Friday, May 03, 2013
I know it may be a little pathetic, or weird, or freaky, but I've spent quite some time trying to put a finger on what was nagging me about the latest Iron Man movie.
I'm a fangirl. I read as much of the comics as my allowance would let me buy (while my parents kept up the endless stream of books to feed us voracious readers, comics were always a thing we had to buy ourselves), and when the first movie came out, I was pretty much in fangirl heaven (even though it re-invented the back story once more).
This third movie is a very good one- don't get me wrong- but it was strangely... lacking. I didn't connect emotionally as much as I had to the other two, despite the much more human themes and outward expression.
Through some periods of the movie, I felt fully engaged and on the edge of my seat, while others left me strangely cold, all of those to do with the villains. I'm firmly convinced now that non-comic readers, or non-diehard fans won't even have a problem with most of these points, and might even find them better than the comics canon. In some points, I even agree.
First, let me list some of the things other fans were disappointed in that didn't faze me.
1) The big one: The seemingly wanton destruction of one Iron Man suit after the other. Thor's lightning, alien soldiers- the Mark VII/VIII suit withstood a lot more than a few super soldiers while the Mark 42 and its predecessors now seem to be made of cardboard. I consider those types of threats different than a super heated surface, though. When compared to the Extremis soldiers, neither would be particularly effective against a dense metal alloy. A sustained energy beam- sure. Make sure it's not absorbed by the arc reactor and you've got an effective weapon. The way their attacks were portrayed? Not effective. Now, metal coming into prolonged contact with a surface heated to well beyond its melting point (maybe even beyond its boiling point, didn't get "successful experiment" data, only failed (aka explosion))? Very effective weapon. So yeah, maybe I put too much thought into understanding this one, but it was clear to me from the beginning.
2) The mandarin as an actor: Not sure whether it was deliberate, but we never see Ben Kingsley wear the rings outside the videos. Maybe he's just that good? I certainly wouldn't rule him out as a villain just yet.
3) Pepper as an Extremis victim: It was a refreshing change from the "damsel in distress" trope while allowing for it to still be employed. I especially loved that she chose to be un-modified in the end, reenforcing her status as Tony's moral compass.
4) Extremis as purely Hansen's creation/a biological weapon: It leaves an in for more Extremis storylines. I won't protest anything that leaves a backdoor to Extremis!Tony. There was enough drama in the movie without adding it in this time.
Now, on to the things that DID bug me. They come down to three main points: Motivation, continuity, and resolution.
First off, motivation. I understand that revenge for being snubbed by a powerful business entity/potential investor is a fantasy every one of us in the working world has entertained at least once. It is, however, not enough to fuel a fourteen-year grudge to me. I understand Aldrich Killian's desire to cure himself, I understand his motivation for perfecting the Extremis program. I don't understand his need for revenge. He did achieve all he set out to do even without the help of Tony Stark- isn't that revenge in and of itself?
Maya Hansen's shifting perspective on her work... Hasn't it occurred to her in all that time she was working for Killian that he was abusing her idea? Add a quick visit by a sexy billionaire chained to a bed frame, and suddenly she's grown a conscience? I don't buy it. Either make it so she's firmly entrenched in her Ivory Tower or let her out before. There was enough time in the whole bed frame scene/conversation to show at least SOME character development instead of just doing a one-eighty.
Second, continuity. In the previous movies, it was established that the suits were powered by the arc reactor built into them/connected to Tony. In this movie, the newest one suddenly needs outside charging? It's old comics canon, but it's new for the movieverse, and it's a grating and jarring difference that serves no other purpose than forced introduction of moments of comic relief that consequently fail after the first time. Yes, we get that it's a prototype, that it's bugged. Every other bug, I'm buying- the charging thing, no.
Third, resolution. I've already mentioned my problems with how the whole PTSD storyline was handled. It appears in several situations, abruptly and convincingly, then after a little smalltalk with a cute child it's gone? I get that in high-adrenaline situations, all these symptoms are shoved into the back of your mind and don't get out, but as soon as there's a little downtime, there should've been at least some small sign of a crash (e.g. Tony and Rhodey on the boat, after Monkey Chain). As soon as the stress mounts everything will once again be viewed through the wonderfully clarifying effects of an adrenaline rush, but... ah well.
It is well established that Tony Stark is a genius engineer, and in fact, the sequence of him building assault weapons with things bought at a home improvement store is one of my favorites (even though I was a little disappointed that there wasn't anything more sophisticated than what your average high schooler with a penchant for chemistry and electrical engineering would do- come on! He's Tony Stark! At least HIS stun glove should give him more than one charge!). This is why I don't get the final scene of him throwing the arc reactor into the ocean. Engineers, at least all those I've ever lived with (which is most of my family), are pack rats. They consistently feel like none of their "projects" (aka obsessions) is ever good enough, but they also exhibit an almost pathological need to keep the previous versions to improve UPON. I never met an engineer who would EVER throw away a project that worked, even if it was defunct now. I get the symbolism the writers/director wanted to show in that scene, but it isn't in character for me. It's enough to show Tony risking getting the arc reactor and shrapnel removed, let that be the closure.
All the other points I mentioned in my last post stand- JARVIS being ordered to commit multiple suicides, the odd pacing...
But now, on to the things I LOVED.
Pepper! She definitely got her moment(s) to shine this time, and I simply adored her.
Tony/Rhodey banter. Never better! Also loved that they're still friends, missed that one in IM 2.
Most of the comedic moments, especially the Tony/Pepper and Tony/enemy minions ones.
Happy's scenes. And Downton Abbey. Need someone to explain whether there's a deeper significance (e.g. actor working in that series too, writer writing for it too?). I've never seen it so I don't even know what it's about...
Tony's out-of-suit adventures. Especially the rapport with the kid. And him telling the kid, in his own way, that it does get better. In some way.
MOST of the physical comedy with the Mark 42 suit. Some of it, especially the "smashed by truck(?)" scene was too much though.
The final fight, with all the armors zipping around like little fireflies.
The Extremis soldiers, and that the Extremis program was in-universe scientifically thought-through and sound continuity-wise. I also loved that there was no attempt at an explanation as to WHY modified life-forms explode beyond "instability". Also, no "fusion bomb"- that one still irks me to no end, for those who've seen the third Batman movie. THAT doesn't make sense. Hand-wavey, in-universe consistent science? I don't care HOW unrealistic it is as long as you SHOW me it's not meant to be my reality/real science.
Overall, this was a very good movie with a very human Tony Stark- none of the Robot Wars of the previous two, but still not lacking in action (I know a lot of you will disagree). The comics have always been as much about Tony Stark as they have been about Tony Stark in his Iron Man persona, and I for one don't mind the emphasis being put on the other half of the equation this time.
I still think the pacing could have been better, especially considering the exposition of the main villain and Maya Hansen- those were the points that threw me off. IM 2, which many dislike, is basically the same "snubbed so I take revenge" story, only Vanko actually suffered for it while it is unclear what exactly Killian's detriment was. Reflecting on it, it's a minor issue, but one that sticks up since previous villains were so much better fleshed out.
The thing I'm really left wanting to know now is: WHEN and HOW will Tony Stark be back? I can't WAIT!
Thus, the movie has accomplished its mission.