Monday, June 2, 2014

Iron Man 3 (2013)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Achievement in Visual Effects - Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, and Daniel Sudick

Iron Man 3 Poster
Photo courtesy Marvel Studios
In nearly every superhero film of the past two decades, the filmmakers have struggled with the scenes of the hero's alter-ego.  Without the crutch of action-filled set pieces, most filmmakers have been unable to make the scenes that drive the plot and characters even remotely watchable.  The first two films in the Iron Man franchise were just the opposite, with the scenes of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark sizzling with witty banter and humor while the big action scenes fell flat.  After the departure of director Jon Favreau from the franchise, Marvel Studios turned to Shane Black, the master of action-comedy screenplays, to direct and co-write the third film in the series.  Though Black doesn't quite match the two previous films in the quality of the non-action scenes or in the screenplay itself, Iron Man 3's action sequences are such an improvement over the first two efforts that it is more than worth the sacrifice.

When I saw the first Iron Man movie, I proclaimed that it was certainly the best superhero film since Tim Burton's first Batman film, and possibly since the first Superman film.  Though the action scenes were not great, Robert Downey Jr. was so perfectly cast as Tony Stark that all they had to do was give him a decent script and a competent director and the Tony Stark scenes would have worked.  Instead of mere competence, they paired Downey with Jon Favreau, a director with a few clunkers under his belt, but one who at his best is capable of smart, funny, and irreverent films.  Unlike the excruciating Daredevil (2003) or the first X-Men trilogy, Iron Man never took itself too seriously.  Downey's Stark never bemoaned his powers like Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man films; he embraced them and had fun with them, and as a result Iron Man was fun as well.

Less than three months after the release of Iron Man, The Dark Knight was released, and there was no doubt in my mind (or most others' minds) that we had a new greatest superhero film, and other superhero efforts sought to follow the dark brooding style of the film.  The sequel to Iron Man still maintained much of its humor and verve, but did appear to pick up some of the moodiness of The Dark Knight.  Downey was still his wonderful, wisecracking self, but Iron Man 2 was a forgettable experience.

Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce went back to the basics for Iron Man 3.  The storyline is simpler and cleaner than the muddled mess of Iron Man 2's script, and Downey spends much of the film outside of his hero uniform, a decision that would send most studios into convulsions.  The decision was a good one, leaving Downey to be Downey.  When Downey does get into his suit, Black shows off some very strong action sequences.  Action scenes are always a challenge in the Iron Man films, since the hero's face can't be seen unless the shot is inside his mask; thus, the filmmaker must always choose between showing action with zero emotion, or showing emotion with zero action.  Black and editors Peter S. Elliot and Jeffrey Ford get the mix just about perfect. 

Of course, the action scenes in a film like Iron Man 3 would be nothing without visual effects, and Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, and Daniel Sudick earned their paychecks with their Oscar nominated effort.  There's nothing we haven't seen before, and the effects can't compare with the game-changing effects of Gravity, but the Iron Man 3 did a tremendous job and the nomination was well deserved.

Read my previous preview of Iron Man 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment