Our thoughts turn to Christmas in this week’s podcast as we discuss the many kinds of Christmas films out there and a few of the controversies they evoke. From classics to romantic comedies, from capers to outright horror, Christmas seems to inspire a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters and not every Christmas film out there is a sugar-coated feel-good story.
Iron Man 3 sees Robert Downey Jr reunited with the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in thoughtful, if somewhat loosely put together action hit. There are some great moments, lots of laughs and plenty to keep die hard fans of the Avengers’ series talking and debating for some time to come. Despite some problems with the plot development, I’m inclined to think this is the best of the Iron Man series and may well prove to be critical to the larger story arc of the Avengers franchise.
Iron Man 3 sees Robert Downey Jr reprise his role as Tony Stark in the latest blockbuster commercial hit for Marvel’s Avengers franchise. The success of these films, along with performances in Tropic Thunder and the recent Sherlock Holmes films has made Downey one of the most bankable stars in contemporary cinema.
But, it wasn’t always this way. When the first Iron Man film was being cast Marvel was apparently very hesitant to have Downey in the lead role. He was seen as something of a liability, with a history of substance abuse problems hampering his reliability as an actor. His talent was not in question. But, his best, career defining performances, Less Than Zero (1987), Chaplin (1992) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) had come in films loved more by the critics than the fans.
The last and most recent of these, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang saw him under he direction of Shane Black, the renowned writer of the Lethal Weapon series and other classic 80s action films like The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a noir-ish, yet post-modern tale had elements of the classic Shane Black style of action film, yet felt very new and fresh. It was also a turning point in Downey’s career.
Iron Man 3 sees Downey and Black reunited, in the later’s second directorial assignment. Many fans were wondering where the franchise could go, after the epically apocalyptic thrills of The Avengers. The answer, which becomes clear by the end of the first act of Iron Man 3 was to journey inwards.
This is perhaps the most pensive of the Avengers films thus far; assuming we don’t count Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). Whereas Iron Man saw Tony Stark become part machine in order to save his life and Iron Man 2 saw the technology of the Iron Man suit thoroughly fetishised, in Iron Man 3 the technology is almost a distraction, a subplot in a deeper psychological drama.
Tony Stark is no longer the playboy we met in Iron Man, or even the captain of Stark Industries, which is now run by Pepper Potts. He is basically just a guy playing with expensive gadgets in his basement while trying to figure out how to get his life back on track after the events of The Avengers’ earth-saving romp through New York.
He tinkers, he toys, he makes new Iron Man suits, largely because he has no clear sense of purpose. When the forces of a mysterious global terrorist, The Mandarin, attack and destroy his home, threatening Potts’ life, he retreats, only to find himself, thanks to an errant flight path programmed into his suit, literally lost in the woods.
It’s here that he meets a young child and finds himself, stripped of the fabulous tools (and the wealth that bought them) having to use technology in a fresh and simple way to fulfil his new sense of purpose. This act, which moves slowly but with great wit, may frustrate some action film fans but is probably the warmest and most humane sequence in any of the Avenger’s films.
And, it’s fitting because Iron Man 3 is – action, drama, the odd weak plot turn and a Lethal Weapon 2 style set-piece ending aside – largely a film about Tony Stark’s journey back to full humanity; his (dare I say it) redemption. Moreover, it shows that, quips, jokes and comical facial expressions aside, Robert Downey Jr is still a hell of a good actor and deserves his moment of great commercial success.
There is lots to enjoy and plenty to discuss in Shane Black’s new addition to the growing cinematic incarnations of the Marvel Universe. Already breaking records around the world before it even opens in the US, Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley all have a blast in this gargantuan action adventure.