Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Iron Man Three - Or How Markus Got His Mojo Back

It's April twenty-fifth, twenty thirteen, twenty-two past five in the morning and I just got back from watching the UK midnight premier of Iron Man Three.

Before we start this whole thing, keep in mind that there might be things described and discussed in this post that you will consider spoilerific, if you are worried about those sort of matters I'd advice you to stop reading and maybe come back after you've actually watched the film.

I've always been a fan of comic books, but I've rarely had the patience to sit down and read a long series of them, so if you're looking for a fellow comic book aficionado's opinion you will not find it here. The love of the stories in comic books have however lead me to watch many of the animated series and films which as a kid I ate up in as huge chunks as I could find. You could imagine my glee when the X-Men film first came out in 2000, I couldn't wait to see all my favourite characters from X-Men: The Animated series and X-Men: Evolution come to life on the big screen. I watched in awe at the characters, what they did and tried to figure out why they did what they did, little did I know that I was witnessing the birth of a new wave of films.
Few years later my favourite character from my favourite cartoon showed up in the form of Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, I couldn't stop watching it. I thought about him all the time, how special he was, what he stood for, and how I wanted to be like him. Not just have the powers, but be good like him. To be a hero. Few films have shaped my as much as Spider-Man did in its day, and it still holds a place in my heart as one of my favourite films.

I was always excited to see superhero films, but for a while I weren't the fanboy that I used to be. I started my cinematic discovery phase, akin to how some more free spirits may travel the world to find themselves, I watched films. All films I could watch I would watch, I wasn't discriminative. I went from watching maybe a few films a month at best to watching at least a film a day, or at the very least every other day. I thought myself somewhat higher on the rank of film watchers than those around me, that my opinion was better because I had based it on a wider spectrum of films, I had seen what ranked between amazingly beautiful to horrendously hideous. It was towards the end of this period that the company that stood behind several of my favourite childhood superheroes started making their own films.

In 2008 Marvel Studios released the film simply titled Iron Man. Up to this point I had actually heard surprisingly little about this superhero considering how much time I had spent watching men and women in tights fight bad guys, but I tried it out. I didn't like it. All around me people were hailing it as the saviour of the superhero film genre, that finally someone had got it right and hit the jackpot. I couldn't really care less about the film, I found it to be alright, perfectly acceptable for what it was, but not for me. It was just another film to add to my spectrum.

Disregarding my criticisms Marvel went ahead and released more films, The Incredible Hulk was released the same year as Iron Man, in fact a mere month later. I enjoyed it more than Iron Man, but I didn't really understand why they'd had to go back and change so much about how Ang Lee's Hulk worked. I liked how it was set up, its goofiness, its comic book style, it reminded me of X-Men and Spider-Man. The new Hulk film was too different for my taste, it was gritty, it was dark, it had some humour in there of course, but the overall tone put me off, it wasn't to my liking.
My experiences with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk lead me to never watching Iron Man 2, I just skipped it, I figured I wouldn't like it, I figured I would save myself the trouble, there were plenty of other films to add to my spectrum.

Then one tiny, insignificant, inconsequential thing happened, I joined Twitter. I joined Twitter originally to keep up with updates on the then-in-pre-production series Stargate Universe, but I discovered that I could also use the networking site to keep up to date with other projects, news, and even make a few friends. One thing lead to another and I ended up following Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, two science-fiction screenwriters who at the time had just finished writing a film called THOR. They shared a lot of how they had written it, what they thought of, and Zack in particular shared many an amusing tale from Norse lore that I absolutely adored. I had long been a keen watcher of Norse mythology, but never studied it much beyond what was required for me in school, but Zack got me really interested. The fact that him and Ashley were going to have a superhero film out about a superhero based upon the most famous of Norse gods really sprung my interest. I bought a ticket for the premier and went in with high expectations to a studio which had twice previously let me down. Nearly two hours later I left the cinema, and I was amazed, it was the most spectacular and fantastic superhero film I had seen. I fell in love.

I didn't just fall in love with Thor and his story, I fell in love with superheroes all over again, I fell in love with Marvel. The following few weeks I spent most of my free time on iTunes renting and buying everything that Marvel had released, and what I couldn't find there I got at my local video store. There was so much to take in, so many films that had been made, so many series that had been created, and I wanted to watch it all. I ploughed through all of Marvel Animation's films and TV series, the Spider-Man films, X-Men films, Daredevil, Elektra, everything that had been released since my birth in little more than a week. And I was hungry for more. I turned my head back towards what had lead me off of superhero films for so long, Iron Man. I typed Iron Man into the little search bar on the iTunes film store, clicked the rent for 3.99 button that at the time was extremely dear to me, I waited a few seconds for the film to buffer, and I hit play.

Two hours later all of my previous notions were shattered, I did no longer find Iron Man to be a mess of a film, I didn't think it was far beneath the likes of Spider-Man and X-Men, I did not think it was a disgrace to what I had hoped it would be; I discovered that it was greater than I had ever even considered it could be. It was what a superhero film should be like, at least in this day and age, it had a few rough edges, but what I saw it had meant to superhero films ever since was tremendous. Without Jon Favreau's Iron Man from 2008 the superhero scene would be far, far from what it is today. And not just Marvel's library of films, all films, be they the nemesis DC or other third-party competitors. It's the biggest change of heart I have ever had about a film, I went from loathing a film to loving it. Iron Man was in a class of its own, it was the truest I had seen of any comic book film adaptation, it was glorious. I quickly put on Iron Man 2 to see what I had missed out on there, but I fear that perhaps my over-excitement over Iron Man tainted my experience and has ever since. Iron Man 2 is a decent superhero film, but there are many that are better, it felt very standard and mediocre, it had managed to stale a new type of superhero films just a few years after its birth, but luckily THOR changed it up again.

