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Archive for the tag “Robert Downey Jr.”

“Iron Man 3” (2013) Review

I wasn’t really hyped to see Iron Man 3 when the first trailer was released. Truth be told, I enjoyed the first two Iron Man films, but didn’t really think they were that amazing by any means (the same goes for The Avengers). Sure, Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect fit as Tony Stark, but the films often felt high on style, low on substance for me. With Iron Man 3, Marvel has gone in a different direction – this entry features less Iron Man and more Tony Stark. Does this change work for or against the new film?

Looking at the plot, Iron Man 3 succeeds in focusing more on its characters. This helps make each event more impactful, as the viewer can connect with the film’s characters. Good thing, then, that Iron Man 3 has some great new characters. The Mandarin is a well constructed character (played perfectly by Ben Kingsley) and Harley is played nicely by the young Ty Simpkins. Still, not every character is great, and the main villain, in particular, is underwhelming in motive and characterization. Despite that though, the cast as a whole does a great job bringing the characters to life and Robert Downey Jr remains an absolutely perfect Tony Stark.

This focus on characters causes a shift in typical “superhero” film content. The majority of the plot is centered on Tony Stark outside of his suit. That is not to say that there isn’t any action in the film (there is, and it looks awesome), but there is much less of it. This will certainly turn off some fans, though this change was a breath of fresh air for me.

One thing "Iron Man 3" always has going for it is Robert Downey Jr. - he has always been a perfect choice for the character and fit the personality of Tony Stark perfectly.

One thing “Iron Man 3” always has going for it is Robert Downey Jr. – he has always been a perfect choice for the character and fit the personality of Tony Stark perfectly.

As far as the other components of the film go, the cinematography is fairly standard. There are some incredible shots during the more frantic action sequences, and the chaos looks beautiful. Despite this, you know exactly what to expect going in, and the presentation of the film does nothing to break free of the general “superhero blockbuster” standards. This goes dually for the soundtrack, which features some intense compositions, but again feels like I’ve heard it in every other Marvel hero film.

In the end, Iron Man 3 combines some genre standards and adds a few twists to them (mainly its focus on characters and not on action). This works in the film’s favor, as this newest entry into the Iron Man series feels more fresh than its counterparts. Despite its many typical pieces, the formula of sarcastic humor combined stunning action sequences works for Iron Man 3 (as it did for its past entries). What sets this third film apart from and ahead of the previous two is its choice to take a risk and focus more on Tony Stark and less on Iron Man. It’s just a shame that a better central villain wasn’t present, or even some better characterization. Thus, as it stands, Iron Man 3 is the best entry in the series (for me), but still lacks the pieces it needs to move from being a good film to a great one.

Final Score: 6.8/10

“Zodiac” (2007) Review

Zodiac cover

Films based on real crime cases, in particular serial killers, are always tough to make work. This especially holds true when the investigations and murders span longer periods of time. With “Zodiac”, David Fincher tries to capture the events that transpired during the Zodiac murders and one of the most believed theories on the identity of the Zodiac himself. While the case itself is quite interesting, the film struggles in some keys areas that bring down the overall experience.

The main issue with “Zodiac” is the way it is put together. The film is already considered long at a runtime over 2.5 hours, yet it’s not the true runtime that is the issue – the movie just feels drawn out. This is mainly due to the plot being fairly disjointed and an abundance of unnecessary and meaningless scenes. At some point, you are left hoping the conclusion is right around the corner…

This disjointed plot pattern pulls down not the pacing, but the overall story as well. The true story, serial killer thriller genre is something that is hard to really do right, as most of these big cases span many years, with many details in the files. That being said, for how long “Zodiac” feels, I never really felt like I had all the necessary information. Names, locations, and years are all tossed about without a feel for the passage of time (outside of some minor dates flashed on-screen to signal time lapses) which results in the viewer becoming somewhat disoriented. If the unnecessary scenes were removed, the additional time might have allowed for some deeper dialogue and better time movement, ultimately enhancing the experience. As it stands, you get the overall story, but lose some of the details along the way.

Moving away from the plot, I have to say that the cast David Fincher brought together is great. From Jake Gyllenhaal, to Mark Ruffalo, to Robert Downey Jr., the cast all give wonderful performances that bring this case to life. Without this kind of emotion and believability to the characters,  the film would not be that engaging – the actors/actresses really save this story from its pacing and functional issues.

One of the high points of "Zodiac" is the great performances given by the all-star cast David Fincher assembled.

One of the high points of “Zodiac” is the great performances given by the all-star cast David Fincher assembled.

Another high point is Fincher’s cinematography. His angles/movement and ability to highlight some details of his characters through camera work  also help keep the viewer’s attention in a similar way as the acting (though not as important). Oddly, having seen some mention of the gruesome nature of the film, I expected some graphic sequences. However, compared to my assumptions, the film was fairly tame in the violence department (though my sensitivity may be dulled by some more recent adventures, such as “Drive”).

Lastly, I must mention the soundtrack which has its ups and downs. At times, the music is a throwback to the music of the times, or is just right to set an ominous mood. At others, the feel just seems off (for example, an intense scene involving a frantic search through records becomes almost comedic).

“Zodiac” is a decent film, and for certain tastes, could be quite tense. For me, it just had too many missteps to truly succeed. While I enjoyed watching the case unfold, the myriad of plot issues, along with the soundtrack hiccups, kept me from becoming totally engaged.

Final Score: 5.8/10

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