Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

May 23, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

Filed under: Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:42 am

Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

“Iron Man 3” is awesome. At least according to the unanimous vote of this older dad, pre-teen son, and six-year-old daughter.

How’s that for broad-based appeal? My daughter is pleading to see it again.

Perhaps not so surprising. According to Marvel Comics, though fan mail from females is much rarer than from young boys, most of it is for Iron Man.

“Iron Man 3” is the culmination of a story arc that’s a rollicking good adventure and a story about growing up. They clue you in on how it’s come full circle when the last line of “Iron Man” is repeated at the end of IM3.

Iron Man first appeared in “Tales of Suspense” in 1963, and became part of “The Avengers” line-up the same year. The Golden Avenger got his own comic, “The
Invincible Iron Man” in 1968, and 40 years later was translated to the silver screen starring Robert Downey Jr.

Downey is Tony Stark, wisecracking genius, bold entrepreneur and perpetual adolescent, until he’s matured by massive systemic shock. It takes a while though, three movies to be exact.

Well that’s what it takes for a lot of us. For Stark the process starts when he gets a chest full of shrapnel and a better man dies to save him. (For most of us it’s having kids.)

Iron Man is the creation of Marvel impresario Stan Lee and his brother Larry Lieber. Marvel pioneered the notion of the three-dimensional superhero with personal problems. And one has to wonder how much depth Downey’s well-publicized substance abuse problems and his recovery contributed to his interpretation of the role.

Like the Batman, Iron Man is a non-super guy whose power comes from training and technology. His armor to be exact. It’s also the thematic question of the trilogy. Is it the suit or the man inside that makes the hero? A question that might occur to anyone who takes up arms to defend those he loves.

The concept of powered armor was first fictionalized by Robert A. Heinlein in his popular and controversial novel “Starship Troopers” published in 1959, and murdered on the screen by Paul Verhoeven in 1997.

A prototype powered exoskeleton was built by Russian engineer Nicolai Yagin in 1890 (!!!) and in 1965 GE unveiled “Hardiman” as the Next Big Thing. Since Tony Stark is said to be based on Howard Hughes we can only regret the reclusive billionaire hadn’t turned his attention to… never mind.

Part of the appeal of Iron Man is, you don’t have to have been born on Krypton or bitten by a radioactive spider to become a superhero when you‘ve got the suit. Of course, first you have to invent it and manufacture it in your the multi-billion dollar home lab. But there’s the other cool thing, Tony Stark is really smart! From all of us science geeks, thank you Tony from the bottom of our hearts.

And speaking of hearts, Tony’s is broken – literally. He’s the wounded king of mythology. His suit is not just the source of his power, but of his life. His heart is kept running by a super-pacemaker thingee which also keeps the shrapnel out of it.

But aside from the over-the-top tech (armor that flies through the air and attaches itself) and the explosion-filled fight scenes, Iron Man is about the banter. Stark banters with his girlfriend, his best bud, his enemies, and his computer/valet – who gives as good as he gets.

Downey is a master of delivery. And the writers took some chances with this – remember the fuss over the “He’s adopted” joke in “The Avengers”?

Stark has a perfect foil in a kid-genius (Ty Simpkins) who resembles a younger, poorer Stark. When the manipulative brat gives him his sob story about how his father abandoned him, Stark says perfectly deadpan, “Dads leave. No need to be such a ***** about it.”

From a lot of single parents – thanks Tony. It’s hard to comfort your kids and simultaneously tell them to buck up and move on.

They’re generous with the lines. There’s a villain’s henchman with precisely one line that evokes loud guffaws.

There’s an unexpected plot twist that seriously messes with the Marvel mythology of the Mandarin and evokes gales of laughter.

And there’s a tribute to Wing Chun Kung Fu, the style Downey practices (a variation of which Your Humble Narrator also teaches) that he credits with helping him get clean, sober, and ripped for the part.

Thanks even more Tony.

The trilogy ends as Tony Stark comes full circle and answers that question, “I am Iron Man.”

But there’s always The Avengers 2 (2015), though Downey’s participation is rumored to be stalled in salary negotiations.

You’ve got to come back Tony! ‘Cause we’re connected!

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