Comments on the Deadline story where Black got the official "He's directing!":
"Kick ass! Great choice. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was a lot of smart fun."
"Finally, The Iron Man franchise in capable hands…"
"I dunno. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was pretty much Robert Downey Jr’s comeback film. He’s huge now. And when asked who he wouldn’t mind working with, I don’t think Shane Black is that much of a stretch. The guy writes some of the biggest blockbusters ever. And KKBB was very under appreciated. (Great use of Val Kilmer too)."
"Although I think IM1 + 2 are great, SB is a much needed jolt to the IM franchise. Good choice!"
"Love Shane, he’s a great choice. Perfect opportunity to explore Stark’s “demons” and take IM to a deeper level character-wise."
"Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang stands as one of the most underrated and overlooked pictures of the last decade. Hopefully this gives him the clout to pen a sequel."
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black; Drew Pearce
They didn't bother changing his facial hair from the flashback to the present: Robert Downey Jr
Ad libbed every scene?: Gwyneth Paltrow
Rox: Don Cheadle
Great work!: Guy Pearce
Looked a shit ton like Black Widow: Rebecca Hall
WAY TOO SELF-AWARE AND CHEESY: Jon Favreau
Stole the movie, as far as I'm concerned: Ben Kingsley
He was cool: James Badge Dale
Terrifying: Stephanie Szostak
Go Jarvis: Paul Bettany
Endearing and simultaneously annoying?: Ty Simpkins
What It's Good For:
-if you want more Robert Downey Jr. and less Iron Man
-avoiding Tony Stark being in his Iron Man costume
-Guy Pearce fans
-people who hoped this wouldn't suck as much as Iron Man 2
-Lethal Weapon fans
-seeing a bunch of Iron Man suits
-the whole "demon" theme is interesting
-there's 100 times more Downey Jr. than there is Iron Man
-totally subverts Iron Man's greatest villain and renders him as nothing, thus killing any future stories in this continuity
-plot involves a "smarter-than-your-average-kid" kid...
-wraps up things at the end way too easily and nicely
-terrorist plot could hit too close to home for some people
-way too much like Lethal Weapon
How are the Lethal Weapon movies defined? What's the one consistent element through the four films?
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
To that end, on the most generic level imaginable, the second and third acts of Iron Man 3 resemble Lethal Weapon. Why? Because we have Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle sneaking around and running around and shooting guns and being contentious and bantering.
"Is that all the comparisons you've got? I thought you were better than this."
Oh, you know I am.
Let me state this now: BOTH MOVIES TAKE PLACE LEADING UP TO CHRISTMAS AND CONCLUDE ON CHRISTMAS.
So now we have: a similar pairing of characters + both films take place at Christmas.
In LW, Riggs, played by Mel Gibson, is battling a psychological breakdown as the result of his wife's death. Tony Stark is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the events of The Avengers. Both characters are witty, sarcastic, challenging, awesome at what they do, totally unconventional in how they operate, and both are on the brink of total psychological collapse.
Similar pairing + both films take place at Christmas + Riggs and Stark are pretty much the same character.
If Riggs and Stark are similar, what about Murtaugh and James Rhodes? Come on. Both are more traditional, by-the-book dudes. Both are always on the receiving end of jokes made by their "loud" partners.
Similar pairing + both films take place at Christmas + Riggs and Stark are pretty much the same character + Rhodes and Murtaugh have similar defining features and play similar crucial support roles.
Similar pairing + both films take place at Christmas + Riggs and Stark are pretty much the same character + Rhodes and Murtaugh have similar defining features and play similar crucial support role + mercenary henchmen + second-in-command henchmen are major antagonists.
Iron Man 3 stews in terrorism. We have the bombing at the Chinese theater, we have the bomb in Tennessee, we have the hit on Tony Stark, we have The Mandarin shooting someone live on TV, we have the breaching of Air Force One and the kidnapping of the President of the United States.
