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Review – Iron Man III (12a) [2013]

Iron Man 3 - title banner

Star Rating 2.5/5

Director:

  • Shane Black – Lethal Weapon I-IV, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Doc Savage

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • Brian Tyler – Battle: Los Angeles, The Expendables I & II, Now You See Me

In The Avengers Assemble, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) showed his true colours by stating that he is a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Indeed, one who has read the Marvel comic-books, or seen Iron Man I & II and The Avengers Assemble, or all of them, knows that Stark thinks highly of himself. But from the trailer of Iron Man III, it appeared that one would see the vulnerable side of Tony Stark for a change. Is this the case?

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) up at night, working on his numerous projects which he occupies himself with, since he cannot sleep.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) up at night, working on his numerous projects which he occupies himself with, since he cannot sleep.

Iron Man III begins with a flashback to New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 when Tony Stark, with scientists Maya (Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), rejects an offer to invest in Extremis, an organisation that deals with experimental treatment to regenerate human limbs that have been severed.

Thirteen/fourteen years later, Stark is having nightmares about the alien invasion that occurred the previous year in The Avengers Assemble. He is suffering from insomnia and anxiety, whilst trying to love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Yet, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is wreaking havoc upon America with a string of terrorist attacks, using advanced weapons. Soon, he destroys Stark’s house, many of his Iron Man suits, and effectively sends Stark into the wilderness. Stark must find a way back and stop the Mandarin from unleashing more chaos, or else America will fall.

Iron Man III revolves round Tony Stark, and his quick, funny/brash responses. On the periphery, there is a plot (of some sort), some Transformers-style action scenes, plenty of explosions and fire-power, as well as sophisticated special effects in abundance. The problem is that audiences have seen all of these already, and it is starting to get very tedious.

At 133-minutes, Iron Man III is a long film that disappointingly doesn’t add anything new to the series. Worse, after 30 minutes the plausibility of the storyline ceases to exist, and it lazily goes from one plot contrivance to the next. If that doesn’t illustrate Shane Black’s contempt for the audience, the last scene renders all but the first 30 minutes of the movie as a waste of time. Couldn’t Black have just cut out all of the excess baggage and got straight to the chase? (Or, alternatively, forged a plot that actually works?)

The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), looking and preaching much like Osama Bin Laden, in a broadcast threatening to destory America if the country does not change its ways.

The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), looking and preaching much like Osama Bin Laden, in a broadcast threatening to destory America if the country does not change its ways.

Iron Man III also suggests that the franchise is starting to suffer from the issues that are synonymous with other series, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Die Hard, and Fast and the Furious: notably, going on too long, laziness, repetitiveness, and going back in time to make (semi-)viable storylines. The very fact that Iron Man III starts by going back in time should set alarm bells ringing in one’s mind. If the franchise has not bothered until now to mention important things that the key character has done, why should viewers believe that they are significant?

With the exceptions of young Ty Simpkins, who is cute and amusing, and Ben Kingsley, who is brilliant as the terrifying (Osama Bin Laden-like) Mandarin, the rest of the cast could not be more two-dimensional if they tried. Robert Downey Jr. plays the same energetic, narcissistic character (himself) as he did in Iron Man I & II (not to mention in The Avengers Assemble, Sherlock Holmes I & II, and Due Date). Yes, Stark is smart, sharp and impertinent, and Downey Jr. does this well (as we know he can). But, in Iron Man III, Downey Jr. was meant to display his character suffering from insomnia and panic attacks. One is hard-pressed to find an instance of Stark genuinely looking like he was suffering from such problems, which is poor on Downey Jr.’s behalf. It is a shame, too, because one might have seen Downey Jr. actually challenging himself for a change.

Gwyneth Paltrow, playing as Stark’s secretary, is little more than a one-dimensional, pointless blonde doll. Despite loving a man who loves himself more than he loves her (or anyone else for that matter), it is difficult to empathise with Pepper as she is so bland.

Stark in a broken Iron Man suit and in the winter wilderness of Tennessee. How will he ever get back if he is to save the country he has sworn to protect?

Stark in a broken Iron Man suit and in the winter wilderness of Tennessee. How will he ever get back if he is to save the country he has sworn to protect?

Rebecca Hall’s performance suffers from similar problems as Maya’s character is not especially interesting, nor well defined, and her importance to the plot is dubious at best. Don Cheadle plays decently enough in his simple role as Stark’s (patient) understudy. Guy Pearce once again plays another egotistical, two-dimensional individual (he’s making a habit of this following his roles in The Count of Monte Cristo, The King’s Speech and Justice). At least, though, the cosmetic department did a fantastic job on him. In the first scene, Pearce is unrecognisable, which is a great contrast to Stark failing to even have bags under his eyes when (supposedly) suffering from major sleep deprivation. Would it have been so hard to have put eye shadow under Downey Jr.’s eyes?

