Start with a generous helping of superhero movies. Mix in some science fiction, add a light sprinkling of female led fantasy and serve with a side order of crude comedy. That was the recipe for the Summer of movies last year and while some of it was ambrosial (Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises) other parts had a disappointing after taste (Prometheus) or were just something we’d already digested quite a lot of previously (The Amazing Spider-Man).
Well, April has come round again and this year we are being served something very similar, with fresher ingredients. I am particularly excited about J.J Abrams’ second Star Trek film (http://youtu.be/QAEkuVgt6Aw) and the Superman reboot (http://youtu.be/T6DJcgm3wNY) but I am also particularly keen to see Byzantium (http://youtu.be/MEAGYNhAlSQ) and, in a change to the usual menu, a literary adaptation with Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby. (http://youtu.be/rARN6agiW7o).
Before any of this though, we have Robert Downey Jnr, launching the blockbuster season in his gold/titanium alloy suit just as he did in 2008, 2010 and 2012. There is no need to analyse all of the previous Iron Man films because a.) I did that last week and b.) this is best one, at least in terms of his solo outings. It isn’t quite as much fun as The Avengers but it is definitely funnier. That more than anything else is my over riding reaction to this film. Iron Man 3 is funny, laugh out loud funny.
As you would expect most of the humour comes from the script and Robert Downey Jnr once again displays his great comic timing but he isn’t the only one who gets the great lines. Don Cheadle as the similarly iron suited War Machine, demonstrates an ability to make us laugh that we’ve not seen on the big screen up until now and Paul Bettany continues his dryly comic voice work as Jarvis. A lot of the other laughs come from unexpected places though, highlighting another of the movies ace cards; the ability to play with audience expectations. Quite often moments of pompous heroics are defused with humour and there is one particular thing you probably won’t see coming that raises laughs off and on throughout the second half of the film. It also gives us what is going to be the favourite line of any audience members from the South East of England.
This humour amidst action is going to be familiar to anyone who has seen writer Shane Black’s other work, including Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. His directing is not as spectacular as his script but it is fine. There are enough cool shots of the suits doing cool things to satisfy in this respect. The film also dodges the series curse of too many scenes of robots fighting robots but only on a technicality.
There are other typical Shane Blackisms. By the time our two heroes are out of their super suits, crouching down behind crates, wisecracking and facing off against a much stronger foe with nothing but a hand gun each, you almost expect Tony Stark to announce that he is ‘too old for this s#•t’ but it all works really well in this context.
This first of the two things that worked best about the original Iron Man was seeing Tony Stark fumble around with his suit in the testing stages and these beats are nicely repeated here without it being a tired retread. The second thing is obviously Robert Downey Jnr and knowing that, this film gives us a lot more Tony Stark and a lot less Iron Man. It is perhaps a little odd that a big superhero flick limits the amount of time we get with the superhero but this has been the strength of most of the Marvel films. We got to know Steve Rogers very well before we met Captain America and Thor is stripped of his powers for much of his film. One of the best characters in the Marvel Universe is Agent Coulson who never suits up and they finally got The Hulk right when they got Bruce Banner right (nice reference to that guy in this film).
Conversely there is a nice moment in Iron Man 3 when another character does get to go all superpowered. I am a little reluctant to talk about Gwyneth Paltrow putting on the suit as I am afraid it is a bit of a spoiler but it is out there in the interviews and reviews so I’m going ahead. I knew that this was going to happen after accidentally seeing it on a lego box, and I was a little worried about how it was going to be handled but surprisingly it is a very touching moment.
While we are here, lets talk about Gwyneth Paltrow. This weekend The Telegraph ran a column describing her as the Marmite of Hollywood; the worlds most divisive woman. This seems prompted by the fact that in the last seven days she has been labelled both Hollywood’s Most Hated Celebrity, by Star Magazine, and The World’s Most Beautiful Woman courtesy of US People Magazine. I couldn’t possibly comment on the journalistic integrity of any of these three publications but I do think it is good that a woman in her 40s has been voted the ultimate beauty no matter who by. These polls are normally voted on teenage boys but I’m guessing not on this occasion. It seems that negative opinion is based on her lifestyle advice website and her cookbook which some people find annoying.
Part of the problem is her filmography. Aside from playing Tony Stark’s love interest Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent CV has been peppered (See what I did there?) with films that are totally forgettable if you’ve heard of them at all. Movies like Thanks For Sharing, Country Strong, Two Lovers, The Good Night and Running With Scissors. Go back ten years though and she was the star of The Royal Tenenbaums, The Talented Mr Ripley, Shakespeare in Love, Sliding Doors, Emma and Se7en. She was impressive in all of these films, especially when required to demonstrate her impeccable English accent, but it seems that some people have forgotten this.
Certainly this Marmite moniker isn’t fair to Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t actually think she splits opinion more than anyone else? Kate Winslet, whom I consider to be the best and most beautiful actress of her generation has had more than her share of lambasting and in terms of judging someone by their performances there are any number of actresses who get both adored or abhorred on the basis of the same roles. Rachel McAdams, Keira Knightly and Amanda Seyfried all come to mind but even this years deserving Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway are fairly inconsistent in their work. Is there actually any mainstream actress who universally liked? Apart from Carey Mulligan, I mean.
Anyway Gwyneth Paltrow is great in Iron Man 3 and leads a great supporting cast. The aforementioned Don Cheadle gets a much better part here than in Iron Man 2. Guy Pearce smarms away memories of his question raising performance in last year’s Prometheus. Rebecca Hall is great but a little underused, previous director John Favreau is having fun, there is a cool kid who has a nice relationship with the protagonist and Ben Kingsley is just great.
Iron Man 3 is probably the most fun we’ll have in the cinema this Summer and is a superb start to the second phase of Marvel movies. Iron Man will, I am sure, be back in Avengers 2 but that is almost a shame as this is a very good end to his story.
Is this one for the kids?
It is a 12A and like most films given this catch all certificate, would be fine for anyone around 9 or above. It is similar in tone and levels of sex and violence to it’s predecessors. There are a few moments where people get blown up or perforated but the camera knows when to look away.