Avengers: Endgame Is As Good As Endings Get

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe began way back in 2008 with the first Iron Man, I was a nineteen-year-old college freshman. In the years since, I graduated from college, was the best man at a dear friend’s wedding, had four or five jobs, turned thirty, and wrote more than two hundred blog posts (this one is number 204, but who’s counting?)

Throughout my twenties, a third of my life, I’ve gone to the theater a couple times every year to see the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. Sure, many of them are far from perfect, but each movie has many things to enjoy. Throughout all these movies, I’ve come to know and love the characters, and seeing every actor reprise his or her role in each movie is like seeing an old friend again.

My attachment to these movies and their characters partly stems from the fact that I’m a lifelong reader of comics of all kinds and a superhero aficionado. Even then, many of the MCU characters were ones I had only a passing familiarity with, but since the MCU started I’ve read comics featuring many of the MCU characters, because I liked them so much that I wanted to hang out with them more. I’ve also watched a lot of movies featuring various Avengers cast members, because I liked all the actors so much too.

Whoever the casting director was who cast these actors, he/she deserves a lot of credit. In all of the literally dozens of characters that populate the MCU’s 22 movies, not once have I thought that an actor wasn’t well-suited to his or her role. And with very few exceptions, every character has been played by the same actor for the better part of a decade.

I mention all of this to illustrate how emotionally invested I am in this series. Like many people, I left last year’s Avengers movie, Infinity War, feeling like I had just been slapped in the face. The movie was amazing, and its ending left me utterly devastated. I watched Infinity War again the day before I saw Endgame, and that Spider-Man scene (you know the one) still hits me like a ton of bricks. After Infinity War ended, the idea of waiting for a year to find out what would happen next was agonizing.

Fast-forward a year and a few more movies later, and that continuation is finally here. Avengers: Endgame had a hell of a lot of expectations and hype to live up to, and it exceeded them all. From this point on, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know what happens, what are you waiting for? Go see it!

Images: Marvel/Disney

That spoiler warning is doubly important when you consider that the movie’s trailers and advertising have spoiled nothing about the plot. There were some plot details that leaked before the movie came out but I stayed as far away from those as I possibly could so I was able to see the movie completely unspoiled. And it was GLORIOUS. I LOVED Endgame. It was everything I hoped it would be. It was tense, exciting, action-packed, emotionally resonant, and most of all, fun.

It’s an amazing storytelling achievement. It resolves Infinity War’s brutal cliffhanger ending, it brings closure to the story arcs for several beloved characters, and never once feels three hours long. Yes, this movie is three hours long, and not once did I feel like it was dragging on for too long. Those three hours flew by. The story is consistently surprising, the acting is excellent, the dialogue is sharp and funny, the chemistry between the actors is strong, the relationships between the characters develop in meaningful and unexpected ways, the action sequences are thrilling, and the final epic battle is pure cinematic bliss.

The movie was directed once again by Joe and Anthony Russo, who previously helmed Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Those movies had some of the best, most intense and well-choreographed action sequences of the MCU, and the Russo brothers pulled out all the stops for Endgame. The final battle in this film is epic in every sense of the word, bringing together nearly all of the major characters for a spectacular showdown that I didn’t want to end.

Like the rest of the movie, the final battle is so full of great moments that I can’t even remember them all. Captain America is worthy of the power of Thor! Captain Marvel arrives at a crucial moment to beautifully destroy Thanos’ mothership! Valkyrie rides in on a winged horse! Thor dual-wields Mjolnir and Stormbreaker! Ant-Man rescues the Hulk! The triumphant return of the characters we lost in Infinity War! All of these moments, and so many more, are immensely satisfying and an absolute joy to behold. I don’t have enough superlatives.

The epicness comes to a tragic end, as Tony Stark uses the Infinity Stones to evaporate Thanos and his minions, in a reverse version of the Snap that Thanos unleashed in the conclusion of Infinity War. But the power of the stones was too much for Tony to handle, and he dies, surrounded by his friends and family. It’s a full-circle way to end not just the movie but a decade’s worth of movies. The series began with Tony Stark, and in many ways it ends with him too.

