Iron Man 3, 2013.
Directed by Shane Black.
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley and Jon Favreau.
When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, Stark starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe officially kicks off with the release of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 – and it’s a bloody good starting point.
Black always had a hard task on his hands. Not only was he taking over from Jon Favreau, who arguably made the best solo movie from Phase One, but he also had to follow on from Joss Whedon’s epic The Avengers. So instead of going for an all-out action blockbuster like Whedon did in attempt to ‘do one better’, Black has gone for a more personal story that often feels like a Matt Fraction comic.
Iron Man 3 is less an Iron Man movie and more of a Tony Stark movie. We see the effects that ‘the events of New York’ has had on his relationships and him as a person as well as the struggles a “playboy billionaire philanthropist” has to go through when he is at his lowest ebb. Downey Jr gives his best performance as Stark since the first Iron Man movie and the script from Black and Drew Pearce really digs down into what makes the character so interesting. But not only does the script tap into what makes Tony Stark interesting, it also gives us the first great interpretation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. For the first time in the series, she is less Tony Stark’s aide and is instead a fully fledged character.
Black also doesn’t shy away from putting his stamp on the franchise. From the very opening moments you can tell that this is not going to be the same as the previous movies and he doesn’t let you forget it. While remaining familiar, Iron Man 3 feels like a new movie with a new vision – focusing less on action and more on character.
But that’s not to say the film is low on explosions and Iron Man action. Anyone who has seen the (many) trailers and TV spots will have seen that there is plenty of action to be had here and, believe me, the trailers don’t give it all away. The final action scene is pretty intense and the aeroplane attack is exceptional.
For me though, the standout of Iron Man 3 is Sir Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin. From his design to his dialogue to his delivery – Kingsley nails the performance perfectly. Furthermore, Guy Pearce (who has been absent from many of the trailers) gives a really fine performance as Aldrich Killian teamed with James Badge Dale as Eric Savin – who is absolutely terrifying at times. The Iron Man movies have always lacked a decent villain and finally Iron Man 3 provides that for us with something more than ‘another guy in a robot suit’.
However it’s far from perfect in terms of characters. Rebecca Hall is criminally under used as Stark’s former flame Maya Hansen as she gives a great performance for the ten lines she has to deliver. Same can be said for Don Cheadle’s Rhodey/Iron Patriot who, given all the promotional material around the armour, is only in the movie for a handful of scenes. While this is a slight complaint on my part, Black did have a lot of cooks in the kitchen and some chefs have to take a back seat as Iron Man 3 is not their menu. Iron Man 3 is a Tony Stark movie – not an Iron Patriot movie.
There is a moment in the film that, I believe, will be the major talking point among comic book readers. As a film critic and a movie lover, I think it is utter genius and reckon it will be one of the best moments I see on the big screen this year. But the comic book lover inside of me feels a little cheated and disappointed that they went in that direction. If I’m going to say anything else, I’d say it’s a very ballsy choice by Black and Pearce.
Iron Man 3 is a really solid movie. It’s not The Avengers good and it’s not quite Iron Man good, but it’s a vast improvement on Iron Man 2. As with all movies of this calibre, there are some plot holes that aren’t really addressed and the film does lose its way a touch when it gets deep into the third act but overall it’s a really fun experience. What I love about the movie is that it went back to the well and it does its own thing as opposed to trying to top what came before it. I certainly don’t think it will be the film of the year and I’d be hard pressed to imagine it will be the best comic book movie of 2013, but it’s a really, really great movie that is well worth your time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Month in Review show for Flickering Myth’s Podcast Network. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.