Thursday, May 9, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Director: Shane Black
Genre: superhero
Rating: *** (3.5 out of 5)

If by now you still haven’t watched Iron Man 3 or need to read a review to convince you to, then you are probably not a superhero fan and can't tell the Green Lantern from the Green Hornet. Chances are you haven’t watched the first two Iron Man movies or The Avengers. That means you haven't witnessed the way Robert Downey Jr., who plays motormouth/billionaire/playboy Tony Stark, delivers zinger after zinger with deadpan perfection and carries an entire movie from start to finish. You have been missing out.

Iron Man 3 by Shane Black

Iron Man 3 is a cinematic treat. By itself, the movie doesn't hold a candle to the triumphant Avengers or any of Christopher Nolan's apocalyptic Batman films. But viewed as part of the trilogy, it is light-hearted, good-natured and, despite franchise fatigue, still makes for a great Friday night entertainment. 

Second-time director Shane Black is responsible for the box office dud Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005 and is better known for writing all four Lethal Weapon movies. In Iron Man 3, Shane plays it safe and sticks to the same formula that has worked well for the first two installments: punchy one-liners, spectacular fight scenes and the determination to not take itself too seriously. Above all, Shane relies on Robert Downey Jr., who plays his role with such effortlessness that the director simply steps back and lets him do his thing.

The movie also boasts an all-star supporting cast. Rebecca Hall, who plays a prudish intellectual in Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona, is botanist Maya Hansen. Guy Pearce, best known for his cult hit Memento, is geneticist Aldrich Killian. Then there is Ben Kinsley (Gandhi, Hugo), who plays a super-villain called the Mandarin with great theatrical flair. The Anglo-Indian veteran actor steals the show despite Downey's dominating presence. To boost ticket sales in China, the film's producers initially enlisted Asian stars Andy Lau (劉德華) and Fan Bingbing (范冰冰). Whereas Lau reportedly turned down the offer because he found his character too “dispensable,” Fan took the part but appears only in the film’s Mainland version.

Ben Kingsley is the Mandarin

Iron Man 3 gets off on a sluggish start. Tony Stark’s sidekick Happy Hogan, played by actor-director Jon Favreau, takes up too much screen time in the first half-hour, as his tiresome bantering with Stark drags on. It is perhaps part tribute and part appeasement to Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man movies but was dropped after Disney took over the series from Paramount Pictures.

The pace picks up quickly, however, with the emergence of the Mandarin who looks like Osama Bin Laden in a Qing Dynasty court dress. He is Fu Manchu meets Ming the Merciless, a caricature Star Trek villain that borders on offensive. There are other cringe-worthy moments too. One of the attacks plotted by the Mandarin has pedestrians blown to pieces outside the TCL Chinese Theater, a scene that evokes gruesome images from the Boston Marathon bombings. Alright, so the movie was shot months before the Boston attacks and the director couldn't possibly have seen that coming. Superhero fans would have let that one slide.

The Mandarin’s war chest consists of an army of genetically-altered Frankenstein fighters, thanks to an invention called the Extremis (an apt name for a party drug). Their bodies generate superheat that can burn through even Iron Man's armor. When they attack with bone-crushing strength, they bend their heads slowly to the side, a hark back to Kristanna Loken's T-X character in Terminator 3

The epic finale thrills superhero fans

The large action set-pieces -- of which there are many -- are as thrilling as theme park rides. They culminate in an epic finale that does not disappoint Iron Man fans. For non-fans, however, the fight sequences can be noisy and confusing. They will also find the story implausible. The bad guys, sophisticated enough to hack into government computers and plot meticulous attacks on a global scale, crumble too easily in the last 15 minutes of the film. And the way Extremis alters the human DNA and how easily the genetic changes can be undone all seem a bit far-fetched. But if you are thinking about plot holes, you are probably not watching the film properly. 

So to all of you superhero skeptics out there, go watch the first two Iron Man movies at home and catch the latest installment on the big screen while it's still playing in theaters. Girlfriends and wives, you owe it to your boyfriends and husbands because they sat through Letter to Juliet and Love and Other Drugs with you. You will find Iron Man 3 a lot more tolerable than, say, The Green Lantern.


  1. I like it quite a lot.


  2. The Green Lantern really was terrible, wasn't it? What was Angela Bassett thinking (other than 'paycheck')?


  3. Definitely the superior successor to the last one in regards of character development and involvement, great humor, and satisfying action sequences. Good review Jason.

  4. I think Jason touched on this, but in general I am not a big fan of movies where the enemies/heroes can regenerate, because my mind would then tend to question why such and such can survive situation A but not situation B, etc, etc.

    Additionally, I think superhero movies will need to find new interesting plots other than the villains trying to take over America/the world. I mean the everyday banker, magnate, etc nowadays are taking over the world anyway without funny costumes or drugs, so a super villain plotting the same thing seems to be a bit banal.

    Anyone who is a comic reader should know that the Mandarin is probably the deadliest of Tony Stark's enemies with his 10 rings of power.

    It's a good thing that the X-Men movie is coming out with the Day of Future Past storyline. That at least should be palatable.


  5. What is the point of publishing a film review more than two weeks after the picture's release? Was Mr Ng on holiday or something?

    Worse, his overarching conclusion (insofar one can be found) is that fans will certainly enjoy it, but 'non-fans' (poor vocabulary alert!) might not. And therefore these 'non-fans' should run to HMV, buy the first two instalments and become fans too.Ah yes, excellent advice Mr Ng.

    Furthermore, he manages to give away the ending in a summary that is so littered with useless and far-fetched references (Boston bombing, Star Trek, Terminator, Batman, sigh...) that we can only conclude that their main purpose is to show off Mr Ng's knowledge of superhero comics and movie adaptations of those works rather than to provide useful anchor points for his readers. Among other things, I was left wondering who Ming the Merciless might be. Probably some kind of Chinese chilli sauce.


  6. I likes Avengers Iron Man Leather Jacket more than Iran man jacket, its really good color combination i love it too much