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Does art resemble life, or does life resemble art? After watching the latest installment of the Iron Man series, “Iron Man 3″, directed by Shane Black, I can’t help but wonder which is the true statement. Are the movies we watch driven by the attitudes found in the people who watch them, or do they simply call attention to those same attitudes and have their audiences give them life outside the theatre?
Some of you are thinking right now, “Oh God, Whiskey has gone over to the dark-side, hasn’t he?” Nope, not yet folks, I just am a great believer in giving credit where credit is due. Amid enough fantastic special effects, manic tension and plot pacing to keep the most adrenaline-addicted junkie enjoying this movie, there is an actual story being told here. A story that touches on that darker side of the hero, everyone seems to pass over without wanting to see. A single question can sum it up: What is the price tag on being a hero?
“Iron Man 3″ isn’t just about Iron Man flying around in his red and gold technological wonder-machine, defeating bad guys with his sarcasm, all to the beat of an AC/DC hit. Its about Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his struggle to deal with his own mortality, and his own inability to save everyone, every time. The realization that there might come a time he will be unable to save the most important thing to him, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), is quite literally keeping Stark awake at night.
The character development around Tony Stark was very well done. By the ending of the movie, you no longer just sympathize with him, but you feel you actually understand just what this man is underneath everything. A pleasant surprise to me because the usual problem with trilogies is that the writers run out of interesting things to say about their characters right around the second movie, thus, there’s this tendency to have them knocking about the set accomplishing absolutely nothing. Since “Iron Man 2″ did struggle with this problem, I’m actually happy to say “Iron Man 3″ found a solution, proving once and for all that every now and then those fat cats up in Hollywood can learn from their mistakes.
That being said, nothings perfect and “Iron Man 3″ did have some plot issues. The first is the bad guy. Without going into too much detail, The Mandarin, doesn’t seem to have any motivation as to why he’s attacking. At one point he tells the American President that he sees himself as a teacher, but what lesson he’s trying to get Americans to learn is lost on me. As I have said before, the best villains are the ones who’s motivations are understandable. The guy is clearly angry at the U.S. for something, or maybe its just Tony Stark he’s angry at, either way his actions make little sense and are never properly explained. Call me old fashioned, but the two characters that should be developed the most are both the antagonist and protagonist, because these are the two characters that will be driving the plot. In “Iron Man 3″, all the character development was lavished onto Stark, giving the distinct impression that the Mandarin was only there because one of the writers had some vague feeling an antagonist was needed. This was not helped at all by twists and turns in the plot that made little sense to me, let alone something I found funny.
The other issue I had with the movie was its ending. Again not going to spoil the movie for anyone, but Deus Ex Machina. Deus ex machina is a plot device used commonly in many vehicles of story telling. Essentially it’s when the writer paints his characters into a situational rock and hard place scenario, and has to rescue them by introducing a new element into the story. Deus ex machina is a bit of a double-edged sword however, on one hand it keeps the plot from being predictable and adds excitement, but if done too heavy-handedly, it can call into question the choices the characters made leading up to the event. This is what happened at the ending of “Iron Man 3″, Tony Stark pulls a trump card out of his back pocket, that made me wonder why the super genius didn’t think to use it before. I realize there would have been less theatrical build up if Stark had initiated his ace in the hole plan at the start of the movie, but at least it would have made more sense.
All in all though, I still enjoyed going to see this movie. Despite it’s disappointing lack of a well-established villain, or it’s use of deus ex machina to sacrifice good plot for another chance to show off its huge special effects budget, “Iron Man 3″ is a movie to go see. Shane Black managed to bring a touch of reality to a Marvel comic superhero, keeping the core personality of Stark intact but also making him understandable and relateable in the real world. For an industry that deals mostly in fantasy, this is as likely to happen successfully as opening up your box of Cheerios one morning and finding a unicorn that transports you to Narnia.
So hats off to you Shane Black!
Directed by: Shane Black
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Run Time: 130 Minutes
Distributor: Marvel Studios