Which is not to say that the MCU will be ending. Endgame has already made a jaw-dropping amount of money and is well on its way to becoming the biggest movie of all time. The MCU will continue, but it will look very different. The movie also ends the story of Steve Rogers as Captain America, bringing his story to a poignant and moving conclusion. It’s hard to imagine an MCU without Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, but they will never be forgotten.

And no, I’m not forgetting about Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, who sacrifices herself so her friends can obtain one of the crucial infinity stones and her friend Hawkeye can get his family back after his wife and three kids are taken from him in the movie’s wrenching opening scene. I was expecting Tony and Steve to reach the end of their journeys, but Natasha’s death came as a complete surprise. There’s still a Black Widow movie in the works so we will probably be seeing Natasha again at least once, but it will have to be in prequel form.

There are other unexpected character beats that are less sad. Hulk, for example, was an absolute joy. It seems that Bruce Banner was able to fuse himself with the Hulk, so he now has the Hulk’s body and Bruce Banner’s personality and intelligence. I thought of him as Professor Hulk, and he was wonderful. I really want a Professor Hulk movie now, which was something I didn’t realize I wanted until I saw Endgame.

Also a joy was Fat Thor. Chris Hemsworth is very underrated as a comedic actor, and he is hilarious, slyly stealing every scene he’s in. In the years since the Snap wiped out half of all life, Thor has let himself go a little bit. He’s fat, plays videogames in his house all day, and is quite possibly a full-blown alcoholic. It’s very funny, but it’s also shocking to see him this way, since it’s the polar opposite of how we’re used to seeing Thor, since let’s face it, Chris Hemsworth is pretty much the epitome of physical perfection.

I’ve read some stupid comments online about how the movie is fat-shaming Thor or making fun of people who play video games as being fat slobs, but like with most things on the internet, such talk is utterly ridiculous. The movie isn’t fat-shaming or making fun of anyone, it’s showing that Thor is a broken man. It’s funny to see him in a way we’ve never seen him before, but it’s also tragic when you think about it because it shows how depressed and broken he is.

Another aspect of the movie I liked was how it made Hawkeye, Nebula and Ant-Man three of the most important characters. Ant-Man and The Wasp was the first MCU movie post-Infinity War, and at the time of its release it was a bit difficult to see why Marvel chose it to be the first movie to come out in the wake of Infinity War’s devastating conclusion. But as it turns out, that movie introduced a key plot element that is very important in Endgame, and it ends up being Ant-Man’s idea that helps the Avengers bring back everyone they lost in Infinity War.

Yes, there is time travel in this movie, and it can get a bit messy. But I find it’s best not to get too bogged down with the logistics of time travel and just enjoy the ride. The time travel shenanigans lead to the Avengers revisiting the events of previous movies, and I thought it was awesome to see things from earlier movies that we didn’t see before, like the aftermath of the battle of New York from the first Avengers movie. I also liked how all of their intricate plans end up going awry in various ways, and there are scenarios like Tony Stark running into his dad or Steve Rogers having a fight with his past self.

Avengers: Endgame is a big, complex beast of a movie, and it can be a little overwhelming at times. There’s a lot to digest, and I’m sure that fans will be debating many aspects of its story for years to come. I can’t wait to see it again and pick up on things I missed the first time. It’s a hugely satisfying movie. It rewards the fans with an epic conclusion that is fun and exciting but also moving, and it doesn’t lose track of its characters amongst all the spectacle. A tip of the hat is due to writers Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely. Telling a coherent story with so many characters and such a complex plot, not to mention huge fan expectations, must have been an incredibly difficult balancing act, but they pulled it off with aplomb.

