Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Iron Man 3 (2013)

[In this continuing series, yours truly will attempt to post at least one substantial... thing... per day. This is Day 1 (because the announcement day doesn't count.]

This isn't so much a belated review as it is a belated rant.

Iron Man 3 was mediocre, though it was better than Part Deux (not saying much, is it?). Some slow moments were surprisingly not draggy (kid didn't annoy me), some ridiculous (on second thought) moments seemed cool (Pepper getting Extremis? Ha! ha!), and it passingly acknowledged that the Avengers exist when a small child asked Tony how he got out of the wormhole. Plot niggles aside, in a nutshell it wasn't as 'meh' as I'd expected, but neither did it meet expectations.

All because of the twist.

In the comics, the Mandarin was Iron Man's arch-nemesis, and he has ten magical rings, each with their own special power. Modelled after Fu Manchu (long robes, slit-eyes, goatee, long pointy fingernails), conceptually it may sound silly but the Mandarin often gave Tony a run for his money, simply because he was intellectually at par (or better!) with Tony and he was ruthless enough to carry out his evil deeds.

In short, he was to Tony what Lex Luthor is to Superman. What the Joker is to Batman.

So I was excited when I found out that the Mandarin will finally make an appearance in the third Iron Man movie. And when initial casting news said that Andy Lau will be playing a Chinese doctor/scientist, I got even more excited. I mean, you can't be having Andy Lau play a random doctor for five seconds, there's gotta be some kind of pay-off, right?

Even after Lau was re-cast, I still held out hope that there will be a twist somewhere involving the Mandarin, and then I would have self-bragging rights (because really, who would believe me?) that I was right about Ben Kingsley not being the real Mandarin.

Boy, was I hella wrong. And not in a good way.

In the movie, the Mandarin is just a "concept" created by the real villain, who doesn't even have rings. Apparently, the makers found it fit to degrade the Ultimate Mandarin into a complete and utter fake (by that I don't even mean that it's a pseudonym or anything like that), opting instead for fan-service instead of fan-tribute. I'm referring to the scene where Guy Pearce, with Chinese dragons all over his chest (like, whut?), yells that he's the Mandarin.

Pace-wise, it's out of sync. Guy Pearce waited until he and Tony were in the midst of the boss-fight, before declaring that he's the Mandarin. It's like an ad-lib, except that it'd be an insult to Guy Pearce's ad-libbing skills because I think he can come up with something far, far better than plain ol' simple, "I am the Mandarin!".

And it feels like a last minute dialogue decision. If you're looking to combine characters, you do that so that the new character becomes more awesome, not the other way around. Like Movie Whiplash, fr'instance. He's combined with the Crimson Dynamo, but no one seems to care (at least, I didn't) because Mickey Rourke was totally bad-ass. The Grand Prix sequence, with the two electrical whips rending cars in two? Bad- and ass.

With this movie, the writers didn't really give Guy Pearce the chance to be a yellow-faced be-ringed Extremis-ed bad-ass. He's just a glowing dude with random black Oriental dragons all over his chest that can breathe fire. (wow I just realised symbolism.)

Why, then, would you even use the Mandarin as a character in the movie the first place?

I read an interview with the director that the makers chose this direction with the Mandarin because they didn't want to perpetuate the Fu Manchu stereotype.

What bollocks.

If you can 'update' Jarvis and make him an omnipresent computer system (on paper, he's a very human butler), you can certainly update the Mandarin to be a Chinese businessman in an Armani suit with a penchant for the occult (read: rings), and if needed, he can command an army full of Chinese men and stuff.

[Personally, I don't think Hollywood gives a Fu about Fu; all they care about is getting past Chinese censors.]

And please don't get me wrong, I'm not crying fan-boy foul here. I'm just pissed that after two Iron Man movies with hardly any action, with Robert Downey Jr saving each film by the skin of his sarcastic teeth...


As an audience, we expect a lot from third movies, despite being continuously disappointed time and again. Iron Man 3 may overall be better than similar past outings, but then again, my definition of "going out with a bang" does not consist of 42 Mark Suits blowing up into fireworks at the same time.

That scene was so pointless.

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