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Review: Iron Man 3 by Jamie

In 2008, Marvel began an experiment in cinema. Could a cinematic series work in the same way as a comic book continuity? Could you have a hero regularly appearing in his own series but also bring that hero together with others for a team flick? It was a grand experiment that culminated in ‘The Avengers’ in 2012 and I think we can all agree that it was pretty sweet. Marvel and Disney had somehow managed to pull it off and create a consistent cinematic universe where everything just worked. Now the question is, where do things go from here? How would ‘Phase 2’ as it’s called work in a post-Avengers world?

Well, our first taste of Phase 2 came in the form of Iron Man 3, a continuation of the story of the hero that started it all, Tony Stark. So can Marvel continue to ride high on the wave of success that The Avengers brought or has that wave crashed on the rocky shore of failure? Well, I’m rather pleased to say that I fucking loved this movie.

The biggest problem that any of these movies faces is returning to the single character format after the ensemble movie. This is a little easier to do in comics because a) The team books aren’t always necessarily taking place within the same time frame or even continuity that the single character books are and b) Fuck it, if you want to put a character or team from another book in then you can just write and draw them in. Iron Man 3 manages to craft a believable story that both acknowledges the events of The Avengers whilst still very much being a story about Tony. True, there are some moments where you find yourself thinking “Well, if this is going on why has no one called in at least Captain America or something?” but for the most part it works.

Perhaps the two biggest surprises that I can talk about here without being spoilers are that the film takes place at Christmas (which I believe can be attributed to Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black who wrote and directed this film) which is a nice little touch, though it annoyed me a little because it made me break my arbitrary rule about only watching Christmas films at Christmas, and that this film is funny. I mean really funny and it’s tone is consistent the whole way through. With most action films that try their hand at comedy they suddenly become deadly serious in the third act in a tonal shift that can be quite jarring. Iron Man 3 keeps it’s humorous, playful mood all the way through and it works. It works really well for both the character and the story. Perhaps an even bigger surprise is just where the humour is derived from. Iron Man 3 is not a parody but it is certainly a film that plays with expectations. It knows what you expect from certain situations in action movies and superhero movies and it flips them on their head and I for one thought it was brilliant. There’s one moment in particular that’s going to really piss of a select group of this movie’s audience but I loved it. LOVED IT.

What else can I say that wouldn’t be spoilery? Well, it’s great to see a little less reliance on CGI than we’ve had in the past. Things actually blow all the shit up in this movie and there’s a sequence involving people falling out of a plane that was at least partially shot using a team of skydivers. Sure CGI has come a long way since even the first Iron Man but it’s still more impressive to see things done for real every now and then.

As for the acting, well, the main cast you know. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark at this point and he’s just as good as he’s ever been. Gwyneth Paltrow get’s play a larger part here which frankly I like. Sure, she may not be everyone’s favourite person but within this series of movies I think she’s great especially working with the handicap of playing a character called Pepper Potts. Freed from the directing duties, Jon Favreau also has a slightly expanded role which is a nice touch and plays on the friendship between Tony and Happy Hogan. Hell, now that I think about it even JARVIS (Paul Bettany) has more to do here. It makes sense really. This film is very much about Tony Stark and what better way to do that than with more interaction with the people he cares about. In fact, the only person who might have less screen time that in Iron Man 2 is Don Cheadle as Rhodey. He still has an integral role to play and he’s very good but I guess the biggest interaction and confrontation we really need between Tony and Rhodey was in Iron Man 2.

As for the new people, Guy Pearce is great as Killian Aldritch, founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics who has had a rather unpleasant experience with Tony Stark in the past. There‘s the worry early on that he’s just going to be a retread of Sam Rockwell’s character from 2 but as the film progresses it’s clear that he isn’t. Rebecca Hall is decent enough as Dr. Maya Hensen, a botanist who helped to create a virus with regenerative qualities who once had a fling with a young Mr Stark. The main problem I have, I guess, is not so much the actress but some aspects of the character just didn’t make much sense to me. Of course the person that everyone is wondering about is Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. Well, he’s great. Fucking brilliant. He’s part Osama Bin Laden, part history teacher with maybe just a dash of Fred Phelps thrown in but he’s also so much more. So, so much more.

So Phase 2, and 2013’s Summer Blockbuster Season, kicks of not with a whimper but with a bang. An awesome bang. So yeah, go and see Iron Man 3. I mean, you were probably going to anyway. Oh, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but stick around for after the credits. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Iron Man 3

If this were a Marvel movie, this would be the after credit sequence letting you know that there’s a full on, spoilerific video discussion coming some time in the near future once everyone’s had a chance to see it. Stay tuned.