I will miss the characters we lost, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the MCU. The only MCU movie that currently has a release date is Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is due for release on July 2. Marvel hasn’t announced release dates for more movies past that, but I’m sure they will eventually. It’s been a heck of a ride, and Marvel has managed to fulfill the promise of its shared superhero universe with more success than anyone could have predicted.

Until next time, true believers!

Avengers Infinity War: The End of the Beginning

The screen cut to black, and the credits started to roll. And everyone in the theater sat in stunned silence.

I suspect this was the case in theaters across the globe last weekend at the conclusion of Marvel’s epic Avengers: Infinity War, in many ways one of the biggest movies ever made. It’s a damn good movie, one with such a devastating ending that I simply must talk about it. I try to avoid spoilers for new releases, but in this case it can’t be helped so be aware that this post will include spoilers.

There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get started.

First off: there are a LOT of characters in the movie. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, Mantis, Nebula, Wong, Loki, Heimdall, Shuri, Okoye, and the Mad Titan himself, THANOS.

Images: Marvel/Disney
Whew. One of the movie’s many pleasures is seeing combinations of characters that haven’t met before. I particularly enjoyed Thor’s scenes with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spider-Man and Star-Lord bonding over 80’s pop culture references. Infinity War is frequently a very funny movie, and many of the funniest lines and moments come as a result of these characters being thrust together in unexpected ways. The only characters that aren’t in the movie are Hawkeye and Ant-Man, and Ant-Man will be in theaters again later this summer in his own sequel, Ant-Man and The Wasp. Don’t know about Hawkeye though, maybe we’ll see him in Infinity War Part Two.

Speaking of part two, it’s important to remember that Infinity War is the first part of a two-part story, and the two films were shot back-to-back. So as devastating as that ending was, keep in mind that this is NOT THE END. More on this later.

Infinity War is a movie that requires a level of patience from the viewer, although this is not necessarily a bad thing. There are so many characters and so many things going on that it can be an effort to keep up with it all. The movie follows one group of characters for a while, then switches to a different group, meaning that the viewer has to frequently reorient themselves.

This can be a bit difficult, but it’s not a complaint. Infinity War is a movie that requires the audience to engage with it. It’s not a mindless blockbuster. There’s a lot of intelligence and heart behind it, and it benefits from a decade’s worth of audience engagement with the previous movies. It doesn’t have to make the audience care about these characters because if you’ve been watching every movie for the last ten years then you already do care about them, which is another thing that makes the ending such a gut-punch.

There’s not a whole lot of room in the movie for individual character development, but there doesn’t need to be since we already know all the main characters. If I had to pick one character that I would describe as the most important character in the film, it would be Thanos, the greatest villain the Avengers have ever faced.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been teasing Thanos since the first Avengers movie in 2012, and carefully introducing the Infinity Stones in various movies. Infinity War is the movie where it all comes together, and it’s incredibly satisfying. Thanos is everything fans could want from the character. As soon as he appears onscreen, which happens in the movie’s first scene, no one is safe. The stakes feel very real. One thing about the various Avengers’ solo films is that there’s no doubt the protagonist will survive to the end, but in Infinity War, everyone’s lives are very much at stake.

Thanos could easily have been portrayed as a generic bad guy, but he isn’t, and it is to the credit of directors Joe and Anthony Russo, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and actor Josh Brolin that Thanos is portrayed so well. The movie gives us some of Thanos’ backstory, and we learn that his home planet of Titan was overpopulated and everyone except him died. Since then, he has been trying to preserve life by conquering planets one by one and destroying half the population of each. This is a time-consuming process, and the powers of the Infinity Stones will give him the means to wipe out half the population in the universe with a snap of his fingers. Thanos doesn’t see himself as the villain. He sees his actions as being right, and is aware of the cost, but to him the preservation of life as a whole is worth the destruction of half of it.

Josh Brolin is excellent as Thanos, and his performance, the excellent writing and directing, and top-notch special effects make Thanos one of the greatest comic-book-movie villains of all time. I counted twenty-five characters in the list above, and all of their combined efforts are not enough to stop him.

