|There's narcissism, and then there's this...|
“My suit was never a distraction or a hobby. It was a cocoon. And I'm a new man now."
1) Even though the bulk of the plot is taken from Warren Ellis’ ‘Extremis’ story and we get a couple of head nods to John Byrne’s Telepresence Armor, there is no doubt that Shane Black is channeling David Michiliene and Bob Layton’s landmark runs on the book. So many elements from the story are from that run, even if some of them are tweaked a bit. In fact, the whole film has the feel of those issues where Michiliene and Layton concentrated on how cool and resourceful Tony Stark is by depriving him of his armor for long lengths of time. Hell, there’s even a shout out to Mrs. Arborgast in one scene!
(Although I am surprised that the list of comic creator thank yous didn’t include Len Kaminski, who created not only War Machine, but the Hulkbuster armor.)
2) Boy does this film move. Unlike with its predecessor, Black makes sure that even the slow moments feed directly into the plot, keeping everything clicking along. This creates a smoother viewing experience and avoids the clunky start-and-stop feeling that Iron Man 2‘s second act had.
3) I’ve said it when Iron Man 2 rolled around, and I’ll say it here--Don Cheadle was 100% an upgrade over Terrence Howard. Not only do the two feel like friends throughout (the scene of them hanging out in the first act has a casualness that Rhodey and Tony never had in the first film), but Cheadle is absolutely bad-ass when the third act rolls around, coming off as a hyper-cool Felix Leiter to Tony’s Bond.
4) The reworking of The Mandarin--arguably the furthest away any element from the comic gets in this film--actually makes a lot of sense, even if that reworking ends up being played for laughs at one point. Ben Kingsley manages to make both aspects of the character make a lil’ sense...although I will admit I find it hard to accept that the character is as oblivious as he is portrayed at one point.
|"Who said I wasn't hot?"|
5) Another character who seems to have two (if not more) aspects is Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian. Pearce manages to disappear into the role to the point where I didn’t recognize him throughout (although, to be fair, it’s not like Pearce has been in much of anything in the last handful of years), and I find it amusing that he acts more like Justin Hammer than Justin Hammer did in the last film; the scheme he’s enacting is extremely in keeping with Michiliene’s version of Hammer in the 90's.
6) I respect how Black manages to shear away a lot of the ‘Phase Two’ excess (save for the end-credit stinger) so he can concentrate on the core group of Tony, Pepper, Rhodey and Happy.
Yes, Happy. Maybe because he’s no longer directing, Jon Favreau gets a real sorta story arc, and for the first time we feel that he’s more than just an employee, but a friend.
7) ...and speaking of the core group...man, is Gwyneth Paltrow hot in this film. Freed up from the weird bickering-for-bickering’s-sake of the last film, Paltrow is able to build on the chemistry with Downey, making their relationship feel truly real. It’s also refreshing that Tony and Pepper actually talk about significant things, and not stuff like whether she’s allergic to strawberries or not. Granted, there’s that weird thing they do to her that is sort of swept under the rug in the coda, but the bulk of her appearance in the film bolsters the relationship between the two of them.
8) Since I raised the subject of humor, I’m pleased that the humor in this film is organic, coming from the characters and what we’ve learned about them. Black allows Tony to be a lil’ bit of a dick--sometimes really extremely when it comes to his interaction with the young boy who’s his sorta sidekick in a major part of the second act--without letting him get Joe Quesada level out of hand. And he also has fun with Stark’s celebrity status. But these jokes are natural, and never get to the forced level of the previous film.
|If you were a fan of David Michiliene' run...you'd know why|
I mark out at shots like this....
9) I appreciate the fact that Black does give Tony’s story arc, an arc that’s been building since the first film, a satisfactory resolution. If it turns out that this is the last Iron Man solo film, or the last solo film to feature Downey in the lead role, at least there’s a sense of closure to the trilogy.
10) I enjoy how Black finds many ways to create action sequences with Stark where he has limited access to the suit. All of these fight scenes are creative, and leads up to the whizz-bang finale which evokes a major part of the Michiliene/Layton run and provides us with a massive adreneline rush of fun in the end.
Overall...while I did enjoy Iron Man 2, this is an improvement. Shane Black manages to create a successful film that builds on th previous entries while giving us somthing new in the spectacle department. Recommended.
I ended up going to the Atlas for an 11 a.m. show that was, well, packed to the gills. Among the eight trailers we were assailed with were ones for The Great Gatsby (which I truly do want to see, and not just because there’s Carey ‘Sally Sparrow’ Mulligan in flapper gear), Man of Steel (which encourages me in that it seems that Zack Snyder is playing Superman as a bright light in a dark world), After Earth (where I’m positive M. Night Shamalyan is going to pull the same trick with Will Smith he pulled with Bruce Willis), Star Trek: Into Darkness (I don't care if Benedict Cumberbach is the bad guy; fuck you, J.J. Abrams) and Catching Fire (which is obviously not for me, but I am so grateful that this teen series has more to say beyond ‘hey, it’s important to have a boyfriend, even if he’s dead’).