People lined up an hour before showtime for dialogue like that. Sure, they didn’t know it was coming, but it’s a good sign anyway for Iron Man 3 (2013). The line becomes full and long with a half hour to go. It’s almost 8pm, so I’m not tired enough for this to be a midnight showing for an adaptation of the newest fantasy series–p.s. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) looks like its gone so far off source material while being cornier than you like to see outside a Hallmark card, that it may be virtually unwatchable for me–and there are a lot more men here in the company women than you’re likely to find at a Tolkien premiere. It’s Friday night with the Ironic Man. This is an event movie.
After New York–that is, The Avengers (2012)–Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is having trouble sleeping. But our story begins in 1999, when Stark got frisky with a DNA reprogramming lovie, Maya Henson (Rebecca Hall), and totally dissed a dorky guy with Parkinson’s or something, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Back to present day. Stark spends his waking hours tinkering with his toys. Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow), his girlfriend, is running Stark Industries now and is getting a little tired of Stark’s antics. Then there’s a terrorist, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), wreaking havoc around the globe and it’s becoming a problem that Iron Man and Iron Patriot (nee War Machine) (Don Cheadle) might have to sort out. Will he come through his journey a new man, his character developed over a neat, inspiring arc? Uh-huh. Will there be tricks and one-liners? Yup. Is it deus ex machina? You bet your sweet bippy it is.
Pain & Gain (2013) was fast, like non-stop boom-Boom-BOOM. This movie is pretty fast, too, but it’s Boom-rest-boom-rest-BOOOM-reesst, etc. It also had a tight plot that is knit together satisfactorily. Suggesting anything more than that would be seriously pushing it. Iron Man (2008) was a thing of beauty. It is perfectly balanced. Iron Man 3, on the other hand, begins with an extensive narration. I have no problem with the sentiment of the opener, but I do question its length. It’s understandable. If I remember rightly, it begins “A famous man once said, we create our own demons.” [This movie is really popular, so finding out who that famous man was–and it could be Freud, it could be Ozzy Osborne–is going to be a lot harder now.] That’s pretty loaded for a comic book movie; the kind of loaded a junior philosophy major might get after enjoying stimulants and depressants around the same time. The next line is “Never mind who the famous man is.” [Will do.] And then it breaks off into Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), meta territory and before we know it, we’ve got a 30+ second speech of seriously noxious exposition.
I’ve got a note I’d like to share with you. “Miguel Ferrer as the VP? That’s trouble.” Sometimes I love myself.
But what Shane Black (who directs and writes with Drew Pearce) does so well is write good dialogue and run past it so fast that you’re guaranteed to enjoy it on future viewings. The line above, for example, drew out a solid ten-second laugh under which the adventure continues completely unheard. That said, I do wish they took another run past the plotting–or possibly the pacing (Peter S. Elliot and Jeffrey Ford)–and drew out a little more of the world. It’s typical of comic book movies to create motives with a flick of a light switch, the hero looks into the press’s…iPhone?…and declares that he ain’t gunna take it no more. How is he going to do this? Unclear. Batman is supposed to be a detective who spends a lot of his time pondering cases in his cave. Presumably Iron Man, though helped by his super computer Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany), could also spend more than ten seconds working things out. You’re saying Iron Man let this terrorist do his thing–discussing the matter at what looks like a Buffalo Wild Wings with a very comfortably dressed Col. Rhodes–until a personal event sent him into action? Some finesse, please.
Did it look great? Of course it did. Was the acting great? It was very fine. Robert Downey Jr. was sublime, of course. Guaranteed to be universally praised is the boy mechanic of dubious origin played by Ty Simpkins. Kingsley was utterly surprising (and terrific) since the trailer made him look like a re-canning of Battlefield Earth (2000). I was pretty disappointed in Paltrow and Pearce and, to a lesser extent, Hall. Paltrow just doesn’t know how to do it any other way, but the latter two have no excuses. Oh wait, yeah they do. Their parts and motivations lie, I suspect, on the cutting room floor, mutilated and pathetic. Little two-second building blocks that might have made a character were stripped out, leaving a bare, pulsing, red-hot mess. Cheadle and Bettany do good work as they are expected to do in their supportive roles.
So, do the books balance? In the liabilities column, we’ve got a poor beginning, roughish villains, and runaway plotting. In the assets column, we’ve got good-to-great dialogue, some marvelous actors, a good idea for enemies (if not optimally used), and a classic plot structure. Unsurprisingly, I estimate (based on the single theater I went to) that this will be the highest grossing film of the year.