It’s not alive
It’s a beautiful darkened red
And yet it smells like life
And suddenly, it all seems okay again.
The Wind Against Us
Jellyfish Suicide Pact
I remember thinking a few weeks ago that “term 2 of grade 12 will be the hardest term I have all year”. That considered, I suppose things are easier in perspective.
But goddamn do I want to see the end of May.
a gaping gap between spaces; emptiness’ antithesis
i collide and collide again
once more for good luck
and once more for concussion,
bleeding, and eternity
So this is pretty much what I do when I am not writing books.
I suppose that you have to reach a point in your life where you can accept that some popular pieces of artistic entertainment have merits, and there is actually good reason behind the popularity of said works. Of course, there will always be popular things that are popular for the wrong reasons – and those deserve no mercy, but rather to be critiqued and cut down for all their worth. Thankfully, Iron Man Three – in all its popularity – fits into the former category: It’s popular for many of the right reasons.
I’m not, of course, going to just go ahead and posit IM3 as some sort of artistic marvel (gettit), or put it on the same pedestal as The Dark Knight in terms of comic book films, or action movies in general. No, it’s not a ground-breaking piece of cinema, and Shane Black certainly makes no effort to transcend the film’s genre like Nolan did with his Knight trilogy – but it stands on its own two feet nonetheless, as a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
Iron Man, even in its comic-book-exclusive days, has always been, essentially, a drawn-out tale of redemption. Tony Stark’s flaws are what make him interesting after all; they’re what improve the narrative beyond its existence as a mere tale of Good vs. Evil, or Iron Man vs. Comic-Book Villain. And this movie takes a good stab at touching on each of these flaws: it’s Stark’s narcissism, womanising, alcoholism, and arrogance that ultimately create the main villain of the plot. Those character traits are his demons, as he describes them in a voice-over narration. The focus on these ‘demons’ ultimately results in a rather powerful character arc for Downey Jr.’s character that has resonated through the entire Iron Man trilogy, but particularly shines in this final instalment.
Of course, IM3 doesn’t try to be subtle about it – and I suppose the overt nature of the themes and messages does detract from the film a little bit. But on the other hand, the movie is very self-aware of its nature in this regard. “Subtlety is over” is a line paraphrased and quoted multiple times throughout the film – Iron Man is always on show; a spectacle. So too is every aspect of the film – it’s stylish, and there are even some praise-worthy pieces of cinematography scattered throughout the runtime.
It’s well-written, too. The dialogue is consistently funny, as we’ve come to expect from Marvel films; Tony Stark’s character particularly. The writing doesn’t just shine through the humour – helped by the outstanding-as-always performance of Robert Downey Jr. – but also manages to even be heartfelt from time to time. I think this use of emotion is worthy of praise in the context of a Marvel film, even though it’s not particularly great. For instance, there’s a certain father-son relationship that is built up throughout the film, and, whilst ultimately predictable in the long run, manages to subvert the audience’s expectations just enough to be interesting throughout.
Actually, I think that point is applicable to just about every aspect of Iron Man Three. It’s predictable in the long run, but manages to subvert your expectations often enough when it comes to the details to remain engaging.
That is not to say that the predictability is always forgivable. Unfortunately, the final battle is about ten minutes too long, during which time the filmmakers try to build tension that simply can’t exist because they signposted certain details too heavily for the conclusion to even possibly catch you off-guard. This makes the climax a weak link for the movie, and my confusion regarding the film-logic peaked when the main villain yelled out that he was indeed the main villain as if any of the characters onscreen needed a reminder (which they didn’t).
The epilogue comes as a bit of a shock, though, and a few of the details that are tied up will probably throw you off-guard. Before you argue that this counteracts the poor filmmaking of the final battle, allow me to go on: The epilogue is too much of an epilogue. To put it bluntly, the ending of Iron Man Three makes The Dark Knight Rises look subtle. It rushes through two minutes of lazy voiceover narration and ties up every possible loose end remaining within the franchise. It cleans up every character’s arc too perfectly, and whilst being slightly satisfying, it feels – like much of the movie – far too overt.
I suppose a comic book movie isn’t exactly meant to speak to a legion of filmgoers who deal in subtlety, but I figured that the film could have at least gone for a cleverer route than voiceover. The post-credits scene justifies the filmmaking technique to a degree, though I’d argue that it’s still lazy. The excuse does not justify the means, especially when said explanation is tagged on the end of the film.