Thanos wins.

Or does he?

It’s time, my friends, to talk about The Snap.

Despite all their efforts and the ferocious and thrilling battles that are waged along the way, the Avengers are ultimately unable to prevent Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones, and as Thanos and Thor grapple, Thanos extends a gauntleted hand…

…and snaps his fingers.

And people start to die.

It starts with Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, Captain America’s best and oldest friend. He drops his rifle and disintegrates as Cap watches, helpless.

Others follow.

Falcon. Scarlet Witch. Black Panther. Doctor Strange. Star-Lord. Drax. Mantis. Groot.

And, finally, devastatingly, Spider-Man. Peter Parker. A high-school kid. “I don’t feel so good, Mr. Stark,” he says to Iron Man. He’s beginning to disintegrate. He collapses into Tony’s arms, sobbing. “I don’t want to go Mr. Stark, please, I don’t want to go…” he begs. Tony tries to comfort him, but it’s too late, Peter is gone, and Tony is left literally empty-handed, having just witnessed the death of a kid that he feels responsible for having dragged into this mess in the first place.

Oh.

My.

God.

I seriously didn’t get through writing that without tears.

Going into Infinity War, I was aware of the possibility of losing some of these characters that I love. But never did I think that there would be so many, or that their losses would be so devastating.

Especially Peter.

Batman will always be my favorite superhero, but Spider-Man is a very close second. I love the guy, and I love Tom Holland’s portrayal of him. Hearing the fear in his voice and the desperation in his eyes as he fades away tore my heart out and stomped on it, and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in that crushing moment was also superb. Earlier in the film, Tony and Pepper Potts, his fiancée, had been talking about getting married and having a family, and later, a kid for whom he had become a surrogate father literally fades away in his arms.

I’m sorry, I’m crying again.

Judging from people’s reactions on the internet, I’m not the only person who was hit so hard by that.

But it is important to once again emphasize that THIS IS NOT THE END. Time for some theorizing and rampant speculation.

First of all, there is no way Marvel and Disney would kill that many franchises in one fell swoop. The Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel already has a release date for 2019, and there is already talk of a Black Panther sequel and more Guardians of the Galaxy movies, which logically would have to take place after the events of Infinity War. Also, Black Panther just made more than a billion dollars worldwide and became a cultural talking point, there’s no way Marvel and Disney would simply shrug their shoulders and say, “Sorry guys, no more Black Panther movies!”

I don’t doubt that some of these characters will be back. I also don’t doubt that some of them won’t be. We’ve probably seen the last of Loki and Heimdall, and it’s hard to see Gamora coming back after Thanos sacrifices her to obtain the Soul Stone. Another thing I do not doubt is that reclaiming what was lost will require further sacrifice. The survivors of The Snap are mostly original Avengers such as Thor, Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and War Machine. Perhaps Infinity War Part Two will involve the efforts of the older Avengers to find out some way of bringing back the newer ones, even at the expense of their own lives.

It’s also worth remembering that two of the Infinity Stones are the Soul Stone, which can bring people back to life, and the Time Stone, which gives its wielder the power of time manipulation (used to great effect by Doctor Strange in his solo movie, and used to much more nefarious effect by Thanos in Infinity War). It’s not hard to see how those could be used to resurrect some of the heroes we lost, but doing so will require the remaining Avengers to somehow get the Stones from Thanos, which will be even more difficult at half-strength.

If/when some of the departed heroes do return, their loss in this film will still resonate, and will still affect the survivors moving forward.

Who knows what will happen in the as-yet unnamed Infinity War sequel? All I know is that it’s due out on May 3, 2019, exactly one year from the day I am posting this.

