Spoiler-Free Review: Iron Man 3

Of the Marvel movie universe titles, the Iron Man franchise was clearly one of the more shining achievements of the bunch. Not only did it start off the string of Marvel titles leading up to The Avengers, but it was a smart, fun romp of a movie that was able to establish one of the lesser known comicbook heroes (at that time, at least) and turn him into a household name. That only made things so much more disappointing when its sequel Iron Man 2 ended up being such an uninspired, bland, movie-length commercial for The Avengers movie. Thankfully, the awkward middle-period remains just that, as the third installment in the Iron Man movies returns to its roots, while taking the bits and pieces from 2 that people will admit to liking.

Iron Man 3 movie poster

Getting past the initial shock of everything taking place around Christmas (guess around when this movie was supposed to be released) Iron Man 3 does an excellent job of not only bringing titular character Tony Stark back to the roots of his first movie in hunting down terrorists and bringing ‘em to justice (no quirky bird-obsessed baddies here!), but it also gives enough of a spin on his repertoire of abilities, making fight scenes feel fresh and not Iron Man 2-level boring. The movie baddie this time takes on the form of The Mandarin—a terrorist that takes pleasure in hijacking American broadcasts to spread his hatred of the country. The movie does a fine job of keeping any details on his true identity fuzzy, building up to a twist that while tension-deflating, works as a whole. Action is equally top-notch, with Iron Man having evolved his fighting style after three movies (and a spinoff movie). Rather than brute-forcing his way through fights with his standard repulsor blast, a new spin has been put to use that while somewhat unrealistic in comparison to the goings-on of the first movie, proves quite the spectacle to watch (the list of people under “Visual Effects” during the end credits understandably takes up a full one-and-then-some screens).

Story-wise, the movie takes place a while after the events of The Avengers, with Tony having seen better days, as the trauma brought on by risking his life to fight hordes of aliens has left him feeling far from refreshed. With all the pent up stress, Tony has been spending the majority of his time tinkering away at different iterations of the Iron Man suit, obsessing over wanting to protect those with the power he has been granted. What he fails to realize, however, is that being a hero doesn’t necessarily mean helping the helpless. And in that sense, the movie ends up playing out similarly to Spider-Man 2 (another spectacular Marvel movie). Time and time again throughout the movie, Tony is dropped into situations where he must rely on the help of others when he has become so accustomed to the reverse being true. It’s an incredibly humbling realization for the bold and brash Tony Stark, and serves as a fitting place to end his story movie-wise (though we all know that isn’t true).

As a whole, Iron Man 3 has done more than enough to escape the rut of mediocrity that was Iron Man 2, setting the bar for the second wave of Marvel movies disgustingly high.

Christmas and a Movie; Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows Review

My family’s not exactly the most traditional of families whenever it came to Christmas. My parents would never pester me or my sister to help decorate the tree; caroling and cookie decorating were never really “things;” the stop-motion specials always creeped me out; as of late me and the sister would usually end up ordering our own presents with our parents paying us back and wrapping the gifts themselves. On paper, we’re probably about as festive on Christmas as your one Jewish neighbor that puts up the one plastic snowman model in his front yard to avoid neighborhood gossip.

Though, now that I think about it, I guess I can think of a couple traditions. Going to church with the family and noticeably complaining about how the “fair weather” church-goers always end up taking the pew seats, leaving everyone literally standing on the sidelines; making fun of the music teacher’s twenty-something son still being in the choir; attending a potluck dinner with the extended family only to go home in a worse condition than you were beforehand after all the backtalk your nosy aunt gives you… as half-hearted and semi-cynical as they may be, they’re traditions of a sort nonetheless and they’re what makes my family that much more quirky.

As of late, I’ve also noticed another unintentional tradition I’ve had with the sibling and the cousins: movie-outings on Christmas Day. Last year was Black Swan (aka Fight Club’s less attractive sister as far as any of us were concerned) and the year before was Sherlock Holmes. So, we figured it was only fitting that this year we hit up the second Holmes movie: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

But first off, some quick impressions on the trailers:

  • I can’t believe Hasbro’s moving from Transformers to Battleship. With Rihanna. If anything, you’d think she’d be better fit for a Bop It adaptation. /innapropes
  • Anne Hathaway’s singlehandedly taken away any pretentious cred the third Batman movie had going for it.
  • The only reason I’d consider seeing Rock of Ages is for the possibility of some kind of physical harm on the part of Tom Cruise.
  • The Woman in Black’s trailer didn’t play, but just seeing the poster for it creeped me out. Then I heard Daniel Radliffe was in it and it made me want to rent Ballet Slippers, Driving Lessons, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes in a feeble attempt to rinse my mind of the Potter mindset I’ll always be in whenever I see any of those actors in any other movie.

While I wouldn’t call the first Sherlock movie featuring Robert Downey Jr. a masterpiece, I did enjoy it enough to pick it up once the Blu Ray came out. It did a good job of establishing the characters from Conan Doyle’s works for a more action-oriented audience without making any compromises, and for that alone I was thankful. Very rarely have I ever heard of titular characters being known for their deductive reasoning on top of their physical capabilities in a battle.

That said, I felt at least a bit more stupid after watching the sequel.

Not because of the material itself, but because the characters blaze through plot points so quickly that I tended to forget just exactly who the bad guy was and what his motivations were for doing whatever it was he wanted to do in the first place. In the first movie, the antagonist was introduced while in the middle of some kind of Satanic Ritual that Holmes immediately chocks up to have some kind of logical explanation. From there the movie goes on, with the audience fully aware of the antagonist, his shtick, and how he plays off against Holmes. I wasn’t exactly given the same thing this time around. Something about a gypsy’s brother being in relation to some criminal mastermind that wants to cause a world war and how he rivals even Holmes in terms of deductive reasoning… a majority of it just ended in scenes with talking heads without much action, which in turn made the action (some of which was pretty blatantly made for 3D audiences, btw) not that interesting and making for a “meh” middle section of the movie overall.

If anything, the beginning and end are where the movie shines.

You’re immediately re-introduced to the main core cast up to the same shenanigans as usual: Holmes drugging Watson’s dog; Watson now about to enter married life with his beau from the last movie; Holmes’ will-they-won’t-they beau off on her own schemes. The introductions are done in such a way that they refresh your memory for the cast without spoon-feeding it to you, which is a lot more than can be said about some of the film’s dialogue. I hate it when I hear the title of the movie worked into someone’s lines.

The final act of the movie is where the film shines brightest, however. While Watson is off stopping the antagonist’s master plans from coming to fruition, Holmes chases directly after the antagonist, ending in a literal battle of words on top of a fitting yet incredibly overused by this point game of chess. While the chess game was somewhat eye-roll worthy, it did work well with the dialogue as it bounced between Holmes and Watson’s final confrontations with my only real gripe here being that I wish there were similar exchanges between the movie’s baddie earlier on just to demonstrate how similar he is to Holmes to really drive home the feeling of cat-and-mouse. Though I guess that’ll be all worked out in the next sequel that was oh so obviously hinted at by the end of this film.

In short, it was an okay film. Do your laundry while watching the middle part, but just make sure to finish it by the final act.

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