Marvel Masterworks – Iron Man 3 and Mud

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Iron Man 3 might not be the best comic book movie ever made, but it is certainly the funniest. Robert Downey Jr., playing the billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, claims he doesn’t have any superpowers when he is out of his Iron Man armor, but his zingers are faster than a speeding bullet and his one liners are more powerful than a locomotive.

After last year’s cynical Avengers fiasco I feared movies based on my beloved Marvel comic books had devolved into two hour commercials for the next Marvel Comics movie.  While Iron Man 3 gratuitously throws in thirty different versions of the Iron Man armor which undoubtedly will have toy spin-offs that children will be begging their parents to buy for them, the movie also comes with an actual plot, characters you care about and a hilarious twist no one will see coming even if you have read every Iron Man comic.

Whereas the Avengers took its mission oh so seriously even though its only motive was to sell as much product as possible, Iron Man 3 isn’t afraid to have some fun. Sure, the fate of the United States government is at hand in this movie with the evil Advanced Idea Mechanics plotting a nefarious scheme, but Iron Man 3 never loses track that we can have some laughs watching Shellhead (Iron Man’s nickname, True Believers) stop the bad guys.

All the credit goes to director Shane Black, the one time writer of the first two Lethal Weapon movies gives Iron Man 3 a retro feel for an era when action movies had clever dialogue, satisfying endings, and charismatic villains you want to see bruised and beaten.

Iron Man 3 gets my highest possible recommendation, but for those that have been burned by too many crap comic book movies I have another recommendation.  This movie is called Mud.

Remember last year when Beasts of the Southern Wild came out and was lavished with undeserved praise for its fetishization for poverty, youth, and the South? Mud is the movie the critics wanted Beasts of the Southern Wild to be.

Mud follows two young teenage boys who take a boat through the Arkansas bayou to an island where they meet a fugitive played by Matthew McConaughey. He tells them his name is Mud and he needs their help.

The movie is seen through the perspective of a fifteen year old boy learning just because a girl’s nice to you doesn’t mean she’s your girlfriend, just because someone let you down once doesn’t mean they won’t be there for you when it counts, and just because Reese Witherspoon is in this movie doesn’t mean it can’t be a simple masterpiece.

If you give a movie a strong sense of place, characters with a back story, and a happy ending where everyone gets what they deserve, you don’t need a big budget. That formula worked fifty years ago with To Kill a Mockingbird and it works in 2013 with that classic’s spiritual descendent, Mud.

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