And now the wait begins…

The Simple Art of Murder

Shane Black’s 2005 film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has been a favorite of mine ever since I first saw it. It is a criminally underrated movie that nonetheless has a developed a cult following over the years, which it more than deserves. Black’s new film, The Nice Guys, is coming out on Friday, so I figured there was no better time to look back at his earlier underappreciated gem.

kiss_kiss_bang_bang_poster1

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stars Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan as one of my favorite cinematic trios. Shane Black is most famous for writing Lethal Weapon and directing Iron Man 3, and he’s got a real knack for writing characters that spark and dialogue that crackles.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, a two-bit thief in New York who finds himself whisked away to Los Angeles after a job goes wrong, and in his efforts to escape from the cops he inadvertently wanders into an audition where he impresses the casting directors so much that they fly him to LA for a screen test.

Once in LA, he meets Perry van Shrike, played by Val Kilmer. Perry is a private detective who also works as a consultant for movies and TV. He’s also gay, and is known as Gay Perry. Perry is supposed to give Harry private-detective lessons to help his acting. And wouldn’t you know it, the rhyming-name duo of Harry and Perry promptly find themselves in a heap of trouble when what should have been a simple stakeout ends with a dead girl in the back of a car that winds up in a lake, and a couple of sinister-looking thugs in black leather jackets and wearing ski masks.

Harry also reconnects with an old flame, the wonderfully-named Harmony Faith Lane, played by Michelle Monaghan. I will always have a huge crush on Monaghan because of this movie. Not only is she gorgeous, but she plays Harmony with so much vitality and energy that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. Although calling her Harry’s old flame may be a bit of a stretch, since they were friends in high school but never, you know, more than friends, despite Harry’s anguish at her hooking up with every guy in high school except for him. Harmony’s sister also suddenly turns up dead in LA, and she turns to Harry for help (thinking erroneously that he is an actual private detective).

kiss-kiss-bang-bang-kilmer-monaghan-downey

Harmony is from a small town called Embrey, Indiana (“When in doubt, cut up a pig. That was the town motto,” Harry explains in voice-over) who moved to LA to pursue becoming an actress. As a kid, she fell in love with a man named Johnny Gossamer. Johnny was the main character in a series of dime-store paperbacks with names like “Die Job” and “You’ll Never Die in This Town Again.”

The most obvious comparison is to Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe. Chandler is one of my all-time favorite writers, he’s one of my literary heroes. Shane Black clearly feels the same way, and even gives sections of the film titles that are names of some of Chandler’s books (Trouble Is My Business, The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, The Simple Art of Murder, and Farewell, My Lovely).

kiss-kiss-bang-bang-382376l

One of the many pleasures of Raymond Chandler’s novels is that the reader spends a large chunk of each book wondering how in the hell the different threads of the story could possibly be tied together. And then, in every book, there comes the moment of clarity: the wonderful moment of revelation when you realize how it all fits together. It’s a sublime moment that happened to me during every one of Chandler’s books, and this is something that Shane Black is also very much aware of.

Harry even explains this to Perry, when describing how in every Johnny Gossamer book, it turns out that two separate cases are in fact the same case (this happened in a lot of Hardy Boys books too as I recall). And without giving too much away, in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang this also holds true, when it turns out that Harry and Perry’s case of the dead girl in the trunk of a car and Harmony’s case of the sudden death of her sister Jenna are also connected.

kiss_kiss_bang_bang11

Even though this movie came out in 2005 and the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired, I’m not going to give away too much more about the plot. For one thing, it’s all a bit complicated and explaining every minute detail would take too long. It’s so complex, one could even call it convoluted, and it took me several viewings before I felt like I really had a handle on it. But it’s the kind of movie that encourages and rewards repeat viewings, and there’s something new to discover and enjoy every time you watch it. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time I watched it, for example, that I realized the ring tone on Perry’s cell phone is “I Will Survive.”

