Phenomenal 'Iron Man 3' set to break records

Best Iron Man film thus far blends human element with spectacular effects. Photo: Promo poster/Buena Vista

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2013 – Action-adventure hit “Iron Man 3” continued to rule box office receipts once again this week, according to preliminary figures released on website Box Office Mojo. Tony Stark & Co. reportedly has already collected $284, 893, 000 and counting in domestic box office receipts alone, an astonishing total. A recent online article in Forbes, published even before the current domestic totals from this weekend were available, claimed that the smash film was well on track to earning over $740 million worldwide and could top a mind-blowing $1 billion in revenues. Mr. Stark, call the office.

Reviews of the film have been modestly to mostly positive, with a few dissenters. Like Richard Brody, who penned a mildly sneering online review for The New Yorker, which, hilariously, got the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts precisely wrong. Pepper, alas, is a New York-style live-in girlfriend, and not Tony’s wife, proving that Brody didn’t bother to do his homework before waxing snarky.

But reviewers aside, avid fans of the iron dude are unanimous: “Iron Man 3” rules.

But does it? We got a chance to catch the film late last week, and actually, we’d pretty much have to concur with the fans on this one. That’s in spite of this reviewer’s youthful preferences for the DC superheroes as opposed to those very different, often angst-ridden superheroes of the Marvel universe.

“Iron Man 3” promo poster. (Buena Vista)

Until the constant makeovers that continue to roil DC comics, DC’s superheroes particularly in the Silver Age, were the way superheroes should be: brave, courageous, confident, optimistic, and, of course, All-American. The only exception was the original Batman, as opposed to the BAM! BIFF!! POW!!! nonsense that dominated both the Silver Age Batman in both comic books and on TV’s short-lived but quite-popular “Batman” serial.

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Thankfully, Frank Miller brought the original Batman back with a vengeance in the 1980s with his stunning “Dark Knight” graphic novel series which served as the inspiration for both the early Michael Keaton-led “Batman” movie franchise and the currently concluded and darkly brilliant Christian Bale “Dark Knight” films.

Both the original and the Frank Miller versions of the Batman character brought us an angry, traumatized vigilante very much in the mode of a Marvel superhero, indicating perhaps, how that the Marvel approach—superhero as terribly conflicted human being—appeals to a morally confused and uncertain America today.

Which gets us back to the film continuity of Marvel’s Iron Man, as expressed not only in the recently successful Iron Man films, but also in the continuity that includes last season’s “Avengers.”

The first of the Iron Man films revealed Tony Stark as a clever, resourceful scientist-adventurer-tycoon who launched his super-character and super-suit in extremis while trying to escape from a platoon of Middle Eastern terrorists. This film was followed by a somewhat less satisfying sequel, which, happily, has been fully redeemed by Iron Man 3, which sets Stark and Iron Man squarely back in the recognizable Marvel universe.

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Shaken by a flavor of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of his adventure with the Avengers in that film, we a nervous Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) working feverishly, day and night, on several new leading-edge models of his Iron Man suit. Day and night because Stark can’t sleep, haunted by violent nightmares.

(Below: “Iron Man 3” UK Trailer:)

Stark narrates the story via periodic voiceovers. (We think he’s speaking to us, but, if you manage to stay after the credits roll, you’ll find out what’s really going on.) Plus a key flashback during which he recalls the strange events that occur during a 1999 New Years Eve party where he puts the moves on attractive research scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who tries to pitch him on underwriting her promising research on what she calls “Extremis”—a technique that enables human beings to re-grow missing limbs.

Stark declines to fund Hansen’s research, and also disses a request from a pathetic, badly disabled scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Bad move twice over. As we’ve learned in both the comics and in superhero films like Pixar’s phenomenal, animated “Incredibles,” sneering at a sincere wannabe can sometimes come back to bite you in the end.

Years later, the wobbly Stark is forced to confront a scary new super terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsly) who is apparently somehow able to conduct a terror-bombing campaign without using identifiable bombs. Foolishly challenging the Mandarin in public puts Tony—and his aforementioned live-in girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in mortal, and visually spectacular, danger.

What’s unusual about this iteration of “Iron Man” is that throughout most of the film, Stark is Stark and not Iron Man at all. With new versions of his suit prone to failure, he’s eventually forced to once again regain that creative spark that enabled him to create the original Iron Man suit out of nothing out in the Afghan wilderness and without the use of sophisticated tools.

Trapped in a wintry mountain town in Tennessee, he’s befriended by a quirky young kid who somehow starts getting him on track again, leading to some of the most interesting scenes in the film—which, thank the lord, don’t get bathetic as such scenes often do, particularly in past superhero flops like the disappointing “Elektra,” the already gone and forgotten Jennifer Garner vehicle.

This whole conceit—Tony Stark as Tony Stark and mostly not Iron Man—is what makes the current Iron Man film very different from most other superhero flicks, while also making it a quintessential part and parcel of the all-too-human Marvel Universe. We learn a lot more about the man in the suit in this film and that’s what makes “Iron Man 3” surprisingly compelling.

Don’t worry, action-adventure fans. A lot of things still get blown up in this film and quite spectacularly. And the movie also boasts perhaps the most outrageous and thrilling skydiving sequence of all time. Plus, there’s a key plot twist we won’t tell you about, and there are also those surprising, proliferating super villains (there are a lot of them) who seem virtually undefeatable.

Yet the real focus of the film is on the human side of Tony Stark, and that’s what we think really makes this film tick, a point completely missed by Richard Brody who really has no clue why huge audiences really go to see superhero films.

“Iron Man 3” is that rare film that combines classic superhero action with surprisingly insightful sequences that question the meaning of life as well as the meaning of what it is to be a hero. Director Shane Black gets it all right, from the action to the angst, blending the whole thing together with a brilliant sense of pacing and a real talent for storytelling—hardly surprising since Black got his start as a Hollywood screenwriter.

We suspect that “Iron Man 3” will continue to make a strong showing for weeks to come in spite of a summer that promises a variety of blockbusters, including Part 2 of the “Star Trek” reboot (already getting mixed previews) and the Baz Luhrmann reboot of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatz, Fitzgerald’s enigmatic mobster. “Gatsby” just opened this weekend, and we’ll be getting to that one next.

Meanwhile, here’s a fairly long clip in which “Iron Man 3” stars get interviewed up close and personal. Enjoy.

(Below: “Iron Man 3” Interviews:)


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17


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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, movies and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was formerly the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2009) before moving online with Communities in 2010.  



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