After a stint fooling around with the Avengers, Tony Stark is left with a mild case of PTSD and has to battle a new threat with nothing more than a screwdriver, 10 year old assistant and plenty of snark.
Written and directed by the legendary Shane Black, Iron Man 3 stands out from the previous two thanks to Black and Marvel’s insistence on keeping audiences on their toes. There’s no sense of diminishing returns in this franchise so far, though we did hit a mis-step with the first sequel. In Iron Man 2’s defence, that film was made under the shadow of a writers strike, and after rewatching it recently its only two major flaws are its over-reliance on including SHIELD characters into the mix, and Mickey Rourke who sucks the energy out of every scene he’s in. That film is saved by Sam Rockwell who does the exact opposite and steals every scene.
Iron Man 3’s only problem was how to begin phase 2 of Marvel’s cinematic run by following up Joss Whedon’s epic Avengers. I can say that they give an admirable effort, and though they don’t reach Avengers level of conflict and adventure, where Iron Man 3 shines is in character and dialogue.
Black’s writing resume has such highlights as: Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. So as expected, Iron Man 3 continues his trend of pairing up a flawed protagonist with unlikely allies and having them bounce hilarious dialogue off each other.
When a mysterious terrorist begins a campaign of terror against the USA, Stark is pulled into the conflict when things get personal. After a devastating attack, he’s ultimately left to fend for himself with a broken suit and no back-up. It was the best direction to take after The Avengers where he had every tool at his disposal.
It’s at this point the film takes an interesting interlude, pairing Stark with a kid as he both prepares for a comeback and also does the kind of detective work that fans of Batman have been yearning for but were lacking in the Nolan films.
As for why he’s even in this predicament? The Mandarin. Played by Ben Kingsley. It’s the kind of performance I can’t even write about for fear of spoiling anything. Suffice to say comic book purists are angry at what Marvel have done, but for a layman like me I found it such a great and memorable character, easily my favourite of the Marvel films thus far.
If you look at a villain like the Red Skull, played by the brilliant Hugo Weaving, all you’re seeing is a typical bad guy with generic threats, but with Kingsley’s Mandarin, you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. And believe me, from the midway point everything he says is classic.
Iron Man 3 unfortunately stumbles with a climactic action scene set in the docks. At night. Sigh. Taking a cue from the latest A-Team movie is not exactly inspiring guys. It’s mostly just a blur of CGI robot suits versus CGI humans, with the only highlights, as par for the course with an Iron Man film, being the dialogue and banter between Stark and his allies, such as Rhodes.
Iron Man 3 interestingly doesn’t end with the status quo, but with things changed for Stark, an encouragingly stark (geddit) difference from other films which might have either ended on a cliffhanger, or with things back to normal. Considering Downey Jr is getting older and expressing doubts as to returning to the role in the future, it’s a bold move by Marvel. There’s a sense of finality to the resolution, yet the credits still promise that Tony Stark will be back.
Out of all the superhero movies clamouring for our attention these days, Iron Man is my favourite character, thanks to Downey Jr’s sarcastic wit, so here’s hoping he can stick around a little while longer.