Check out the following scene:
Similar pairing + both films take place at Christmas + Riggs and Stark are pretty much the same character + Rhodes and Murtaugh have similar defining features and play similar crucial support role + mercenary henchmen + second-in-command henchmen are major antagonists + grandiose acts of violence against the public
I think the most alarming change in Shane Black helming Iron Man: the amount of murder. Now Iron Man had bad guys being killed, but think of the scenarios: terrorists who have imprisoned Tony Stark and tortured him, terrorists who are actively murdering villagers, and, last, Obadiah fucking Stane. Iron Man 2 had even less killing. Just a bunch of robots. Let me preface this next bit by saying: I'm down with killing bad guys in movies. Especially 80s and 90s action movies. One of the coolest things to me about X-Men 2 was...do you know when? When the mercenaries have invaded the mansion and one encounters Wolverine. They fight. And because there was zero killing in the first X-Men movie, I expected Wolverine to knock the guy out somehow and move on. Nope. Wolverine impales the dude.
Who is Tony Stark killing in Iron Man 3? Random henchmen at a mansion. These aren't terrorists who have kidnapped and tortured him. These aren't terrorists in the middle of attacking a village full of innocents. These aren't the masterminds who have engineered countless deaths. These are just...glorified security guards. We haven't seen them do anything bad. We can assume they're bad since they're employed by The Mandarin? But what about the first two guards Tony kills? Did they do anything wrong? Maybe they did? Maybe they didn't? What struck me is how mercilessly Tony dispatches them. With homemade bombs no less. The one was already unconscious! Tony blows up his face. In the middle of the henchmen massacre, one guy throws up his hands and says, "Honestly, I hate working here. They are so weird." Tony lets this guy run away. Here's the relevant question, then: who is to say the first two guys Tony murdered weren't of the same disposition? Sure, a lot of the bad guys were shooting at Tony and Tony had to do what Tony had to do...but were all the bad guys evil? This article from Den of Geek gets at why I'm interested in Tony's lack of remorse. All the Spider-Man movies make a big deal about death. All of Nolan's Batman movies make a big deal about death. Even Murtaugh makes a big deal about killing.
Even Shane Black in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang had Downey Jr's character react to killing. Not so, here. Here, Tony Stark has reached a level where he lacks remorse. "All the Extremis subjects are former US soldiers who were wounded on duty? Should we have Tony Stark try to talk with them, try to offer to help them? Nah. Let's just have Jarvis-operated Iron Man suits murder them." In Shane Black's Iron Man movie, Tony Stark is a sociopath. It's no longer a question, no longer a "what-if". This poster, created as a joke, is applicable:
Now we can debate whether or not Riggs is a sociopath. He's definitely unhinged, but is he a sociopath? I don't know. But what I do know is that Black has made Tony Stark a way more remorseless killer than in either of the previous movies.
Similar pairing + both films take place at Christmas + Riggs and Stark are pretty much the same character + Rhodes and Murtaugh have similar defining features and play similar crucial support role + mercenary henchmen + second-in-command henchmen are major antagonists + grandiose acts of violence against the public + main character showing little remorse for killing.
Remember when Rhodes is chained with his hands over his head and tortured so he leaves his suit? Isn't it sort of familiar to this scene (see below)? Remember how Tony is simultaneously held prisoner (while Rhodes is being tortured)? All the while Pepper Potts has been taken prisoner by Rebecca Hall/Guy Pearce? What do we have in Lethal Weapon?
Similar pairing + both films take place at Christmas + Riggs and Stark are pretty much the same character + Rhodes and Murtaugh have similar defining features and play similar crucial support role + mercenary henchmen + second-in-command henchmen are major antagonists + grandiose acts of violence against the public + main character showing little remorse for killing + both male protagonists captured by antagonists and tortured before they're able to escape + loved one taking prisoner by bad guy and used to attempt to manipulate protagonist
Last and least important of all. Both final fights take place by ugly makeshift Christmas trees. In IM3, it's the Christmas tree the President is strung up above. In LW it's the pole-and-light combo in the front yard.
Power in narrative comes from two places.
