Iron Man 3 Shane Black (USA 2013) Robert Downey Gwynith Paltrow
Viewed Empire Cinema Newcastle upon Tyne Ticket: £3.75
Spontanious Human Bullshit
All I can remember about Iron Man One was that it was full of commercial product placements and as I didn't use these sort of products, I didn't go to see Iron Man 2, but I thought I'd check into Iron Man 3.
As 3 D makes me feel sick this review is from 2 D land, so I didn't get the full on CGI show; but I can report that in Iron Man 3, there wasn't a pack shot in sight. The camera turns its lens away from commercial products like a vestal virgin averting her eyes from the naked statue of Heracles at Helicarnassus.
So what did I see in Iron Man 3.
The writers of Iron Man 3, Drew Pierce and Shane Black, seem to have been sensitised, perhaps at an early and impressionable stage in their writing careers to the creative possibilities of Spontaneous Human Combustion. Spontaneous Human Combustion (or SHC) is the idea that human beings without warning, can spontaniously burst into flames, catch fire inside themselves and burn themselves out from within like a candle ,before being reduced to small sad pile of ashes. The heat produced in cases of SHC is intense enough to consume all flesh and bone of the unfortunate deceased. Dickens used SHC in Bleak House to dispose of one of his characters, interstingly an alcoholic. The writers of Iron man of course take the idea put a few nobs on it and give it the mad scientist treatment in the character of Aldrich.
An experiment by Aldrich - the 'Bad Guy' - to induce extreme internal heat to cure drug addicts and alcoholics (?) goes badly wrong. The unfortunate subjects of the experiment burn out and blow everyone up. However in this disaster Aldrich sees - opportunity - as he says: Failure is the fog through which success is glimpsed. So he develops his heat treatment, not to give people a nice tanned look, but to turn people into his personal army of red hot soldiers – litterally. To the casual gaze these hot rods look just like you and me, but at the command of Aldrich they use their internal heat to unleash fire brimstone and death upon his enemies.
It's an idea that didn't occur to the more prosaic Dickens, but this take on SHC by the scriptwriters provides the movie with an army of formidable enemies for Iron Man to biff and Iron Man likes nothing better than biffing a few bad guys. And they are well met: Iron Man spends a lot of time bolted into his metal exoskeleton, and Aldrich's hot rod soldiers do their best to make things hot for him inside the suit.
The plot if you can call it that, its not so much a plot, more a couple of sets of book ends that serve to keep the unruly meandering set pieces in some sort of time line. After an opening cod philosophical quote of the kind that Terrence Malik has a lot to answer for (the film opens with the portentous voice of Iron Man intoning for our instruction and edification, the sentence: 'We create our own demons.') Indeed we do.
Anyway after this first Terrence Malik moment, we are whisked off to a scientific convention: Berne 1999 It's an opening sequence in which Iron Man gives Aldrich – the bad guy – the cold shoulder. He stands him up, forgetting to meet him on the roof on the convention hotel. You see Iron man has the hots for a fruity lady scientist and more interesting things to do than keep an assignation with a geeky young inventor.
Now some people might think forgetting an appointment was just one of those things that happen. Shit happens. But not your man Aldrich. No! This event dominates his life and he takes out a vow of revenge on the whole world, the whole cosmos for Iron Man's unforgivable slight. In the nineteenth century Aldrich would have sent his seconds round to ask Iron Man for satisfaction. In the twenty first century that's not enough: he has to destroy the world and every one in it to get his own back.
That's it really ! In a way the movie is a computer game scenario based on the 'Quest' idea. Stark aka as Iron Man has to find and nullify Aldrich before he ends the world as we know it and the American way of life become history. The script exploits a number of well know game characters: the wise child, the warrior woman, the buddie, the fool, the bad guy, to cue a series of CGI set pieces of graphic intensity.
You know the kind of thing: an army of CGI technicians, thousands of them, lackies chained to computers, produce a series of extrordianry images and effects even seen in 2D: explosions on land sea and air, everything you see blows up, there's fire, the earth quakes people dieing horribly by the bucket load. And another CGI effect also impresses: whenever he needs to fight the good fight, Stark simply whistles up his exoskeleton and piece by piece, it hurtles through space and time and bolts itself onto him, transforming him into a Medieval looking warrior A knight in armour going forth to save damsels and do good. Stark is also fashionably scripted with anxiety attacks and doubt, but protected, in the script, not by the word of God, but by Terrence Malick type gnomic utterances.
The other plot device of note is supplied by Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. The scenario initially creates the impression that the mayhem and destruction abroad in the world is being orchestrated by a comic book Bin Laden look alike, called the Mandarin. The film in exploiting the physical similarities of the Mandarin and Bin Laden walks a tricky line from the point of view of setting up Jihad as plot driver. Undiscriminating audiences may take the suggestion implicit in the image of the Mandarin and connect it with Jihad. And they may not be sophisticated enough to uncouple Jihadists and mainstream Islam. For the film to connect Islam and the annihilation of the USA is to move into criminally culpable zone of incitement. But Iron Man 3 resolves the device of the Mandarin half way through the movie. It is revealed that the Mandarin is a spoof. He is in fact only an actor called Trevor. The Mandarin, the Bin Laden look alike is simply a hapless frontman for the real evil presence, the dread Aldrich, the clean white boy who was slighted all those years ago by Iron Man and is now exacting his terrible revenge.
The problem with revelation that the Mandarin is in fact only a stooge is that this leaves an implausible gap in the film's motivational mechanism. Is revenge for being stood up by Iron Man a sufficiently strong reason to explain why the world has tobe destroyed? Is there perhaps some homerotic undertone at work? Is all this terrible destruction a simple psychic statement, Aldrich's way of telling Iron Man that he really loves him?
This is possible. But might there be some other purpose lurking within the film's concoction? Why have all these CGI compositors and artists been put to work to make this film? Was it only to indulge the audience's need to gaze on the detailed mechanics of the annihilation of the world? Or is there something else at work in the script?
I thought about this and it occurred to me that perhaps the whole film was an allegory? I wondered if it was an allegory connected to scientology? I mean Hollywood is full of scientologists these days… OK I agree the world can do without another conspiracy theory…
…but the more I think about it…Iron Man somehow epitomises the idea of the superior being evolving out of the limitations of the human species. This proximates to the Scientology myth that homo sapiens is not the fully evolved article; he needs to be further developed by technology. With his exoskeleton Iron Man is the fusion of technology and flesh that is the promise of Scientology which belives we were once superior life forms called Thetans who have since degenerated. So
The Scientology proposition is that we have to evolve and reclaim out Thetan identity; or we, as a race, will perish because of our evil our pusillanimity and weakness. Iron Man is a prototype operating Thetan, an advanced technological type who like Ron Hobbard opens the doors to others who are ready: the child the woman the man, enabling them to realise their true techie identity. In so doing Iron Man defeats evil and helps those who can to develop their Thetan identities.
Far fetched perhaps. If you looking for high tech effects that roll down over you off the screen and flatten you, then go see Iron Man 3. If you crave meaning from Iron Man then it'll have to be a do-it-yourself job. Thetans or bust.