In which some of the movies of 2013 with thematic similarities are placed in a metaphorical cage and forced to do battle.
Iron Man Three vs. Before Midnight
This one isn’t really all that close, but that shouldn’t be considered a knock against the pleasures of Iron Man Three. In fact, the addition of Shane Black as director is the best thing that could have happened to this franchise, especially since Iron Man 2 was the very worst of the Marvel “Avengers Lead In” movies. All the hallmarks of a “Shane Black” movie are there: it is set at Christmas, the dialogue is fast and really (REALLY) funny, and it involves a hero at rock bottom forced to use his wits. I love Shane Black movies of the 1980s- The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and Lethal Weapon are all perfect embodiments of the Black formula- and with a collaborator like Robert Downey Jr., there is no reason why Iron Man can’t continue to pay dividends.
But where Iron Man Three worked and worked very well, Before Midnight is transcendent. The “Before” series is the best trilogy ever made- better than the Toy Story’s, better than the original Star Wars trilogy. The best thing about this latest chapter is how subversive it was while at the same time remaining completely honest about the situation the earlier films have created. Yes, Before Sunset has one of the best endings of any movie ever, but to be honest, the decision made at the end would have caused a HUGE problem for Jesse and Celine. That is what Before Midnight is all about. Because this relationship, any relationship really, isn’t easy to maintain. Jesse and Celine fight in this movie in a way that feels real in a way that only comes from people who know one another intimately. The cheap shots and the truthful nastiness are so well placed and timed that it all left you feeling terrible in a way that the earlier two movies did not. Still, this is a must-see; not necessarily the movie that fans of the series may want, but definitely the one that needed to happen.
Winner: Before Midnight