I liked Iron Man 2. There, I said it. Actually, I did say it before right here.
While it was not superior to its predecessor, it was still a fun romp through comic book land rife with reference and foreshadowing. I consider it a prequel to the rest of the Marvel Movie Universe at large; drawing in SHIELD, teasing Captain America and Thor, and giving birth to everyone’s favorite card-collecting agent, Phil Coulson. I believe it often goes unnoticed that this was the important transition movie that really set the stage for the Avengers.
That said, I realize that Iron Man 2 was and continues to be widely panned. This doesn’t bother me, I stand by my word. This did, however, greatly lower expectations for Iron Man 3 when it hit this weekend. The seemingly global disapproval of Iron Man 2 which arose in the media as the release of Iron Man 3 grew closer was palpable. Before it was even previewed for the media, people were calling it out as iffy. This was partly because the advertised villain – The Mandarin (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) – is something of a campy stereotype in Marvel Comics lore; a Red China throwback who used magical rings to varying effect in his quest for world domination. Standard supervillain junk and not much more.
In fact, the story (without giving too much away) makes the Mandarin mysterious, powerful, and menacing without the ridiculous camp you would think followed the character from even a cursory glance at his Wikipedia page.
Yes, I’m a comic book geek, and yes, I did like Iron Man 2 but Iron Man 3, from a strictly objective viewpoint, was an absolutely incredible film.
The phrase “this movie has everything” is often bandied about carelessly. I am not participating in such bandying by saying that this movie really does have everything. This movie brings the funny as much as it brings the action and suspense. There are some serious laughs to be had which is largely due to Robert Downey Jr.’s always spectacular performance as Tony Stark which, since the first movie, really brought the character to life. Tony Stark had been around long before these movies but I don’t think he truly had a voice in the original Marvel U until RDJ put him out there as a fast-talking, razor-witted, ego-tripping playboy. It was Warren Ellis and the Extremis storyline in 2005 that made the character movie –ready, but it was RDJ putting his stamp on the character that makes Iron Man one of the better books out there at the moment.
This is also because of the sharp writing and direction of this franchise. Though this has changed hands over the course of the trilogy, it has achieved a strange consistency. People seem to know how to write Tony and those around him and make it seamless.
Even though, as you may have seen in the trailers, a veritable army of Iron Man variant suits participate in the movie, this one is more about Tony outside the armor than Tony inside the armor. This is strange when you’re waiting for the post-credits scene and suddenly a wall of names marking the 3D effects crew takes no less than 30 seconds to scroll by, then you realize that, oh yeah, there were 42 armor variants shown in this movie and each one was different.
The story draws from the previously mentioned Warren Ellis Extremis story arc and doesn’t skimp on the details. They took a story from the comics which really brought Iron Man back to being a mainstream player in the Marvel Universe rather than just one of the Avengers, gave it a bit of polish, and pushed it out under the absolute best possible circumstances.
One thing I appreciated was that the fight scenes were actual fight scenes and not the slow-mo-fast-mo junk or shaky-cam cut-fests or special-effects debacles of recent years. They were well played out, well cut, and, unlike most movies involving armor or giant robots (I’m looking at you Michael Bay), you could tell who the combatants were the entire time. Really, some of the most solid classically-shot action sequences I’ve seen in a long, long time.
There were some good callbacks for fans regarding SHIELD and the Avengers movie. Really nice to see that sort of thing in a solo picture and really nice to see the continuity of the universe moving right along. Paramount continues to hit this part of the Avengers franchise spot-on. There are plenty of little easter eggs hidden and I’ll probably need to watch the movie at least one more time before I get them all.
Another easter egg in plain sight was the introduction of the Iron Patriot armor. If you’ve read Marvel Comics within the last few years, you know the significance of that armor and especially the twisted bastard who was wearing it. They don’t go that far (licensing and plot-line surely would not have been kind), but it was still cool to see Norman’s red, white, and blue streaking around and getting into some interesting situations.
The ending corresponds with the rumors around Hollywood that RDJ may want to step out of the suit for good after his contract expires with Avengers 2. I wish that wasn’t the case. Something about him wanting to move on to different roles and not be shoe-horned into the action-movie role forever. The only problem with that is that he IS Tony Stark. Unless he buys it in Avengers 2, it’s not going to be as easy a replacement as Bruce Banner was.
BTW, stick around after the credits for a nice shout out to the Science Bros meme. VERY funny.
Bidula’s Last Word – 9/10
Keep fighting the good fight.