My enjoyment of the movie also has a lot to do with the characters of Harry, Perry, and Harmony, who are three of my favorite cinematic creations. The chemistry between Downey, Kilmer, and Monaghan is palpable and Shane Black’s dialogue is always on point. Robert Downey Jr. excels at playing fast-talking smart alecks, and he played Harry a full three years before he put on the Iron Man suit for the first time. Kilmer has a reputation as being difficult to work with, but the former Batman turns in one of his best performances as the tough-as-nails gay private detective. And I’ve talked a bit about Michelle Monaghan, but I have to mention her again because she’s just so great. I would happily hang out with any of these people in real life, as messed-up and with as much baggage as all of them have, their personalities resonate and they feel like genuine human beings, despite the frequently outrageous circumstances they find themselves in.

f5d8e7f541570c6f0466a19fda2ff5c9

The movie is also hilariously funny, and there are scenes and lines of dialogue that have been permanently seared into my memory. (Perry: Look up the word “idiot” in the dictionary, do you know what you’ll find? Harry: Uh…a picture of me? Perry: NO! The definition of “idiot,” which you F*CKING are!!)  Some of the humor is of the gallows variety, like Harry and Perry’s bumbling efforts to get rid of a corpse (they toss it off the roof of a building, aiming for a dumpster, but the body hits the edge of the dumpster and lands in an alley).

There are some aspects of the movie that are hard to describe, such as Harry’s narration which pops up now and again throughout the movie. Harry frequently comments on what a bad narrator he is, and sometimes even stops the movie to go back and explain something he forgot to mention earlier. This makes the movie’s narrative even more complicated but Downey’s fourth-wall breaking is always funny, and it’s never so confusing that you completely lose track of what’s going on.

I love this movie. I genuinely do. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you are a fan of noir and hard-boiled detective stories (and don’t mind a dose of black humor along the way) you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

The Surprise of WTF: Iron Man 3

Remember the guy in Predator with the glasses? Who tells the dirty jokes and was the first of Ahnuld’s crew of badasses to be eviscerated by the Predator? I think his name was Hawkins? He was played by a fellow by the name of Shane Black, best known for writing Lethal Weapon. The story is that he was working on the script for Lethal Weapon at the time Predator was being filmed, and producer Joel Silver wanted him around so he could review the script, so I guess they just decided to give him a supporting role while they were at it.

Now, twenty-six years after the release of Predator, along comes Iron Man 3, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was directed by none other than, you guessed it, Shane Black. Yep, that nerdy-looking dude from Predator who got eviscerated before anyone else directed and co-wrote one of the biggest films of the year (seriously, Iron Man 3 made somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 million dollars over its opening weekend, second only to The Avengers, which coincidentally was the last movie Iron Man made an appearance in).

Black was an interesting choice of director for a megabudget blockbuster like Iron Man 3, since his only previous directing credit was 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a fantastic little neo-noir (also starring Robert Downey Jr.) that flew under the radar when it was first released but has since developed something of a cult following. I love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it’s easily one of my top ten favorite movies of all time. It’s hilariously funny, has some fun action scenes, the leads have great chemistry, and it pays homage to one of my favorite authors, Raymond Chandler. I need to do a full write-up of it sometime because it’s bloody brilliant and is also a Christmas movie! I meant to write about it last Christmas but ran out of time, so maybe I’ll save it for next Christmas…or maybe I won’t.

But back to Iron Man. 2008’s original Iron Man is widely regarded as one of the best superhero movies pretty much ever made, and with good reason: it’s smart, funny, well-acted, action-packed, and has a lot of heart. 2010’s Iron Man 2, while (in my opinion) hardly being the catastrophe people sometimes make it out to be, couldn’t help but feel a bit flat in comparison. The good news is that Iron Man 3 picks up the slack and moves along at a more brisk pace than the somewhat lackadaisical second installment. The not-so-good news is that the story is, well, kind of all-over-the-place.

