Iron Man 3: snappy, fast-paced, and surprisingly vulnerable

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you will, no doubt, be aware of Hollywood’s latest obsession with superhero movies. Almost every second month, another one hits the big screen. But despite this now regular occurrence, cinema-goers have yet to tire of the genre, with each new creation raking in the mega-bucks. Iron Man 3 is no different.

Enter Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr); the witty, self-deprecating, bad-boy billionaire anti-hero. First introduced to the masses five years ago in the blockbuster Iron Man, Tony is as charismatic as ever, but, character-wise, is a long way from the carefree hero we once knew.

In Iron Man 3, Tony is still reeling from THAT final scene in The Avengers. (If you have’t seen it, I won’t ruin it for you. You can read my review of The Avengers here and decide whether or not to rent it).

Referring to it as the “New York” incident, Tony’s basically suffering from a bad dose of post-traumatic stress disorder — the sort of psychological damage that’s generally denied most superheroes and, in my opinion, what sets Tony apart from the others on this occasion.

The symptoms, which include panic attacks, insomnia, and night terrors, all take their toll on his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) causing Tony to spend most of his time creating more Iron Man suits and leaving civilian-saving duties to Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).

But when new threats are revealed in terrorist leader The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and bitter scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), Tony must figure out a way to save himself, and the World, from the powers of evil.

Throughout the movie, Director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), takes full advantage of Downey’s gift for snappy one-liners and fast-talking banter. He also does something not many other superhero directors attempt to do; he spends a lot of screen time focusing on Tony’s anxiousness and vulnerability. We see him as a man with real emotions, and a man who realizes what’s important — the people he loves.

All in all, a great movie that does nothing to make me tire of the superhero genre. Exceptional cast, breathtaking special effects, and many a laugh-out-loud moment. As with all the Marvel movies, stick around for the credits and you’ll find a final scene… which promises to tie in nicely with 2015’s sequel to The Avengers. I, for one, cannot wait.

Prometheus: even Fassbender can’t save it

Prometheus, widely anticipated as the must-see movie of the month, hit cinemas last week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the film many of us thought it was going to be.

In this prequel, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace plays religious scientist Elizabeth Shaw. Shaw, along with her colleague and lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), discovers a pattern in ancient cave drawings, leading them to believe the human race was engineered by physically and genetically similar beings from another world. Attracting the financial assistance of a dying billionaire, Shaw and Holloway take charge of a spaceship and follow their ‘map’ to a distant moon.

From start to finish, this movie is an excellent visual spectacle. I’m saddened to report, however, that that’s all it is. Not only does this film not live up to the hype surrounding it, but it actually fails to pass for an enjoyable film in its own right.

It’s difficult to outline this films many faults and failings without exposing a wealth of spoilers… but there are some absolutely huge holes in this shabbily put together plot. The motivation behind some characters key decisions are never explained and some scenes/characters/discussions are utterly pointless and add nothing to the story.

Idris Elba gives a very enjoyable performance as the Captain of the spaceship, but a lack of character development means that you won’t really give a damn about him or any decision he makes. Charlize Theron also gives an enjoyable, if stiff, performance… but again, there’s not nearly enough development there. Guy Pearce plays the aforementioned dying billionaire but even he can’t bring this dead husk of a character to life. His ability is completely wasted in this lacklustre storyline.

Michael Fassbender is the one saving grace of this film in his role as the mannerly and scholarly robot David. At times he his creepy, knowledgeable and darkly humorous but, in true psychopathic form, is neither bad nor good. Fassbender’s performance is captivating and unique and he really brings something unique to the table. The same can be said, to an extent, of the female lead, Noomi Rapace. To be sure, nobody is going to confuse her for the next Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), but Rapace does an admirable job in the lead role none the less.

Regardless of performances, the entire film fails to deliver anything but a visually pleasing reboot of a franchise that should have been left alone. The horrific magnificence of both Alien and Aliens is their directness. They are primal thrillers and questions of life and philosophy tend to take a back seat when you’ve a xenomorph attached to your face.

All in all, Prometheus has been the biggest disappointment of 2012 so far. If you’re just looking to pass two hours of your day, by all means, take a look… but don’t expect it to live up to the hype.

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