Over-all, Iron Man III is much the same as the previous two Iron Man films. It follows Tony Stark being Tony Stark; Stark flies and fights in his Iron Man costume; and there are special effects galore that one’s seen before. The movie tries to show us some of Stark’s weaknesses, but fails miserably at this and the attempts at doing so are feeble. Moreover, the laziness of the entire production suggests that the franchise is drained of ideas and lost for care.

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Review – The Dictator (15) [2012]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

From a ‘Rude boy’ chav to a Khazakhstani envoy to a gay Austrian fashion designer, the array of eccentric characters played by Sacha Baron Cohen (SBC) never ceases to amaze. Now, as an Arab dictator, who is meant to be a mix of the late Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, SBC has done it again in his latest intelligent and crude comedy, The Dictator.

Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) riding in true Arabian style through the streets of New York to protest the international opprobrium aimed at his alleged plans to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Dictator is a partially-satirical, partially-dimwitted comedy set in the fictional Republic of Wadiya, based in North Africa. Admiral General Aladeen (SBC – Ali G Indahouse, Madagascar I-III, Les Misérables) is the leader of this oil-wealthy nation, who has ‘risked his life’ to ensure that democracy never comes to the country he so ‘lovingly oppresses.’ (At least he’s honest.)

With Wadiya developing ‘weapons grade uranium’ for ‘peaceful purposes,’ the United Nations (UN) threaten to intervene militarily. They believe that Aladeen has his sights on a nuclear bomb. Appalled at the (accurate) accusation, the Wadiyan leader travels to the UN to protest to the Security Council.

But once in New York, Aladeen’s treacherous uncle, Tamir (Ben Kingsley – Schindler’s List, Shutter Island, Iron Man III), has him kidnapped and exchanged for a double, Efawadh (also SBC). Now a stranger on the streets and devoid of his riches, Aladeen must find his way back into the UN and take back his rightful position as the Admiral General before his double declares Wadiya a democracy and Tamir sells the country’s oil to the West and China.

The treacherous uncle, Tamir (Ben Kingsley), ‘advising’ Aladeen to sign an agreement at the UN.

The Dictator’s plot is daftly amusing and silly, yet has some very intelligent undertones. When Aladeen has people executed for the most spurious of disagreements, one senses that this happens frequently in many Middle Eastern countries with their despotic rulers. Similarly, when Aladeen laughably talks about producing nuclear energy for ‘entirely civilian/peaceful purposes,’ it is not difficult to realise that SBC is mocking Iran.

In typical SBC fashion, much of the film has social and political undercurrents. But unlike the ‘mockumentaries’ Borat and Brüno, The Dictator does not set out to expose peoples’ prejudices by making antisemitic, racist, xenophobic and homophobic assertions. Yes, there are plenty of instances of all of those in SBC’s latest film, but they have been done with the intention of being humorous rather than offensive this time around. (Although, no doubt, many people will be offended.) That there is some truth behind most of the jokes ensures that The Dictator is not merely a crude and immature comedy, such as Your Highness or 21 Jump Street.

That does not mean to say that The Dictator does not have (many) obscene moments (which many would consider to be below the belt), but this is to be expected with SBC’s films. One may be surprised at how low SBC can stoop in his movies, but at least the instances of vulgarity are vastly outweighed by the amount of intelligent humour and satire.

The typical butch, left-wing anti-Imperialist, anti-Aladeen activist, Zoey (Anna Faris).

Whether the scenes are clever or obscene, the acting is decent enough throughout the film. SBC performs well in his uniquely unconventional way as both the comically psychopathic Aladeen, and as the senseless Efawadh. Ben Kingsley gives an average, two-dimensional performance as the deceitful uncle (which is exactly the same role he performed in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time). And Anna Faris (Lost In Translation, Scary Movie 4, Red Band), playing Zoey, Aladeen’s love interest, also gives an unspectacular display as the stereotypical, (annoying,) eco-friendly, left-wing activist. (Is SBC being satirical again, here, by making a wishy-washy liberal embrace a hardline, murderous tyrant?)

Regardless of the satirical messages and the quality of the acting, Erran Baron Cohen (Borat, The Infidel, Talhotblond) has ensured that the music, whether Arabic- or Western-style, is apt throughout The Dictator. The score enriches all of the scenes and adds to the laughter wonderfully.

All-in-all, The Dictator is another film that only SBC could have made successfully. The movie is obscene and farcical at times. Yet, in typical SBC fashion, The Dictator is also intelligent and sardonic, leading one to believe that the mad-clown Admiral General Aladeen is more real than one would like to admit.

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