Friday, May 10, 2013

Iron Man 3: Shane Black is Back

Shane Black is back. Should that name matter to you? Yes, it should. We're talking about the guy who wrote the first "Lethal Weapon" movie, "The Last Boy Scout," and "The Long Kiss Goodnight." The guy who directed "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" which unfortunately hasn't been seen by enough people. He changed the game when it came to action movies. In the late '80s/early '90s, there was John McTiernan and there was Shane Black. Black was only a screenwriter, but he gave a blueprint for all subsequent buddy cop action films that would follow. Unfortunately, his output has slowed down considerably since the '90s, having only directed "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" back in 2005. But he's back. And with "Iron Man 3," he shows us all what we've been missing.

"Iron Man 3" kinda felt like a re-birth, of sorts. What made "Iron Man" such a great movie was that it made the superhero genre fun. Robert Downey Jr. finally got a chance to take his persona and use it on a larger than life character. What we got as a result was a huge blockbuster smash. But "Iron Man 2" came out two years later and simply felt rushed. The villain was weak. Sam Rockwell was underused. Tony Stark was whiny. There aren't really many big moments in "Iron Man 2." By the time we get to its big action climax, it feels like its lacking. Lacking in a sort of grandiose. As if the stakes haven't really been raised. It shows you what happens when you don't up the ante in a sequel. You have to. People expect more with the second movie or else it feels like we've been jipped.

"The Avengers" allowed the Iron Man character to be fun, have some awesome moments, without it all being about him. Robert Downey Jr. was still a big part of The Avengers success, but the movie is very much "the end of a phase." So here we have "Iron Man 3" and it feels like a clean slate. New writer/director. More focus. More care and attention being put on Tony Stark and his relationship with Pepper Potts. The villain actually seems like a worthy match against Iron Man, which was a problem with the first two movies. Obadiah Stane? Whiplash? They were child's play. Aldrich Killian and his extremis actually seems legit.

And the action sequences. Man are there some great sequences in here. Whether it's Tony Stark's mansion being blown to pieces, Iron Man struggling to save a bunch survivors on the Air Force One, and the epic climax that included many different Iron Men. Sure, the climax may have been a bit uneven, perhaps overdone, but it's about time we got "overdone" as opposed to "not enough done." With the first two Iron Man movies, you were saying "That's it?" This time it's more like "ok, that's enough!" But I welcomed that.

The loud moments are exciting, the quiet moments are interesting. Seeing Tony Stark struggling with anxiety after what happened in "The Avengers" made you care more about him. It was fun to see him get broken down and have to build himself back up again (with a kid who actually isn't annoying). And Don Cheadle! Cheadle and RDJ actually have a rapport in the film that's actually funny and involving. Cheadle is actually given something to do and gets to have his own awesome action moments as Iron Patriot/War Machine. When the two of them get to have a little buddy cop/detective thing going on in the last act, it simply feels inspired.

Guy Pearce was fun to watch as Aldrich Killian. Why he could sometimes go into "generic villain mode" towards the end, Pearce seems to take a certain glee when he portrays villains. He was as fun to watch in "Lawless" as he is in here. The only character I really had a problem with was Maya Hansen, played by Rebecca Hall. Her character just felt out of place at times, like when she shows up to Stark's mansion before it gets destroyed or the off-handish way she gets wasted. Rebecca Hall's performance overall just felt uninvolving. She's acted better in other movies so I don't know what went wrong here, but whenever she was on screen, she kinda sucked out the energy.

The ending felt rushed and, ultimately, the final confrontation with Aldrich Killian could have been bigger, but overall it's hard to be disappointed with a film that finally gave us the Iron Man film, action-wise, that we've all been waiting for. It's not as tight as the first one, but it might just be as fun. And Ben Kingsley's complete shift of character towards the middle was just awesome. "Iron Man 3" has some really funny moments and electrifying moments. It manages to be a healthy balance between the two. We might not see another Iron Man movie with Robert Downey Jr., but if the success of IM3 means more Shane Black movies? Then count me in. Other directors: this is what a good action movie looks like. Take notes.

Grade: B

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