Back in black (and white)

Hiatus much?

Life happens at a rate that I can barely match these days. We closed on the house on Monday, and I’m picking up the keys tomorrow night from the (now) former owner. To quote what I wrote in my boss’s baby shower card “shit just got real.”

But that’s not what I’ve logged into this beleaguered account to write about. I am here to review Iron Man 3, which I went to the opening showing of in Grandville tonight.

To write a review on a comic book movie requires that I step away from the comics for a moment because without doing so, I will be overly critical about things that most viewers wouldn’t give two seconds’ thought. Consider this me putting down the graphic novels, ok?

Let me start by saying that if you don’t like the previous Iron Man movies, then you need to politely decline offers to see the third installment, and not just for obvious reasons. This Iron Man has as many explosion as the previous two, coupled with impossibly more Tony Stark one-liners. They are wonderfully irreverent and beautifully timed, with the exception of a few that caused such laughter from the audience that the following lines were lost. I hope they weren’t important.

This film is narrated by Tony, following the aftermath of the Avengers movie. Not entirely unlike the previous films, this is a story deeply rooted in the evolution of Tony as a human. <Comic Reference> This particular movie loosely follows some of the character development and plot lines of Fraction’s run of Invincible Iron Man. </Comic Reference> He confesses to Pepper how out of his league he felt with the other members of the Avengers – “a man in a can.” He discusses demons and how they are created, sometimes by chance, and more than once by his own actions. These themes are what made Iron Man great, and they are revisited here.

At the beginning of the film, we see Tony struggling to come to grips with the events in New York during the Avengers, along with the fantastically terrifying portrayal of Mandarin by Ben Kingsley. There is also the foreboding friendliness of Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, who invites Pepper Potts to invest in his Extremis project. Sure, he’s friendly and kind of handsome, but you just know he’s got a skin suit tucked away somewhere.

As is rather evident early on, Killian and his think-tank, AIM, are not entirely legit (see: skin suit). Tony and Pepper are having problems at home, and then things blow up. Literally. If you’ve seen a preview, you’ve seen his house falling into the water. After he is attacked in his home, Tony gets the wake up call he needs, and he decides to once again rise from the ashes and prove that he is a hero. By now, yes, it is a little formulaic, but if you’re not into that, then don’t read comics/watch comic movies. That’s kind of a running theme.

Pepper is taken hostage; Tony struggles against impossible odds, not the least of which is his own PTSD (undiagnosed!), and he finally overcomes because he has help in a rather unlikely form. There is the requisite final battle (boss battle, if you will) that involves Tony and friends going against seemingly impossible odds but coming out the victors. Tony proves his commitment to Pepper through a montage of destroying suits, medical procedures, and jewelry.

Highlights of the movie included any and all explosions (who doesn’t like those?), an incredible mid-air rescue of 13 people, the effects used on any and all characters exposed to Extremis, and the end credits sequence was retro and fun.

The sequences involving Mandarin were deeply disturbing. They were not unlike seeing Lawless for the first time – cringe-worthy seems like an apt description. They were visceral, and they continued with the Ten-Rings-as-terror-organization theme from the first movie. I understand the reasoning behind the brutality of the Mandarin in these films, but it is difficult to watch, and even more difficult to marry with the comic version, whose ten rings were actual rings and not a terrorist organization not unlike al-Qaeda (oops! I was supposed to not mention that, huh?).

There may have been just a little too much going on, at least for my taste. This film essentially took three plot lines and combined them, some of which span many many years in the comics. Because of all of the fronts covered, some of the ends were tied loose and messy. I imagine much of that will be rectified come the release to Blu-Ray and DVD and their deleted scenes. At a two hour run time, which is less than some of its contemporaries, they did an acceptable job.

There are a few plot twists that, as a moviegoer, were great examples of misdirection, and as a comic book fan, a little bit of a slap in the face. In the interest of readers who want to see the film, I won’t mention them specifically, but they were well-timed and revealed. They helped keep the pace quick, and some of them helped ease some tension.

All in all, I enjoyed this movie. I’ll probably see it again at a matinee because that’s my zen. As a movie lover, this was a great action movie that had some stellar character development, despite some questionable plot points. As a comic lover, it held to the character-driven feel of the Iron Man comics, while destroying some of what I had anticipated for comic plot.

And, of course, you must stay past the credits.