Review: The Avengers (AKA Avengers Assemble) by Jamie

This review is spoiler-free.

For around five years or so now, Marvel has been laying the groundwork for what many had hoped would be the greatest comic book movie event of all time. I speak, of course about The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it’s known here in the UK so that our simple British minds don’t confuse it with the Patrick Macnee starring series from the 60s of the same name).

From Iron Man in 2008 all the way up to Captain America last year, everything has been leading up to this and the question on everyone’s lips was could a film of this magnitude, bringing such a wide cast of characters, possibly live up to the hype?

Well, the answer in this humble comic book and movie geek’s opinion is an emphatic yes. I don’t think it could be a more emphatic yes if I had taken some kind of emphatic-enhancing drug that gave me powers of emphacy far beyond that of a mere mortal man. Is emphacy even a real word? I don’t give a fuck. That’s just how emphatic I am.

So where to begin with a film that I find hard to express in words the level of awesome that it was? Well one of the major advantages that this film has over other comic book films is that it doesn’t have to waste much time explaining any of the characters origins. It starts assuming that you’ve seen the films that preceded it and so get’s on with the job it’s there to do, dealing with the origins of the team itself which is a far more entertaining kind of origin story due to the interplay of the characters involved.

This interplay is where much of the humour in the film comes from. This is undoubtedly a Joss Whedon film. It’s as witty as any of his work before and he once again proves that he is possibly one of the best directors going when it comes to putting together an ensemble cast and making it work. Some of the characters do get a little less to do than others, Hawkeye and Maria Hill for instance, but as a whole it’s incredibly well balanced.

There is one character who does stand out and nearly steals the show, the big green bastard himself,
The Hulk. On his surface The Hulk is a deceptively simple character. Mild mannered scientist gets mad and turns into a giant jade rage monster. It’s Jekyll and Hyde for the modern age. Most portrayals of Bruce Banner have played the tortured and tormented aspect of the character to the fullest but Mark Ruffalo does something a little different with him. Yes, he is still haunted by the green spectre of his other self but this is a Banner who’s been living with this for a good few years now and seems to have somewhat accepted his curse, even being able to control it somewhat, and can banter wittily with Tony Stark with the best of them. He also seems to be somewhat glad to have found a place for himself amongst the other Avengers whilst still being rightfully afraid of what his alter-ego would do if he emerged hundreds of feet in the sky on the Helicarrier.

The rest of the actors are all on fine form as their respective characters as well. Tony Stark is still his arrogant, funny self whilst still seeming to have matured a lot since his first film outing. Captain America is still coming to terms with being a man out of time, finding himself frequently frustrated by the phrases and technology around him and perhaps even a little freaked out by Agent Coulson’s hero worship of him. Thor is the same Thor we saw at the end of his film, a little more humble and a little more understanding of humanity whilst being conflicted about his brother’s treachery. And Loki is still as greasy and Machiavellian as he’s always been.

It’s the two main SHIELD agents who perhaps get the most revealed about them. We finally see the people that Nick Fury has to answer to and just how much he is willing to disobey them and just how far he is willing to go to prove his team worthy. Black Widow is also far more fleshed out here than she ever was in Iron Man 2 and we are given several hints about her dark past and her ties to Hawkeye.

Speaking, as I was, of The Hulk and the Helicarrier earlier, it’s probably good to mention the effects here. They are, in a word, incredible. The Hulk looks like he’s there and actually looks like the actor portraying him. Every CGI shot in this film is beautiful and just helps to build a believable world where these characters could exist and these events take place. As for the 3D, it’s good as post-conversion jobs go but doesn’t really add anything to the experience. There’s also the issue of the glasses making things kinda difficult to make out when scenes take place in dark places.

The only real weak spot in the entire film is Loki’s army and the story itself. The army are really nothing more than an obstacle for the heroes to fight and smash and the story is your basic alien invader story but for once, that doesn’t really matter. What’s important here isn’t so much the story but the things that surround that threadbare story skeleton. The meat is the characters themselves, their interactions and how they grow individually and together over the course of the films 143 minutes running time.

Well, that’s about all I have to say without getting in to spoiler territory. If you enjoy comic books, comic book movies and in particular the Marvel movies that have come before this go and see it. Go and see it now. If you are working, scream I quit at the top of your lungs, walk out and see it. I’m sure once you explain your actions later you’ll be able to get your job back. Just see it. Five pints out of five. Laterz.




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