Iron Man Three is good, though. It’s not subtle, it’s doesn’t transcend genres, but it is engaging. It’s funny and even heartfelt at times in the dialogue, and some of the battle scenes really are praise-worthy. If it’s worth anything, I’d say it’s probably Marvel’s best effort so far on the big screen.
I find myself logging onto Facebook, looking for someone I want to talk to.
I stare for a while, looking at the list of “online” people. Then I ask myself: Who are you looking for, anyway?
And then I close the tab, merely to come back not twenty minutes later, seemingly for the purpose of asking myself the same question.
The observer, who says: “Hey, that isn’t quite right.”
The critic, who says: “That’s wrong, and this is why.”
And the onlooking creator, who says: “That’s wrong - and I know how I’d fix it.”
Becoming sensitive to the nuances of the Deus Ex Machina is like losing a bit of my childhood naivety; the magic of so many stories is lost on me in an instant.
I was in love with her, and she was yet to speak a word. I suppose it had been the way she’d drifted across the flashing dance floor, caressing its shadows with the tips of her toes. The manner in which her arms lusted for the sky whenever they weren’t around my neck – before they found their smooth, five-fingered ends on my chest, colliding loosely with my skin. Then they’d fall away, like effervescent asteroids, glittering in the atmosphere as she’d spin away from me, throwing herself onto another man. She’d not be gone long. One, two, maybe three men later she’d return; always back to me.
They were unspoken, the terms of our closeness. Our love was silent, shared, pleasurable; it was entangled with the 4/4 beat of the bass behind us; it danced between the limbs and bodies of every lone and coupled dancer, whilst remaining inherently our own. She would share it in small whiffs with other men. She’d steal their attention with her eye shadow, lipstick, short dress. She’d tell them that “yes, I am beautiful”, and they would melt under her touch. They would pour onto the dance floor, and trip her up in their wake – “I am not yours, fool” – they would reach out to her in their shaken, liquid forms… That is when they would see me.
Me, in my suave, uppity form. A suit among scum. The clothes have made me who I am – and it was I who chose the clothes. She came back to me; she did not say a word to me, not like these other men. We had an understanding, and it was not to be defined by words. None such simplicities could bear weight on a night like this.
We are cooling it by the drinks table. She’s a bombshell in red, and her martini reflects her chest, exaggerating her form. I gaze into the glass as she converses with another man, merely metres away. Teasing me. Playing with my desires, my mind, my hopes. I stand amiably, I look polite, I don’t drink – I haven’t drunk since my father and his incident (the incident that convinced me to not drink anymore). I watch as everyone fuels themselves with the thick, mind-numbing liquid, and I see them as only fools. They will surely fall, when that time comes; I shall rise above all, just as I do now. The status quo shall be maintained, and they shall know their wrongdoings, and I shall be made known for my righteousness.
My fingers are tugged, intertwining, gripping. Her eyes greet me, both dark and bright in their frames of makeup. I find the seductress’ tongue within me, and mine is in her shortly thereafter. The guy from before is gone; he has submitted – he acknowledges my power as I and she have known it for the night’s entirety. I open my eyes whilst she wraps herself around me, and I see scum. I see people vomiting over one another in dark corners; I see people shooting up where there are already far too many red darted marks decaying their flesh; I see haunted ghosts remaining in party lights, toeing the party line. I feel her thigh against mine and I rub between her legs. I see those who aren’t so self-absorbed in their own decrepit uselessness watch us as we entangle against the drinks table. I relish in their attention – she does too: she gets louder.
These were the first sounds she’d spoken to me tonight directly, and really they weren’t for me, but for everyone. I could never let our relationship become so personal.
A man rushes up to us: aggressive, stomping, hungry – “you said you’d be mine tonight, Nora” – I feel her arms push my chest upwards, without a trace of sex in the motion. “I did, didn’t I” – she pauses – “okay, let’s go.” She pushes again, and she’s gone. He has his arm around her, and with his words, he’s whisked her away. What mediocrity. What bullshit. Our night had been defined by actions – his by a command. He did not exude confidence; he did not exude a fucking thing. Not a fucking thing. And he was gone, and I was slamming the table, and she was gone, too.
“Nora” – that was what he’d said – what bullshit. She was meant to be anonymous. That was the fun. That was what had made her special. The selfish cocksucker. The things he was doing to her – they would be nothing compared to my capabilities. And she would know that, subliminally. I think she’d have to know that. A ringing voice in her ear as she’s gasping and sighing - “remember that nameless man in that suit and his glowing smile? Imagine what he could be doing right now.”
And in unison, we’d both be imagining. The difference was that I’d be doing it alone.