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Review – Iron Man III (12a) [2013]

Iron Man 3 - title banner

Star Rating 2.5/5


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


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.

PG’s Tips

Review – Contagion (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2/5

In the Middle Ages, pestilence and plague were semi-regular occurrences. Every fifteen years or so, the grim reaper would appear in the form of the Black Death and scythe down a not insignificant percentage of populations across Europe. Again, in 1918, after World War I (WWI), the world was struck by another form of pestilence: the ‘Spanish Flu’, which killed one percent of the then-world population. Despite being over-all quite poor, Contagion shows us once more that mankind is still not immune to new diseases and viruses.

Mitch (Matt Damon) in shock after suddenly losing his wife to the epidemic.

Contagion is a medical thriller about a virus that rapidly spreads across the world. The first known death in America is that of Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow – Se7en, Shakespeare In Love, The Avengers Assemble), who returns home to her family and husband, Mitch (Matt Damon – True Grit, The Adjustment Bureau, Elysium), from a trip to Hong Kong only to have a seizure and die soon afterwards. Rapidly, more people become infected. There is no cure for the virus either, and around one in four people are expected to become infected. (Although, one in three people who become infected are expected to survive.)

Scientists, from across the world, led by Atalanta-based Dr. Ellis Cheevers (Laurence Fishburne – Apocalypse Now, The Matrix I-III, Man of Steel) and his team, work hard to find an antidote. Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet – Titanic, The Reader, Steve Jobs) uses her knowledge to try and slow down the spread of the virus, whilst working in the field. Dr. Leonara Orantes (Marion Cotillard – Public Enemies, Midnight In Paris, The Dark Knight Rises) works with a team in Hong Kong to establish where the virus came from in order to facilitate the creation of an antidote.

But until an antidote has been tested sufficiently and is safe, nothing can be distributed. In the meantime, indirectly egged-on by a conspiratorially-inclined blogger called Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law – Enemy At The Gates, The Holiday, Side Effects), social order breaks down.

Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle), a scientist under Dr. Ellis Cheevers, working hard in the laboratory to try and create an antidote.

The plot for Contagion has been done in a documentary style, similar to Cloverfield (albeit, without the camera wobbling). This entails that one watches the effects of the virus upon people and societies over a series of days. One images that the director, Steven Soderburgh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven & Ocean’s Twelve, Side Effects), did this to give the film a more realistic feel. If so, he succeeds. As a corollary of the realism, the speed at which the virus transmits and kills people has the impact of frightening the audience (in probably the same way that bubonic plague used to terrify people in Medieval times). Also, the timing of the chaos that subsequently unfolds, as a result of panic by those who have not yet been infected, seems quite natural. It is quite conceivable for law and order to collapse under the pressures that Contagion puts forward.

However, many aspects of the storyline are either left unexplained or fall by the wayside, which undermines the film considerably. Moreover, as the movie has no central protagonist, one cannot build any sympathy or empathy (or care) for any of the characters. Worse, the dialogue, at times, sounds contrived (if not risible) and none of the actors play particularly well. Even the normally excellent Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne and Matt Damon do not do themselves justice here.

Allan Krumwiede (Jude Law), wearing a ridiculous ‘wannabe’ Buzz Lightyear outfit so he doesn’t contract the virus, spreading his new-found insight about why the government has not distributed the cure as yet onto a random car.

Due to the lack of a dominant performer, the audience may struggle to maintain interest in the film. At 106 minutes, Contagion is an average length for a movie; yet, viewers may find themselves yawning or looking at their watches (long) before it is over, which is never a good sign for a film. Not even the music, which adopts a standard fast beat for much of the movie, has the ability to keep the audience’s eyes concentrated on the screen for long.

On the whole, Contagion has many deficient features, as several of the sub-stories are forgotten about and there is a distinct lack of a central and well-defined character. Nevertheless, Contagion appears scarily realistic and shows us that, irrespective of how advanced medical treatment may be, humanity is still potentially defenceless against new and ever-mutating epidemics.

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