stronghold armed with nothing but a few random bits from a hardware store.

"Thanks for putting all of us in danger, you stupid asshole."

Speaking of which, when did this go from an Iron Man movie to a Batman movie?  Did we have to suffer through watching Tony go suitless for literally half the movie?  I signed on to see Iron Man, not the whacky adventures of McGuyver and the Potato Gun Kid.  It gets even more discordant when he manages to physically fight multiple Extremis soldiers without more than a few scratches, when it is later demonstrated that those same soldiers could literally shatter an entire Iron Man suit with a single blow.  This is a suit that’s barely dented when hit with Thor’s hammer, but these guys can rip it open with their bare hands.  And yet, without a suit, a handcuffed Tony Stark manages to not get completely crumpled/dismembered just trying to fight one of them?  I call foul.

Listen, I get that all of this was done in service of making exciting action scenes.  I enjoyed those action scenes.  I just feel like there had to be a way to be just as awesome while adhering to the rules of the movie’s universe and keeping the whole thing internally consistent, and consistent with how the characters would actually behave.  I’ve enjoyed such ridiculousness in, for instance, the Resident Evil movie series.  However, it’s jarringly out of place in a franchise that owes so much of its mainstream and critical success to staying grounded in the real world as much as possible, and avoiding the goofiness typical of older superhero movies.

"Man, Dancing with the Stars has really gone downhill this season..."

No comments: