A Late Iron Man 3 Review

Iron Man 3

First, I have to stress how grateful I am for this, the age of the comic book movie. I grew up with the TV series, The Incredible Hulk, being the pinnacle of what could be achieved with the Marvel Universe. The new integrated Marvel movies are simply wonderful.

Still I have to rag on Iron Man 3. Iron Man 3 is fun if you check your brain at the door and it suffers unfairly for being the first after Whedon’s masterpiece, The Avengers but it is a pretty awful sequel.

My wife is an accountant and a darn fine one if I may say so. I value the profession but I have rarely seen a movie that smacks more of being made by bean counters than Iron Man 3.

A child factors majorly into the picture, presumably to show that Disney touch. He is a decent enough child actor but it smacks of trying to capture the youth market. As usual there is plenty of product placement throughout the film.

Obviously, comic book movies tend to skew heavily male. To combat this, Pepper Potts’ (Gwyneth Paltrow) role has been considerably beefed up in Iron Man 3. This is a very good decision and has a nice payoff towards the end of the film but I think the decision was made demographically and not say, thematically.

For the nerds, we have a wonderful after-credits sequence with a surprise guest star. For the hardcore Iron Man nerds, we have a look at a large number of alternate Iron Man suits, including one that looks like the Hulkbuster.

Iron Man 3 has one of the stupidest plots ever. You have not one, not two, not three, but four separate characters at four separate times placed in, as Dr. Evil would say, unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms. Yes, the good guys get captured at a near constant rate and the villains keep them alive to explain their evil plans. Don’t worry though one of the major villains kills a minor villain to presumably show that they are evil. This is unbelievably lazy screenwriting.

There are three scantily clad young ladies, I.e. eye candy, that are not apparently evil yet are strangely in a position to know all about the evil plot without doing anything (as is a fourth character but no spoilers). The entire last act makes absolutely no sense but, again, no spoilers. Let’s just say that there is almost no aspect of the chief villain’s plot that makes a lick of sense.

The only redeeming qualities are the cast and some nice action sequences. Robert Downey Jr. spends a lot of time out of the armor. As in Avengers, Paltrow spends a lot of time barefoot so she doesn’t tower over Downey yet she wears high heels in the presence of Rebecca Hall to assert her dominance. Fun but dumb is okay for summer I suppose.

Volcano – Better Believe The End is Nigh! week

Volcano is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Utterly ridiculous story makes Dante’s Peak look like Dante’s Inferno – still fun though.

Volcano (1997) – Rated PG-13

“Earthquakes look like child’s play compared with what Mother Nature is throwing at Tinseltown this time. A volcano erupts and threatens to engulf downtown Los Angeles. But fear not: a scientist and the kick-ass head of a crisis team get to work.”

Obviously I have a soft spot for disaster and this movie in particular as I enjoyed Volcano in spite of the intense stupidity on display here. Where do I begin?

First up is the great hero fallacy. Tommy Lee Jones is our star and plays Mike Roark, head of the Office of Emergency Management. In that capacity he gets to make all the big decisions and, as such, bears the praise or blame for the catastrophe. Not content with that, the script has him out personally to inspect the underground site where seven workers were burned to death and he and his daughter are caught in the big eruption. He also physically saves several people from the lava. At least he isn’t the all knowing scientist who predicted this.

That role belongs to Anne Heche as Dr. Amy Barnes. Of course the leading authority is an attractive 28-year-old blonde but I guess the older scientists are unwilling to go out in the field. Anne and Tommy are likeable of course as is Don Cheadle as the number two man at the Office of Emergency Management. Since we have the great hero and the scientist who won’t be listened to, can we hit any other cliches? How about the bratty teenager who doesn’t listen but learns a life lesson? Check (but kudos for letting an actual teenager play her). How about making the villain a real estate developer? Check.

