Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Iron Man 3 is the Best in the Series and Joe is Wrong

You're probably reading this title with some amusement. The reason why I love writing for Mormon Geeks is that all of the authors here are some of my closest friends (one I consider my best friend) and we all have differing opinions on things.  Joe shared his thoughts on the future of the Marvel franchise and briefly talked about his opinion of Iron Man 3.  They were very nice opinions and now I would like to share my thoughts.

Let's talk about Tony Stark

Tony Stark is a normal man.  He's very flawed, arrogant, selfish, and unrestrained.  In Iron Man 1 we see his bubble of living the high life pop when he survives a bomb blast and create the first Iron Man suit.  He decides to cut all costs in manufacturing weapons and chooses to use his knowledge to become a super hero.

In Iron Man 2, Tony is once again living the limelight and no stranger to drawing attention to his super hero identity.  Still flawed, he makes the mistake of thinking that no technology can compete with his and suddenly the government is on his back.  If that isn't enough, he finds himself fighting against poisoning from the shrapnel and electromagnet heart.  He eventually creates a new heart and conquers the villain and once again Iron Man saves the day.  He continues to be steady from this point through the end of the Avengers.

Now it's after the alien attack on New York.  Tony is once again in the spotlight for being a hero and the face of the Avengers.  He went through a wormhole and came back to earth and hasn't been the same since.  He hasn't gotten good sleep and his mind has trouble accepting that there's other life out there.  Before New York, he was the man that knew everything and now he has anxiety attacks knowing that there is still so much he doesn't know.

In Iron Man 3, Tony is probably in his most humbling circumstances.  Though he had challenges before this time his confidence falters when it was something that always kept him going.  The previous movies were always about Tony Stark becoming and being Iron Man.  In Iron Man 3, this is a story about Tony Stark being a hero as much as and even more as his Iron Man alter ego.

This is why I like Iron Man 3 the most out of the series.  Although I love the nerd culture and geek storytelling there is a wrong idea picked up from super hero stories.  You get these geeks who drop out of high school and give up on life.  They work full time at a fast food restaurant and play video games on their free time.  They may go to Friday Night Magic and step into the role of a Plainswalker. (Their alter ego, if you will.)  They conquer enemies and feel powerful for once.  They do it again when they play a tabletop RPG, an online MMORPG, or a video game.  Why?  They misguidedly follow the examples they see on screen or on the page of the comic.  They don figurative masks and capes to fight inner demons but never actually become the heroes they idolize or pretend to be.

Is Tony Stark a Hero?

Iron Man 3 gives off a different message.  In some way this movie answers the question Steve Rogers (Captain America) asks Tony in the Avengers, "Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?"
Though Tony responds with a cheeky comeback, the real question Steve asks is, "You're a hero on the outside but what are you inside?"  Is Tony Stark a hero without his armor?  Does he amount to anything without Iron Man?

Tony struggles with this question too.  What kind of hero is he when his flaws and imperfections come to bite him in the butt and create villains for him to face?  He's changed so much from when he survived that bomb blast but is now struggling with anxiety attacks, insomnia, his best friend being hospitalized, and difficulty emotionally connecting with his might-as-well-be-his-wife-but-is-his-girlfriend-instead Pepper Potts.  Eventually his new Iron Man suit loses power and his house is destroyed.  Tony is suddenly in a place where he's without his tools and armor.

This is where the movie shines for me.  We see Tony Stark fighting bad guys with homemade devices until his suit has powered back up completely.  Even in the finale of the movie he is in and out of his suit(s) like a model in and out of different outfits.  The message the movie delivers isn't just that Tony Stark is Iron Man but Iron Man is Tony Stark.  As much as they are alter egos of one another they are more like two different sides of the same coin.  Tony isn't a hero because of the armor he wears and his cool gadgets.  He's a hero because of who he is and what he chooses to be.

This is a Shane Black Movie

Iron Man 3 takes place at Christmas and is like a detective story.
Shane Black is known for violent, noir-esque, slightly dark, cleverly written movies that take place during Christmas.  I'm not even joking.  Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang all take place during the holidays.  As bizarre as it sounds it actually kind of works.  There's something honest in a bunch of terrible things happening and a challenge that get's resolved by Christmas morning.  I really like Shane Black's style.  What I wish he did differently was make his movies a little bit cleaner.  The great thing about Iron Man 3 is that it's a Shane Black movie that happens to be PG-13.  It even takes place during Christmas.  I could add this movie to my list of unconventional Christmas movies that feel like a Christmas movie even though they don't have much to do with Christmas. (Future blog post... or podcast episode.  ;))

I like Black's style because it is refreshingly different.  It fits with the rest of the series while standing apart and could even be a conclusion to the Iron Man series. It still makes sense for Tony to be part of the Avengers, it just ends in a way that really rounds out Tony as a character.  I don't know if there's a style that fits Iron Man so perfectly.

The Marvel Franchise

Joe said that Robert Downey Jr. essentially is playing himself when he's Iron Man.  Yep.  I would definitely agree with that.  It also works for the movie beautifully.  Robert Downey Jr. once said he takes the role of Tony Stark as serious as Shakespeare.  We may not be impressed because he's essentially playing himself but, hey, if he does a good job what is there to worry about?  With the shift in Marvel Franchise of bringing these different worlds together I would say that the producers and directors involved have done a great job in making it believable.

Yeah, he's still dumb but a different kind of dumb.
Let's take a look at the other actors involved in the Marvel universe.  Chris Evans used to play the handsome dumb hunk in crappy teen movies and didn't get much better when he was cast as the human torch in The Fantastic Four.  A lot of fans were worried when he was cast to play Captain America.  Before that point, he played Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim versus the World and showed us he can handle playing a character very different from the dumb hunk.  (Lucas Lee is still a dumb hunk but still very different from what Evans normally plays.)  Chris Evans as Steve Rogers works great.  As far as I know, he isn't really playing himself but he does a great job with the role.  Steve is supposed to be a clean cut 1940s idealized American man.  Evans pulls it off quite well.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor is pretty much fantastic.  We haven't seen him much in anything else and we really don't need to.  Despite his talent, he tragically could not save Snow White and the Huntsman.  In Star Trek, his chracter stands apart without taking anything from the movie and despite being short lived.

The highlight for me is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner.  (I'm sure he's great in a motion cap suit as the Hulk but it's even better to see him as the quiet reserved scientist.)  What I love about Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Banner is how he basically just plays an introverted and mostly normal scientist.  He's a hero but a very different kind of hero than the other Avengers.  He doesn't draw attention to himself or to his actions.  In many ways, he's the opposite of Tony Stark.  Perhaps this is why it's great to see their budding friendship in the movie because they're complimentary and kindred spirits to one another.

Joe rocks as cynic and as a friend.
Based off all this alone, I would say the future of the Marvel franchise is pretty bright.  It's definitely risky but they already pulled off an excellent Avengers movie and we would have never thought that could happen.  All of this success would be better if Marvel Studios owned the movie rights to their other franchises (such as X-Men, Spiderman, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Blade, etc.) but seeing what they're doing with what they got is great.  I understand Joe's cynicism and fears but I have to disagree in that I'm looking forward to the future of Marvel's movies.

So, if you get the opportunity I would highly recommend Iron Man 3 and Joe... I love you, cynic and all!

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