Two months after having first watched THOR I was sat at the cinema again, waiting for the premier of Captain America: The First Avenger, which in my opinion is the best film Marvel Studios has made that isn't a team-up film, when it got its home release I watched it several times in a few days, I just loved it, and it had been months since my initial love spurt, it proved to me that what Marvel was doing was indeed something special, at least to me.

Fast forward to April of last year, just over a year ago, I was sat at Bergen cinema watching one of the very first screenings of Avengers in the world. I had had very high hopes for Avengers, it was supposed to be everything I had learned to love over the past year merged together by the man who had made several of my favourite television series, it sounded too good to be true. I was in the middle of the final months of a production at the time, but I had told my entire team to take half a day of and join me at the cinema for the Avengers world premier. I made up some speech about how it would boost team morale and that they all needed a break, but I just really wanted to see that film, and I didn't want to wait any longer. The lights dimmed, the Marvel logo spun, the tesseract showed its glory, the alien scene played and I was enthralled beyond my wildest expectations. Every scene tested my attention, how much I could actually pay it, I hung on every word dropped from every breath, I watched every movement made from every thought, I didn't study it, I was engulfed by it. I wanted to know everything, I wanted to see everything, everything was so great, even though a row of unwieldy teenager behind me made every attempt to draw my attention to them, I couldn't. The experience was beyond anything I had ever had before and I doubt it'll ever happen again. Seeing the likes of Iron Man and Thor side by side, was more than I could've ever dared dream of. I wept tears of sorrow and I wept tears of happiness, I let out laughs of relief and I let out laughs of resent. It was and is the best hundred and forty three minutes I've ever spent at a cinema, and it saddens me just a little bit that I'm likely to never experience that again. On my way out of the cinema I was so dazzled that I actually tripped and fell flat on my face, bruising both my arms and numbing my upper lip for the better part of a day, but it was still an amazing event. I ended up watching Avengers six times total at the cinema, I learned to love every line and every eye twitch, it was amazing.

It has been with a slight pain that I have now had to over a year for the continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all I've had in between are a few mediocre episodes of television series to keep my appetite whet, but finally Iron Man Three tickets appeared available for purchase at my local cinema, and I went straight ahead and got myself a ticket for the UK midnight premier.
I had pretty high expectations to Iron Man Three, not as high as to The Avengers, I never thought it could hold that throne warm, but I expected it to kick of the next phase of Marvel films for a good start. A great start.

The lights dimmed all the way down and a voice started speaking over the blackened screen ahead of me, Tony Stark spoke with a voice not of confidence as he normally would, but with a voice of concern, a voice of self-understanding, a voice of wisdom. The Marvel logo spun on, and the film officially began. From the very first time I saw Tony, till the very last I was stuck in a stare at the screen. It was magical, all I had to do was sit there and watch as the screen played the most wonderful image sequences to me. The film was great, perhaps even spectacular. There wasn't a moment in the picture where I thought to myself that something could've been done better, I was just sat watching, taking it all in. The first fresh smell of Marvel in a year, it was beyond my expectations of the film. It was not as great as Avengers, neither did I think it'd be; and it was not better than the first Iron Man, however much I would want it to be. But that's no disgrace, the fact that two such great films are better does not make a bad film.

One of the better things about Iron Man Three is that it isn't as much about Iron Man as it is about Tony Stark, more so than it's two predecessors. The main antagonist of the film is, I would say, Tony's struggles with the aftermath of what happened in New York. Of what happened when the Avengers had to save the Earth from a mighty alien invasion all on their own. Tony is exhausted, he can't sleep without dreaming of New York, he spends every moment working on his Iron Man suits, making one for just about every occasion he can think of. All he really wants is safety, safety from villains, safety from the media, and most importantly safety for Pepper. Pepper is all he truly cares about in the world, and the reasons he saves it is her. She is his world, but he can't always be there for her when she needs him most, and that kills him. The fact that with all the power he has in the world, every child in our world knows his name and his suit, he has more money than money can buy, but when it comes right down to it, not even his personal army of Iron Man suits can stop the bad men of the world taking Pepper from him. Tony is helpless, he is far from home, and he needs to save Pepper. That is what this film is about, it's a step down in scale from the intergalactic war that is Avengers, but it's a step up in scale in terms of its emotional score. There are things you can do with characters in these individual films that you just can't do in the big team films where half a dozen characters are fighting for the main light. There is just Tony. And that is more than enough.

Now, of course, it wouldn't be Iron Man without a huge fight between Tony and the main human antagonist towards the end, and Iron Man Three does not disappoint. Not one, not two, but closer to forty five Iron Man suits end up surrounding Tony, the main bad guy Killian and his army. All the suits are working together at Tony's will and JARVIS' power, it's a spectacular sight, and seeing all those different suits is a treat for anyone who's read a few Iron Man comics. You will definitely recognise a few of the designs, I'll guarantee that. It's all very fun, but not as sweet as the actual ending. Tony is finally feeling better, he's got Pepper safe now, he's got himself safe now, and he's knows that Pepper can take care of her own safety now should Tony not be able to. It's a sweet ending, and it would be kind of fitting for the end of a trilogy. But even though I am usually a strong believer of not making more films than necessary surrounding the same characters, I'll make an expectation here and really hope that there will be an Iron Man 4 some time in Phase Three. It would not be the Marvel Cinematic Universe if Tony didn't have his adventures represented throughout.

It's April twenty-fifth, twenty thirteen, twenty-two past five in the morning and I just got back from watching the UK midnight premier of Iron Man Three. I thought it was great, and I highly recommend that you go watch it (in cinemas) as soon as you possibly can. It is a must-see this year. Tony is safe.