1. Brad Pitt is a charismatic screen presence.
Think of the last time Pitt was actually charismatic on screen. I’ve got two: Fight Club and Thelma and Louise (it was posited that Pitt’s TaL charisma was ab-based, but anyway…). That’s about it. He doesn’t have the type of Robert Downey Jr./George Clooney/early-Will Smith charisma that is often assumed of him. The type of charisma that - had he had it - might have made The Curious Case of Benjamin Button more enjoyable but he doesn’t and I don’t know anyone who thinks he deserved that particular Oscar nomination.
2. Brad Pitt is a handsome leading man and lacks real talent.
Do you know why he was so charming in Fight Club? Because he’s such a good actor. He’s barely even a leading man. His best performances are supporting roles: Se7en, 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Snatch, Babel, and Burn After Reading are all second banana parts wherein he often steals the show from someone else (the exception: he’s the lead in Moneyball, which is among his best, though not his absolute best). Pitt is a character actor walking around with a leading man’s body. It happens sometimes. So while he’s serviceable and things like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and he’s sure to be the same in World War Z, we already know he’s better when he can get weird as in Inglorious Basterds or when he can just hang out and smoke pot as in True Romance, letting the real leading men like Christian Slater do their thing.
No, I’m kidding. Christian Slater is the worst. Even in spite of Heathers.
1. Meh. Just go see it. It’s super enjoyable, better than the second but not quite as good as the first. If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s my endorsement. Anyway:
2. After Earth is definitely going to be Will Smith’s first unequivocal bomb, isn’t it? I’m seeing trailers for it before everything and nothing about it looks appealing. Audiences I’m with always seem to check out halfway through. It’s big and expensive and sci fi and feels a lot like this year’s John Carter. It’s also a pretty well kept secret that it’s being directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Remember when that guy’s name was the selling point of a movie? It wasn’t that long ago. This has nothing to do with Iron Man.
3. Ben Kingsley is brilliant in this movie. Seriously brilliant. The role is perfect for him in a way I can’t describe and you can only understand if you have a good idea of the breadth of Kingsley’s work.
4. The best part of the movie, though, is the second act where you barely get any of Tony Stark in the armor and mostly you get Robert Downey Jr. playing around with a boy in rural Tennessee. I know, it makes no sense at all. There is minimal action but the one sequence of action we do get is small-scale and the best in the movie. There are a lot of clever, fun ways the film keeps Downey out of full Iron Man armor during action sequences, to its benefit. The climax is a hell of a spectacle but I’ll be damned if I actually saw half of it the way action movies are edited in this day and age.
5. I’m not even 25, how can I be opining for the old days?
6. What does Shane Black do now? Anyone who’s ever seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was and loved it (redundant) was glad to hear he would be on Iron Man 3. Now that the movie is good and breaking overseas box office records, he’s positioned himself nicely for a new project. Since Downey Jr. will be next seen in Avengers 2 and the fate of the Iron Man franchise as a solo act is in a post-third-movie limbo, it makes me think Black will be allowed to make something that he wants, as long as it has a modest budget. If it happens, I’ll be excited to see whatever he comes up with.
7. So… the fate of the Iron Man franchise. Marvel will want to bring Downey Jr. back because he’s the motor that runs this thing. People show up for him. But after 5 big screen outings as Tony Stark, one can imagine he’s getting tired. You wouldn’t know it to watch this sequel but how long can he last? Especially when money is no longer a concern for the man. What reason can Marvel dangle in front of him to bring him back for a 6th time in the armor?
8. Rebecca Hall was underused. Gwyneth Paltrow was used just right. Don Cheadle had some nice moments that made me smile even though part of me misses the dynamic established between Downey and Terrence Howard. At least Cheadle got to roll around and do something this movie. I want to see Guy Pearce and Val Kilmer play brothers in something. Something where they can bicker. I just was hearing Pearce read lines and I was struck by how similar his voice is to Kilmer. Plus, they’re both a little weird and now that Kilmer is fat, they’re a natural foil. This has gone off the rails a bit.