Sunday, May 5, 2013

POLARIZING: IRON MAN 3 IS A LOVE IT OR HATE IT FILM.

I have come to the conclusion that serious comic book aficionados should not watch live action adaptations of their beloved characters. 

For many, including myself, those characters are akin to family; their adventures have accompanied us throughout some of our, if not our entire, lives; the core concepts and history of any given character is as sacred as biblical scripture. To change any aspect that would change any fundamental aspect of those characters would be verbotten; akin to a figurative backhand.  

Historically, "Hollywood" doesn't feel the same way. After all, the filmmaking industry has given us a buffonish Lex Luthor; a battle armored Batman; an Alfred Pennyworth who abandons his post; a motorcycle helmeted Captain America; an organic web shooting Spider-Man; and a Hulk with daddy issues, to name a few. Some changes seem justified "in the real world", but when a comic book property is being adapted, it is inherently understood that neither the characters nor events that are being adapted would take place in the real world. Thy can be accepted on paper, and even in animated cartoons, but not live action? In my opinion, it is a rather condescending attitude to take not just to the material itself, but to the fans who have enjoyed those stories all this time.

That being said, Iron Man 3 will be a "love/hate" film. Joe Moviegoer will love it, purists will hate it. 

Purists won't hate it because of Robert Downey, Jr.  He brings "Tony Stark" to manic life, his mania being augmented by the combination of a life change and the psychological ramifications of the events of Marvel's The Avengers.  His performance may border on comedic caricature on a couple of spots, but his performance is so arresting it hardly matters. They won't hate it because of the action as, once it starts, it doesn't let up. Even the quiet moments, few that there are, are fraught with tension even as they lead to the next pyrotechnic display. They won't hate it because of the underlying disquiet engendered by the theme of terrorism, especially heightened due to the tragic events in Boston, MA. They won't hate it for the story, per ser, which involves Tony Stark going up against an international terrorist known only as "The Mandarin" (Ben Kingsley), and dealing with a sin from his past.  They won't hate the addition of the Hollywood trope known as "the precocious child" (in this case, Ty Simpkins, as a boy genius in the making), which, at least here, is serviceable as the character humanizes Tony and provides some comedic relief.  They won't even hate it because of the over abundance of CGI, which has advanced in these films so much that they meld seamlessly onto the entire celluloid canvas. 

Purists will hate it because, without spoiling anything, they take certain core concepts in Iron Man lore, over 40 years worth, and shit on them like someone with painful, cramping diarrhea after eating two day old bad sushi. Purists will hate it because of how the story resolves itself. Those purists would be justified in their attitudes. There is a reasonable expectation of certain things to hold true when watching a story that involves any pre-established character. 

However, filmmakers go for the widest audience possible, and make choices based on what would best achieve that goal. And the name of the game is reinvention, whether it be a female Dr. Watson in the TV series Elementary or an African-American "Perry White" in the forthcoming Man of Steel.  The thing about Iron Man 3 is that, like most action films of late, there is the reliance of constant twists and turns to the point of saturation, which to a degree dilutes the story itself. Yet the changes made, for the most part, work if one only experienced Iron Man through these films. But even I, who is not as invested in Iron Man as others would be, found myself wondering were the changes really necessary?  That is a question for each individual to answer for themselves. But it seems as though Hollywood, (Disney/Marvel Studios, inexplicably, in this case) is looking down on the material even as they exploit it to profit by it. And if that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I can only imagine how the "Marvel Zombies" would feel.

Director Shane Black brings on the action and the funny, managing a balancing act that does not quite come out even but is nonetheless entertaining. Brian Tyler manages to turn in a score that surprisingly has identity; it showcases the action but makes effective use of piano solos to highlight the introspection and, yes, vulnerability that the God-complexed Stark wrestles with. The rest of the cast are top notch in terms of their roles, with veterans Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Don Cheadle, and Paul Bettany; and newcomers Guy Pierce, James Badge Dale holding their own with the magnetic (pun intended) Downey, Jr. But the real scene stealer, as the ostensible big bad, is Ben Kingsley, who looks like he is having the most fun he's ever had on a film shoot. The movie, despite going overlong with some scenes, moves at a brisk pace, seeming shorter than its actual run time. 

I enjoyed the film, but frankly I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't known any of the published backstory. However, reinvention is the new entertainment buzzword (both in film and in DC and Marvel Comics now as well) and it is here to stay. I cannot recommend Iron Man 3 for any fans of the actual comic.  For the average person who just wants a two hour actioner to pass the time, it would be an enjoyable romp.

Though I have to say, the post-credits scene did take some of the sting out of it.  

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