1. Creating Status Quo.
2. Breaking Status Quo.
This is the major difference between first films and sequels. The first film ALWAYS establishes status quo. Most second films do nothing to change status quo. Or the changes made are superficial. Look at Jurassic Park to Lost World to Jurassic Park III. It's always "Good guys trying to survive" and "bad guys trying to take dinosaurs". In the first movie, it's Nedry stealing the DNA. In LW it's the corporation trying to take live dinosaurs to a zoo in San Diego. In JP3, it's the assistant trying to steal raptor eggs. STOP DOING THE SAME THING. The status quo mutates in these movies but never evolves or transforms.
I'm not saying every first film is good. Obviously there are bad movies. And even when movies change the status quo they can still suck. Spider-Man 3 attempted a status quo change with the black costume, which was a great idea brutally murdered by details and tensions Sam Raimi thought people would enjoy. Not to mention Tobey Maguire looking like this:
Iron Man established Iron Man. It gave us a Marvel Universe. SHIELD. There was all kinds of potential. Where has the status quo gone from here?
Iron Man 2 cements Pepper and Tony as a couple. War Machine arrives. Tony Stark perfects the arc reactor. Automated Bad Iron Man suits. Some backstory about Stark's dad. The bad guy introduced is killed.
Iron Man 3 does what? Pepper and Tony are suffering as a couple. Some backstory about Stark. War Machine is painted and renamed: Iron "let's not use one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe" Patriot. Automated Good Iron Man suits. Bluetooth Iron Man suit control. Super soldiers. The bad guy introduced is killed. (A great mini-quo shift is with The Mandarin. We go from thinking he's The Evil Dude to him being a stupid actor. Great shift. Except we already knew Guy Pearce was the bad guy, so the potential in the revelation is lessened. Instead of creating mystery surrounding who the bad guy is (like in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) we're left to wonder "What will Guy Pearce do now?".)
Let me tell you why Status Quo is the key to narrative power. Potential. When we don't know anything, there's potential for everything. It's like exploring a new town or city. That's why creating status quo is interesting.
Destroying status quo is interesting because it then allows you to create NEW status quo. What will happen now? For example. My home town had six pizza places. Then a new plaza went up near the grocery store. There were 6 empty buildings. WHAT WOULD GO IN THERE?! Shopping places? Fancy restaurants? A fast food place we didn't have? Guess what went in there. A beauty parlor, a flower shop, an accountant, a tanning salon, nothing (yeah, nothing), and A FUCKING PIZZA PLACE. It lasted two years and went out of business. What would replace it? Turns out: a good restaurant.
Iron Man 2 at least gave us Pepper and Tony as a couple. We felt something momentous had happened. War Machine? Totally squandered; barely does anything; there's new status quo that's underdeveloped...then underused in the next movie, too. Sure it's an Iron Man movie (which means writers think we have to ALWAYS stick to the main character...sigh). But that doesn't mean we can't figure out a plot that uses War Machine for more than 3 minutes. Stark's involvement with his father is dropped in IM3. And what's the point of perfecting the arc reactor? The new status quo doesn't lead anywhere. Sure, the old reactor was poisoning Stark, so the new one saves his life...but uh...that's an arbitrary problem someone made up to be a point of conflict in the plot. Someone could have easily have said: "the arc reactor isn't poisonous! Let's think of something ONE MILLION times more interesting than that plot. Like...Iron Man is overcommitted. So the first half an hour of the movie we're just seeing him take on mission after mission after mission. He's wearing down and wearing out. Enemies not only continue cropping up, they're now maneuvering with him in mind. Decoy strikes in one area to lure him. Instead of bullets, high powered tasers. Lasers. Booby trapped hideouts. He can't do it on his own. Thus: War Machine. Tony is fighting for GLOBAL PEACE. The last wrench in the operation: Anton Vanko. Vanko joins forces with an enemy group and starts working on enemy Iron Men. He also knows the arc reactor. Creates one. Creates many. Now the weapons Iron Man and War Machine are encountering become too much. There's only one way around it: escalation. Tony has to create better weapons (which he has qualms with, we know, after the last movie). The weapons improve, but Vanko goes for the kill. He creates things that drain Arc energy. Fuck. Now Tony is in trouble. The ground he had gained in Global Peace is taken back by the enemy. Tony struggles to create a new reactor, a stronger one. He can't. This is when he learns about his dad's original research into the arc reactor. Learns more about his father. Tony only new part of the design! Here he goes...New reactor, new suit with sweeter capabilities. Climax with insane battle sequence utilizing newfound tech. Global peace is achieved. Which makes, come The Avengers, the arrival of Loki EVEN MORE OF A SHOCK AND GUT PUNCH FOR STARK. Just when Stark thinks he has saved the Earth, he has to fight gods and aliens. It's demoralizing, in an extreme way."
