Iron Man 3 – A Movie Review

(Note:  I don’t think I’ve touched on anything that hasn’t been revealed through trailers and commercials, but there are some spoilers if you’ve somehow managed to avoid promotions for the film.)

Too much Iron Man.

I never thought I’d say such a thing, but I really think we’re maybe getting a little too much Iron Man.  I loved the original Iron Man movie because it was unique in a lot of ways, but even it teetered on sabotaging itself with the Iron Monger villain as a simple imitation of the hero.  With Iron Man 2, War Machine came about as well as an entire battalion of “iron men” as villains.   Now, in Iron Man 3, while the villain is an interesting, unexpected character, Tony Stark now commands at least 42 Iron Men through remote connection and we still have War Machine/Iron Patriot.  As is the danger with any sequel, the protagonist is getting watered down and replicated to the point that he is no longer seen as especially distinctive, particularly when taking into account that much of his supporting cast are now “powered” in their own regard.    

Too much Iron Man.

However, even with that being said, there was something else about Iron Man 3 that bothered me a bit.  It just wasn’t fun.  Iron Man was a blast, and Iron Man 2, though it had some storyline issues, was still really entertaining, but Iron Man 3 seemed a little morose and humorless – it certainly didn’t meet my expectations.  I think a large part of the joylessness of it derives from the fact that Tony Stark didn’t really have anyone to talk to through much of the film.  And when he did have a chance to talk, it wasn’t under very humorous circumstances. 

Don’t misunderstand, the action was incredible and the special effects impressive, and I love what they did with The Mandarin and Killian twists, and the story was fairly tight and the motivations straight forward, but it just didn’t have the same “spark” as the previous installments.

One last thing bothered me about the film, and that’s the remote aspect of Tony piloting the Iron Man suit.  This film derived much of its core from the comic book Extremis storyline, and in that, Tony Stark gained the ability to control his suits from afar.  Just as with the book, the film ruined a lot of the adventurer aspect of the character by having him safe at one location while the suit did the heavy lifting.  When Tony Stark was in mortal peril, it was often without the suit.  I love Tony Stark, but I want him in the suit and, in fantasy stories, I need my heroes knee-deep in danger. 

Honestly, I think The Avengers handled Iron Man/Tony Stark so well that Iron Man 3 had a lot to live up to from a character standpoint, and Iron Man 3 might have come out a little too soon. 

Do we need a break from Iron Man for a while?  Perhaps. 

Too much Iron Man?

P.S.  Don’t bother sitting through the credits for the final scene.  It was funny, but certainly not worth sitting around the extra time.  Check it out on the DVD.  It’s nonessential. 







The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A Book Review

I’ll be honest, this book bored me to tears during its first three-quarters.

However, the last quarter practically moved me to tears.

The Book Thief is a prime example of getting the reader involved.  It’s filled with such minutia, it details the day-to-day lives of the characters in such great detail and at such exhausting length, that when the author finally starts dropping bombs, the men and women in this novel have become a part of your very existence and that makes their eventual fates all the more poignant.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Book Thief, it follows the story of Liesel, a young girl who is taken in by a foster family after losing her own.  Ordinarily this doesn’t sound too extraordinary, but the setting is 1939 Germany, and Liesel’s foster family, though German, hides Jews.  It just go much more interesting, didn’t it?  Furthermore, Liesel is a book lover, and though she only has a hand full, she wants more, and she’s willing to risk life and limb to get them, hence – The Book Thief.  As the months pass, we get to know Liesel better and better, we get to know her foster family, we get to know the people on her street, and we fall in love with each and every one of them without meaning to.

Perhaps the books most striking aspect is the narrator – Death himself.  Death has taken an interest in Liesel, and though he is a very busy man, especially during those days, he still pops in to see where her life is taking her.  Of course, life takes us all ultimately to him, Death, and Zusak offers no sentimentality when Death must do his duty.

I highly recommend this book, and for those who decide to take it on, please do remain resolute.  It can be a bit of a chore, but the end result makes it all worthwhile.  I wanted to put the book down on frequent occasions, but I’m so glad that I did not.  I count it amongst my favorites now, but it demands patience and attention from the reader, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly – A Book Review

Set in Brooklyn, Prince of Cats lauds itself as The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s B-Side.  Though it uses Shakespeare’s classic work as the inspiration, Prince of Cats is its own entity, a graphic novel unlike any other, an adaptation, a reimagining, a twist on a story that was already a twist itself.

And though there have been many iterations of the source material, I’ve never experienced anything quite like Prince of Cats.  Sure, the idea of the Montagues being white and the Capulets black isn’t all that innovative, but setting the play in Brooklyn during the early 80s and mixing in a little kung-fu and hip hop with ample katana blades is a step in a daring, new direction.

Furthermore, Wimberly made a masterful move when he decided not to focus upon Romeo and Juliet, but instead gives the spotlight to two incredibly important but often underestimated characters – Tybalt and Rosalyn.  I believe these are two of the driving forces of the original play, and I’ve never seen anyone give them their due like Wimberly does in Prince of Cats.

As you have probably guessed, I’m a former English major and devote a lot of time even today to studying Shakespeare.  I can tell you that Wimberly weaves Shakespeare’s original dialogue into his own seamlessly, and at times I had to double-check what was true to the play and what Wimberly did on his own.  Also, as you know, there are quite a few times in the original work when we have no idea what Tybalt is up to.  This book gives you insight into those moments, and his connection to Rosalyn is titillating.

Now, right now, a few of you are probably thinking this would be a great book to introduce into your classroom as supplemental material to your Shakespeare unit.  There are a few warnings you should heed.  There is blood in this book – lots of it.  People lose limbs.  There is language in this book – lots of it.  There is nudity in this book, and while fleeting, it is still there.  To use this in a college class is pushing it, to use it in a high school class would be dangerous for your career.

Even with that being said, it’s now counted amongst my favorite adaptations of Romeo and Juliet.  And, because of it, because of this book and the gaps that it fills in concerning Rosalyn and Tybalt, I can never look at the two characters the same way again.  Before this book, Tybalt was always a stone cold killer in my mind, a man who loved trouble and adored violence.  In Prince of Cats, there is still that aspect to him, but there’s also something more, something much more, which makes him the deserving title character of this book.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill – A Book Review

I’ve read quite a bit by Joe Hill, and I have to say that 20th Century Ghosts is his best work.  The stories in this collection are nearly perfect.  Though each belongs to “genre,” they are so original and innovative that they demand their own definition.  Some are horrifying, some are thought-provoking, some are downright romantic, but each cuts to the core of the main character and, though briefly, provides a potent insight into the protagonist that many authors fail to achieve throughout an entire novel.

I won’t say that Hill is America’s greatest author, because he isn’t, and I think he would agree with that.  But in this collection the man did everything he does best without error.  Even if you’re not a fan of “genre,” I highly recommend this book.  For aspiring writers who need to see short stories done correctly or for literature fans who need a good thrill, 20th Century Ghosts is a rewarding experience.