May 11th 2013


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Articles from this issue:

SPECIAL FEATURE: Academics' venom signals climate scare's end

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Both government and opposition facing moment of truth

EDITORIAL: Three constitutional amendment proposals before the PM

NEW ZEALAND: NZ parliament's same-sex 'marriage' vote analysed

UNITED STATES: The Boston Marathon bombing in perspective

MEDIA: Experts blamed 'right-wing terrorists' for Boston bombings

PRIMARY INDUSTRY: Fruit-canning industry laid waste by cheap imports

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Currency, manufacturing and trade policy

CLIMATE CHANGE: Why EU emissions trading scheme faces collapse

OPINION: Defence strategy must not ignore the lessons of history

HUMAN RIGHTS: China's grisly organ theft: their crime, our shame

LIFE ISSUES: Killed for being the wrong gender

CULTURE: Australia's intellectual left under scrutiny

LETTERS

CINEMA: Compelling story of a tormented superhero

BOOK REVIEW The economist who became a Christian

BOOK REVIEW Out of shadows and illusions into reality

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CINEMA:
Compelling story of a tormented superhero




News Weekly, May 11, 2013

Iron Man 3 (rated M), a 3D film, is reviewed by Symeon Thompson, a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).

“I am Iron Man.”

“I am Tony Stark.”

Iron Man 3 is a rip-roaring yarn that manages to be both a stylish thrill-ride and a thought-provoking commentary on the nature of identity and images.

Since the final battle with aliens that ended The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) has been having issues. He can’t sleep. He has panic attacks. He “tinkers” in his basement. He’s not needed for active duty. His companion, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now runs Stark Industries on his behalf. She’s moved in, but now sees him even less.

Aldrich Killian (Australia’s Guy Pearce) has approached Stark Industries to collaborate on a project to re-engineer human DNA — a project that was first offered to Stark over a decade ago that he’d ignored.

At the same time, The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) a “terrorist/teacher”, with a taste for theatricality, is hijacking US broadcasts in order to chat directly with the American people about his ferocious attacks.

When Tony’s long-time bodyguard and trusted friend, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), is gravely injured in one of The Mandarin’s attacks, Stark swears revenge to the world’s media, and gives out his home address as a challenge. The Mandarin obliges.

Presumed dead, his home destroyed and his Iron Man suit out of action, Tony must use his wits rather than his tech to find The Mandarin and work out what’s going on. He’s aided by Harley (Ty Simpkins), a lonely kid with a quick mind.

Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 is as compelling a conclusion to the Iron Man trilogy as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises was to Batman’s. Both feature “heroes” who struggle with their own demons, and who are ultra-wealthy playboys relying on their intellects to craft tools against their awe-striking adversaries.

The imagery is stunning — part poetic, part frenetic — each frame carefully composed. The 3D cinematography does little more than amp up the already pumping adrenaline. It may not be necessary, but it is quite cool.

The soundtrack is playful and cleverly constructed, from grand orchestral pieces to grandiose popular works, all chosen to enhance particular points.

Downey Jr is a demented delight as the broken and bizarre Stark — a recovering addict and thrill-seeker who’s bright, but not quite right. Kingsley is terrifying as The Mandarin, and Pearce’s Killian is an ambiguous antagonist. Furthermore, it’s marvellous to have a “popcorn” movie where the bit players get some of the best lines.

Jon Favreau, who rebooted the series and directed the first two instalments, now only appears as producer, and on screen as the dedicated and slightly neurotic Happy.

His earlier films had a lighter touch than this one. They were sharply scripted and compellingly crafted, but more focussed on brilliantly retreading the regular tropes than re-imagining them.

Shane Back, however, has done something subtly different with the Iron Man mythos. He hasn’t changed it, or ruined it, despite the howls of some fans — the critic’s code compels me to secrecy. Shhh!

He has deconstructed it, in the best possible sense of the term, just as Nolan did with Batman. Unlike the aristocratic rage for order that drives Bruce Wayne, and makes him a more tragic figure, Stark has more decadent drives.

Much like Sherlock Holmes — portrayed most recently on the big screen by Downey Jr, but more perfectly on the small screen by Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, and even by Jonny Lee Miller in the CBS series Elementary — Stark is an attention-deficit-afflicted adrenaline addict.

He needs stimulation if he is to remotely function like a human being. Holmes took hard drugs when bored, and Stark has a well-known drinking problem. Both need to live with their brains on fire, preferably with a problem to solve; but if one is not present, then anything goes.

Shane Black is best known for his screenwriting. The first screenplay he sold was Lethal Weapon (1987). He was once the highest paid scriptwriter in Hollywood; but, as often happens, he disappeared. He reappeared as writer-director for the clever and cynical neo-noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), which also restored Downey Jr’s career.

With Iron Man he takes the traditional tropes and stands them on their heads, forcing the audience to see afresh those defining universal themes and wonder anew.

Like G.K. Chesterton, it is a more subtle, and more thoughtful, exercise in layered meanings than the art-pop works that are often little more than Chinese puzzles for the fans.

Iron Man / Tony Stark is one of the most compelling, but complex, superheroes. At first glance a straightforward inventor-cum-mechanic, who “builds” solutions to problems, he is also a problem in himself. Rather than hiding his identity behind a mask, he makes his identity his mask. In the process he blends riotous revelry with rigorous reason.

Iron Man 3 does the same, a thriller for the heart-rate, and a stimulant for the brain.




























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