What would have happened in IM3? Stark pursues Pepper. But is simultaneously increasing his alcohol consumption. The PTSD from The Avengers keeps him out of the suit. With War Machine handling the minor conflicts in the world, Iron Man isn't needed much anyway. There's a lack of Iron Man being in the suit not because it's malfunctioning or he's been defeated or it's out of power, but because he's generally incapable of being in it. Have War Machine attacked and captured. Have Stark terrified to save Rhodey. Have Pepper and Stark officially dating but she's horrified by the two men she sees: Who Tony Was and Alcoholic Tony. It's a terrifying story in the fact it shows the Iron Man armor is only as good as the man inside of it. And that while Tony has been Iron Man on the outside, he has yet to solidify himself as Iron Man on the inside.
"But where's the action?!?!" There'll be ways to get it in there. Mostly via War Machine and other subplots. Or even in Tony's head. In alcoholic delusions and dreams. Surreal Iron Man battles and contests. And you know what? People would respect the fuck out of this movie.
This is what I'm talking about in terms of status quo creation and destruction. What saves Tony from his demons and the alcohol? Pepper. When she's needed the most, when he is at his absolute worst, that's when she's there to love him and see him through. This is when their relationship loses its working dynamic, even the hesitant initial dating dynamic, this is when she turns into his savior. Everything they have been, all the witty banter and routine dependence is washed away, because at the end of the day all of that was superficial. They form stronger, more intimate bonds.
So in the second movie we would have established global peace and War Machine and Tony would have eclipsed his former work, work that had started to become replicated by another. In the third movie, we'd tear down the character, who is bored and haunted, and render him incapable of being the man he was. This brings him love he has always been too afraid to accept. In the second movie he had to solidify his external-self, in this third film the inner-self finds cohesion and peace.
Instead, what do we get? A destroyed mansion, Pepper Potts gaining super strength for 1 minute, and Tony getting the shrapnel removed from his chest. Whoopdy do!
Did I Like It:
Sure. It could have and should have been so much better. At least it was better than the second movie. I do think Black had a really interesting subplot going on with Stark and the Iron Man. There are many shots, scattered throughout the movie, of Stark being outside the Armor as it's operating. When Stark is sleeping, he wakes up to the Armor in his face, grabbing Pepper. The Armor is going to hurt Pepper! Then there's Tony putting the Armor ON Pepper. She wears it to save him. Then, when he puts it on, it fails him. There's no flight capability. Down Tony goes. Even then, the suit saves him by literally giving him a hand: the hand of the suit disengages, takes Tony's hand, and pulls Tony from the water. Impressive. This subplot is concluded when Tony sees the mask on the ground, after the fight with Guy Pearce. The mask has a fire in it. It's staring right at Tony. Tony is staring at it. The flame writhes out from one eye.
Seriously: the scenes with Jon Favreau were like...something straight out of Spider-Man 3 (I know of no worst insult). Maybe there's some humor we can take from it? But can you seriously say to me that "More Jon Favreau" was the best thing for the movie? Did anyone want those scenes? I'm not saying there shouldn't have been any Jon Favreau...just...not SPIDER-MAN 3 JON FAVREAU.
Can we talk about how both IM2 and IM3 end with lots of AI controlled Iron Men? Isn't that a little cheap?
In the third installment war: as much as I talked shit about The Dark Knight Rises, I think TDKR is better. Maybe? I'd have to re-watch TDKR. The plot holes could still be too ridiculous for me. But at least it Status Quo shifts are more meaningful than IM3.