I didn't grow up with it, so I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully this is not one of those movies that's been ruined by those who love it unabashedly. It has its laughs, its quirks, its fun, its adventure. The cheese is endearing and, overall, a whole better than I expected.
I'll admit it at this point, I am no longer that kid that patiently awaited that big blockbuster in the summer to blow my socks off. My tastes have changed, and quite a lot. (Of course, you bet good money I'll be in the theatre for Jurassic Park IV next year though - some things never change...) But, last year, Whedon even beat out Chris Nolan in directing the best comic-book fanboy movie of the year and it was a glorious thing. It almost made me believe in the "Summer Movie" again. And so, I went into this next installment of Marvel films, "Phase 2" they're calling it, with a bit higher hopes. Alas...
It's a shame really. Shane Black had so much potential here. That he and Downey, Jr. were re-teaming after the wonderful Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, this seemed like a perfect fit after that collaboration seemed to inspire Downey, Jr.'s late season career-comeback and Favreau had stepped down from directing the series. But, after reaching the pinnacle with Joss Whedon's The Avengers last year, it seems Marvel has returned to the middling type of entries that seem to work up to those "big group projects." Nothing has been as strong for them as the first Iron Man, and it seemed like this one had the chance, especially going for a darker vision here.
That was a misnomer. Though not without a vision, Black and his fellow screenwriter Drew Pearce have taken what they thought were the best pieces of the Iron Man comics here, gutted them, and fit them piece-meal into a story that is nowhere near as strong as could've been. It is fun, witty (it needed it), somewhat exciting, has some great pieces of set that are destroyed, and a couple of bits, such as Ben Kingsley's performance and Stark's relationship with the Tennessee kid, which are terrific in the midst of Stark's ruined mansion. Though it does service the ending, the film's pondering with the darker sides of Stark's character character and his struggles to move past the battle for New York aren't even as strong as the drunken side of him we saw in the second and does very little for the character work I was looking forward to.
In the end, just typical. I was expecting more from Marvel and Shane Black after Whedon set the bar so high.
At its heart, the film struggles to find its voice and its rhythm within its themes, all the while providing great acting, but by the end, when it has figured out that these two have switched roles (Schoenaerts losing something physically to keep his son, just like Cotillard lost her limbs to keep her life), the film finds its home. Cotillard was the one who got most of the attention (deservedly, as she does so much with so little dialogue here), mainly because of the star she has become, but Shoenaerts work is character, embedded under the skin-type work. His struggling, frustrated character is a beautiful view of the conflicted, modern male that doesn't really understand his place in the world, women, or the son he has come to take care of. While Audiard's work isn't quite as strong as A Prophet, it's a beautiful character piece of broken people who manage to find a way to help themselves amidst their problems and mistakes.
There seemed to be a whole lot of nothing going on here. Is there really a plot, or is it just one big long (and quite convoluted) explanation? The ideas are somewhat interesting, but the Gilroys never get the script there, which also lends to blandness in the action as well.
It really is the best film Hitchcock never made; like an alternative version of North by Northwest or To Catch a Thief. But, it's still hilarious, and wonderfully inventive with its script and never gets tiring or boring. Doonen doesn't do much in the way of directing, but he doesn't need to because he has the actors and the script.
One of the best there is.