Considering that writer-director Shane Black is known for tongue-in-cheek humour and action movies, the Iron Man franchise seems right up his alley. Throw in the fact that he started Downey’s career comeback with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the glove fits so well that it’s practically tailored for him. But why Black specifically? Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, two sequels to blockbuster franchises, turned to B-list lightweights upon the departure of their high-profile directors. This allowed the heavy involvement of producers during pre-production/filming in their efforts to guarantee the one thing that matters to them: profit. In comparison, Black is an auteur known for mixing genre conventions with elements of dark comedy (with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon); hiring him as a director is a risky decision that could have potentially spelled the death of the franchise.
This is where I’d like to address the “accumulation of absurdity,” or the “rise of bulls**t” for those of you that don’t mind the taste of soap. Over the course of any franchise or long-existing series, sequels aim to be bigger and better than its preceding installment. As a case study, let’s take a look at the Die Hard series. The first movie is commonly regarded as a classic, merging the adrenaline of action movies, the average American, and themes of family and pop culture; the story takes place at the Nakatomi Plaza, where terrorists have taken over a skyscraper in attempts to steal millions of dollars. Afterwards, in Die Hard 2, John McClane returns to save his wife at an airport.
In the sequels after, he saves the city of New York in Die Hard with a Vengeance, America in Live Free or Die Hard, and even Russia in A Good Day to Die Hard. With every passing Die Hard installment, the camera gets shakier, the dialogue gets blander, and the action blurs to the point where the film becomes nothing but a string of noise and fire. As the movies gradually decline in quality, the original themes of the first movie fade away as well. Maybe the producers at Marvel Studios and Disney were sick of the same summer movie sequelitis that plagued so many other franchises. Comparatively, Black doesn’t seem like such an oddball choice, but possibly the most qualified person for the job.
Desserts, like movies, are luxuries that open up a world of enlightenment and artistry to anyone who participates. Hollywood, with its many intellectual properties, tend to hand out tarts when its customers are expecting bakery-fresh pies. Iron Man 3, on the other hand, shares the most resemblance with a fortune cookie. Like the Mandarin says in the movie, fortune cookies are just American knockoffs that leave a bad taste in your mouth. There are a lot of questionable components in Iron Man 3: the main antagonist is a soulless cliché, the plot twists and turns with exaggeration, and side characters come and go for the sake of raising the stakes. Even Stark’s good friend Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) falls asleep during his anecdote in Marvel’s usual post-credits scene. But like a fortune cookie, there’s something satisfying with watching Iron Man 3 unfold. It might be Black’s dry wit, or simply just Downey’s charm. Love it or hate it, one fact is apparent: the movie is certainly clever.