Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3: In Defence of the Blockbuster

Image source: Marvel.

You might call me a fan of Robert Downey, Jr. I have not watched the TV series Sherlock because I cannot fathom Benedict Cumberbatch's performance rivalling Downey's in his own Sherlock Holmes movies. In fact, I fully believe that almost any movie could be improved by the inclusion of Downey. Star Wars? Sorry, Harrison Ford. Casino Royale? Get him playing both James Bond and Felix Leiter, and then we can talk. Maybe cast him as Le Chiffre too. Mean Girls? Put a wig on Downey and call him Lindsay Lohan if you have to.

My unhealthy levels of fanboyism aside, I still like to believe I can critically assess a movie despite the Downey factor. When I went to the advance screening of Iron Man 3 Thursday night, I expected Downey's performance to be entertaining, because I don't think he's been physically capable of anything else since at least 2007. But I also braced myself for the idea that the rest of the movie might not quite live up to its predecessors, not to mention The Avengers. I also knew that the movie was inspired by the Extremis storyline from the comics, which was a good arc, but certainly not my favourite. (I'm still waiting for some studio to greenlight a Superior Spider-Man movie.)

Thankfully, I was entirely wrong to doubt the movie, and completely blown away as a result. Of course, however, not everyone felt this way. One negative review that particularly caught my attention was that of Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. Dargis approaches the review from a perspective very different from that of, say, the late Roger Ebert. Rather than giving advice on whether or not the average viewer might enjoy the movie, she uses it as a springboard to launch a scholarly critique of Hollywood's entire contemporary approach to the War on Terror. I wish to respond to her criticisms of Iron Man 3, and perhaps even defend the Hollywood blockbuster as an art form in the process.

But first: If you have not already seen the movie, go see it right now. Don't wait a single minute more. And certainly do not read the rest of this post, because from here on out, spoilers will be legion.