In the aftermath of the events of The Avengers, our hero Tony Stark has been plagued by anxiety attacks and nightmares following his near-death at the end of that film. To combat this, he has taken to holing up in his lab/workshop and building suit after suit of badass Iron Man armor. His latest creation, Mark 42, is remote-controllable and Tony is able to summon it from long distances to attach to his body piece-by-piece. This is actually a really cool idea and the movie gets a lot of mileage out of it, both in terms of gags (like various armor pieces flying towards Tony’s sensitive male areas at high speeds) and action scenes (including a standout sequence where Tony thrashes a roomful of thugs with only part of his armor).

There’s also a new terrorist threat on the loose in the form of the Mandarin, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, and a sketchy businessman named Aldrich Killian (people named Killian are Not To Be Trusted) played by Guy Pearce. For some reason that currently escapes me, the Mandarin has a serious vendetta against Tony, which leads to the spectacular destruction of Tony’s awesome mansion (this is not a spoiler, it was in all the trailers). From there, things get a bit…weird.

There’s only so much I can say about the plot without giving too much away, so all I’m going is to say is that there is a big plot twist regarding…well, I can’t say what the twist involves because to say even that would give away too much. Suffice to say that there’s a really big plot twist, and it’s a bit weird.

I’m honestly pretty torn about the big twist. Those of you who have seen the film will know which plot twist I’m referring to, and the way I see it there are two very distinct ways of viewing it.

In one sense, it’s a great twist because it is completely unexpected. It’s noteworthy that there was nothing whatsoever in the film’s extensive advertising to suggest this particular plot twist, and when it happens it is genuinely surprising. It’s impressive when the makers of one of the biggest films of the year are able to so completely pull the wool over viewers’ eyes.

On the other hand, it’s a terrible plot twist for all of the same reasons that make it a great plot twist. It’s jarring because it comes out of nowhere, and seems really out of place, and completely contrary to what the audience was expecting. Now that I’ve had a few days to think it over, I’ve decided that it is admittedly a clever and thoroughly unpredictable twist, but at the same time it’s hard not to feel a bit cheated by it.

Sigh. That’s the thing with big plot twists. They’re either brilliant or they suck. Or they’re both at the same time. It’s kind of confounding from a storytelling perspective.

So where do I go from here? Well, I’ve read some complaints of the film by people who think that there wasn’t enough actual Iron Man in the movie, since (mild spoiler alert) Tony himself doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in the Iron Man suits. This is mostly true, but I thought there was plenty of Iron Man in the movie (or Iron Men as the case may be), even if Tony himself wasn’t always wearing the suit (and if you think about it, there really wasn’t a whole lot of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises).

I think Shane Black said something about how the movie kind of pondered if there was more to Tony Stark as a person and a hero than just the suits, and I think there is something to that idea. Iron Man 3 is almost more of a Tony Stark movie than an Iron Man movie, but, you know, I’m actually pretty okay with that. There are some fun action scenes where Tony has to rely on his brains more than his metal muscle, and these scenes are a fun and important reminder of just how smart and resourceful Tony is.

Despite some of the more jarring plot elements (and there are more and more of them as the film progresses), Iron Man 3 is still a fun and enjoyable movie with lots of great moments. It’s hard not to get a kick out of Downey’s buddy-chemistry with Don Cheadle, and watching them bicker and shoot at bad guys also brings to mind a couple of famous movie cops in another Shane Black-scripted action flick. Downey is as likable and cocky as ever, and Gwyneth Paltrow gets more to do as his lady love than just get captured and look nice (both of which she does). The rest of the supporting cast is solid, the special effects are top-notch and the film moves along briskly and is certainly never boring. There is also a post-credits scene well worth sitting through the end credits for.

Iron Man 3 is a film that perplexed me a bit as I left the theater. I had a lot of mixed emotions about it at first, but now that I’ve had some time to mull it over I think it’s a better film than I initially gave it credit for. There is a certain degree of WTF that I didn’t expect, but it’s a fun, well-made film and I will see it again. If you didn’t like it the first time you saw it, I’d really encourage you to give it another try. First impressions aren’t everything.

Surprise WTF rating: 7.66666(repeating), because why not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.