We begin our story underground where seven workers have been burned to death near instantaneously and an eighth has been badly burned. After this the head of the Office of Emergency Management goes down there with one other person. One word: delegate! They notice that their emergency gear is melting down – apparently it has a very low melting point as they weren’t burned. Later in the film, Dr. Barnes and her assistant go down there in uber emergency gear – without notifying anyone and *surprise* we lose the assistant to a lava opening. Apparently no one uses a lifeline.

Here is a lesson for the filmmakers: lava is hot – really, really hot. They know it is hot because it is melting a car when Roark carries his kid across the hood. Hot enough to melt a car but they are okay. Later Roark, Barnes and a red shirt are hanging on a fire truck ladder suspended over lava. The fire hose above them spontaneously combusts but all they get is a little hot-foot. Also apparently heat will not damage roots in a sewer system.

As with Dante’s Peak, the writers wanted to get in every possible use of volcanoes so again we ignore reality and have very heavy ashfall combined with lava flow and lava bombs. We have not one but many helicopters impossibly flying around in the ashfall. The two climactic parts of the movie are even more ridiculous than what I have previously described.

There are the usual ridiculous number of continuity errors with wounds and clothing appearing and disappearing. Special effects are pretty good. They use some stock lava shots but the new lava is actually made of methylcellulose, a thickening agent also used in fast-food milkshakes (imdb).

I appreciated that they had some diversity in the cast but the cliches they threw out made me roll my eyes consistently. We have a white officer who arrests a man for being black and bothersome. When he releases him, the bothersome man pitches in to help.

My brain hurts but for some reason I enjoyed seeing lava flow through Los Angeles.

People Watch: Look for Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Essman (Susie Greene) appearing briefly as Anita.

Iron Man 2 – Marvel Superhero week

This is Marvel Superhero week – why? Because even though I am almost 50, I still love comic books. Iron Man 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Iron Man 2 (2010) – Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

Wealthy inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) — aka Iron Man — resists calls by the American government to hand over his technology. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has constructed his own miniaturized arc reactor, causing all kinds of problems for our superhero. Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson co-star in director Jon Favreaus sequel based on Marvel comic book characters.

I loved the first Iron Man movie. I loved the handling (and updating) of the origin story as well as leaving enough room for the emergence of a good villain to quickly be trounced but mostly I loved it as a wonderful vehicle for Robert Downey Jr. and his quirky acting style.

Robert Downey Jr. does get to shine here as well but more attention is paid to the other characters (as compared to Iron Man which was basically a one-man show). Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau return as Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan and are given more substantial roles. Paul Bettany again voices Jarvis.

For some reason Terence Howard was not asked back to play Lt. Col. James Rhodes. Instead he was replaced by Don Cheadle (who I have loved since he played Mouse in The Devil in a Blue Dress). The first line Don utters is “Look I am here, its me, deal with it, lets move on” which is a very humorous response to the whole replacement fiasco.

To more closely tie-in The Avengers event in May 2012, Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury as does Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. Scarlett Johansson plays a kick-butt Natalie Rushman AKA Natalia Romanoff AKA…

Everyone performs well and it is nice to see so many Marvel heroes onscreen (Iron Man, War Machine, Nick Fury, Black Widow) and allusions to several others (Black Panther, Captain America, Thor). The post-credit sequence remains intact.

Having said that, director Jon Favreau has tried to pack way too much into the movie much like Sam Raimi did on Spider-Man 3 (though it does not experience anywhere near that level of failure). The main plot deals with Whiplash trying to take revenge on Tony Stark but there are separate subplots involving a Senate sub-committee, SHIELD, Rhodey, blood poisoning, Justin Hammer, Natalie Rushman, and more.

I suspect that Marvel pushed Favreau to do too much with this film. The result is that while the film is quite enjoyable, it seems to come across more as a series of requisite scenes than as a whole story. While disjointed, it is still very shiny and fun.

People Watch: Look for the standard Stan Lee cameo as well as Christiane Amanpour, Larry Ellison and DJ AM Adam Goldstein playing themselves.