Director: Shane Black
Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley
Release date: April 25th, 2013
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running time: 130 minutes
Best part: Black’s direction.
Worst part: The underdeveloped supporting characters.
Ever since 2008’s Iron Man, Tony Stark has become a pop-culture icon and beloved Marvel Universe character. In The Avengers, Captain America orders Stark to list his special qualities. Stark simply looks him in the eye and, with a straight face, replies “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”. His tone and dry wit have now pulled him through four hit blockbusters. The latest, Iron Man 3, is a thrill-ride in every sense.
It’s a fun and enlightening superhero flick that focuses on the series’ core ingredients. This instalment is also vastly different to the previous two Iron Man Flicks. Set after the near-apocalyptic events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 picks up with Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) recoiling from memories of magic, monsters, and aliens. His trip through the wormhole, during the Avenger’s New York battle, has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, anxiety attacks and insomnia are the least of his problems. Stark must now contend with The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Leader of a terrorist group known as the ‘Ten Rings’. He sets off horrific explosions within the US and publicly boasts about it. Also gumming up the works is Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) founder and ultra-smart-ass Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Stark, Killian, and fellow scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) have a history. In 1999, Stark rejected Killian’s ground-breaking ideas. This was a bad move! After his house is destroyed, Stark must find the motives behind the Mandarin’s attacks whilst keeping his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and best friend, Lt. Col. James Rhodes a.k.a. The Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), out of harm’s way.
Iron Man 3 may lack the focus and charm of the original, but it’s still much better than 2010’s Iron Man 2. Whereas Iron Man 2 suffered from story, character, and pacing issues, Iron Man 3 smartly balances drama, action, and character. Despite the glitz and glamour that comes with casting Robert Downey jr. in a lead role, the biggest star of this instalment is Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). As you can tell, his filmography is both commendable and extensive. This is Downey jr. and Black’s first collaboration since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The amusing and grimy film noir is similar to Iron Man 3 in many ways. These two men clearly work well together. They provide a wink-and-nudge style of humour that many big-budget flicks desperately need. Black commands this movie the same way that Joss Whedon took control of The Avengers. Black has a strong love for both smart storytelling/screen-writing and the original material. His film will appeal to both film-goers and comic book aficionados. His writing/directorial style has many idiosyncrasies. Much like his previous efforts, Iron Man 3 has a Christmassy theme, tough heroes, spectacular action set-pieces, a buddy-cop style team up, and slimy villains.
Iron Man 3, despite its convoluted story and multitude of characters, moves at a good pace. It pumps up the volume when it needs to whilst taking time to focus on Stark’s human side. The first third moves quickly. It establishes how every character fits into this expansive universe and what they represent (war on terror, patriotism etc.). After the first spectacular action set piece, in which Stark’s luxurious Malibu house is obliterated, the film suddenly slows down. All three acts are separate from each other in both subject matter and tone. The second third is a charming buddy-cop/detective flick. Stark’s new friendship with a young boy, Harley (Ty Simpkins), is both refreshing and hilarious. Stark, whilst talking down to the young boy, realises that he is a hypocrite. He also admits that he is an extremely vulnerable individual. It’s fun to see Downey Jr. play another detective character; applying Stark’s knowledge to this dangerous mission. The film’s special effects and gadgets are stellar. The action sequences are fresh and vibrant. Mixing fun choreography with inventive cinematography, each set-piece is both memorable and thrilling. His new suit, made up of multiple, inter-locking parts, is both a neat invention and the subject of many comedic moments. The mix of dramatic and cartoonish elements is important to this exciting and visceral experience.
“That’s the thing about smart guys: we cover our asses!” (Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Iron Man 3).
Black needed to create some interesting characters for this instalment. Unlike Iron Man 2, the characters here are well developed, necessary and empathetic. Stark is as entertaining as ever. Instead of being arrogant and/or selfish, he is an entrepreneur with a thirst for vengeance and thrills. His relationship with Potts brings him back down to Earth and gives us a reason to care about him. We like Iron Man, but we love the man underneath the suit. Downey Jr. is at his charismatic best here. Much like his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he uses charm and sensitivity to bring his character to life. Don Cheadle fits more comfortably into his role than he did in Iron Man 2. Stark and Rhodes’ friendship works similarly to the buddy-cop partnerships seen in Black’s previous works. I wish they had more time together on-screen. Paltrow is effective as Stark’s better half and the film’s strongest female character. Pearce is slimy yet sympathetic as a man looking for revenge. Kingsley is magnetic as the menacing lead villain. The twists and turns involving his character are some of the film’s best moments. Unfortunately, Hall is sorely underused as Stark’s old flame. Her character has charm, but no real reason to be in this film.
Stepping out of The Avengers‘ gigantic shadow, Iron Man 3 is nothing short of awesome. Many people will be bothered by its emphasis on drama over action. However, the story, characters, humour, and visuals collaborate to create an enjoyable blockbuster. Marvel’s Phase 2 is off to a cracking start.