Iron Man Three (2013)
Directed by Shane Black
Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black
Starring Robert Downey Jnr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley
Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios
Out May 3rd in the USA, out now in the rest of the world
I have tried to make this review Spoiler-Free as much as I can, but something might slip in, so yeah, beware. Also, I saw the movie in 2D, so I don’t have anything to say about the post-conversion, I have heard it’s better than most though.
As I was in the Cinema watching Iron Man Three (the title on-screen says ‘Three’ rather than ‘3’ so I’m going with that), this review was already forming in my head. It was going to be something along the lines of;
‘After the incredible scale of The Avengers, how could a film just about one solo hero compare? The answer is to increase the personal stakes. Tony Stark’s character and his flaws are at the heart of this movie, and even though there are nowhere near as many explosions and insane spectacles as Avengers, the film reaches new heights of personal drama’.
That would have been a good review I think, but then it all got blown to shit by the final setpiece, which is on just as big a scale as the New York Alien Invasion, perhaps even more so.
The truth is that Iron Man Three ups not only the personal stakes, but also learns it’s lesson from The Avengers and ups the action too. This film is an almost perfect blend of great drama, great action, and also hilarious comedy.
Combining Iron Man’s most famous villain, The Mandarin, along with the more recent threat of Extremis, Iron Man Three brings back all of your favourites from the previous two movies. Robert Downey Jnr. is of course perfect as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Tony’s Girl Friday is given much more to do than in previous films, even getting into some action scenes. Don Cheadle also returns as Rhodey, rebranded from War Machine to Iron Patriot. These 3 actors are all very familiar with their characters, and one of the highlights of Marvel’s new serial style of movie-making is seeing characters grow like they would on TV or in, yes, comics. The director of Iron Man 1 and 2, Jon Favreau, also appears once again in the comic relief role as Happy Hogan, and he too is excellent.
The new actors into the mix are Rebecca Hall, who plays one of Tony’s old flames, Maya Hansen, and also the bad guys. Guy Pearce is brilliant as Aldrich Killian, managing to depict the character as both a snivelling cripple, and later a swaggering bad-ass. Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin is equally strong, the character is not quite the same as the one in the comics, but Kingsley’s portrayal is chilling and utterly convincing, and the film manages to make a character I never thought would work on film totally fit into the established tone of the Iron Man movies. Purists may be annoyed by how Mandarin is handled, but it’s an exciting new take and a very different kind of super-villain. I was also surprised to see James Badge Dale as the main Extremis-user of the film, he’s more of an actor than most usual henchmen types, and he imbues his character with a lot more depth than he could have. I should also mention a hilarious cameo appearance from Adam Pally, aka Max from Happy Endings that had me laughing on the edge of my seat.
This film is directed by Shane Black and you can really spot his influence on this film. The dialogue is even more snappy and clever than before, with Downey Jnr revelling in his character’s quips. There’s also the fact that, much like in Black’s previous directorial effort, the wonderful Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Downey provides narration. It’s not quite as ever-present and clever as it was in Kiss Kiss, but it’s well-used. In another similarity to Kiss Kiss and some of Black’s other scripts, this movie takes place at Christmas. It’s a little jarring at first to be watching a Christmas movie in April on a sunny day, but it works, and since the film is primarily set in California and Florida, it’s not covered in snow or anything like that.
One thing that surprised me was how deft Black is at directing action sequences. The setpieces in this movie are, as I said, almost on a par with what we’ve seen before in The Avengers, and each of them manages to be different. There’s the final, epic battle with 50 or so Iron Man armours battling even more Extremis enhanciles, but there’s also smaller scenes, where Tony Stark is without his armour, or only has minimal amounts of it, and is forced into extremely deadly close-combat. I have seen some complaints that there is not enough Iron Man in the film, but I don’t buy that, as the iconic final line of the first movie went; ‘I am Iron Man’, Tony Stark is Iron Man and it’s him we want to see, not CGI. And besides, when it’s the other way around, with too much faceless action, these superhero movies can veer too close to Power Rangers territory, like the last act of the first Raimi Spider-Man. These armour-less sequences also serve the plot of the film. Tony is at his lowest ebb under the assault of Mandarin and Killian, he can’t be like that if has a walking WMD at his back. These sequences show that the real strength of Iron Man is not the suit, but the genius of Tony Stark.
Overall, Iron Man Three is a fantastic superhero movie, it manages the step from ensemble to solo piece brilliantly, and really whets your appetite for the rest of Marvel’s Phase 2. The events of The Avengers are really felt in this film, and you get a true sense of this being a shared universe. It continues to be a delight to watch these characters and concepts I have been a fan of for so long translated to the screen in such a brilliant way. Yes, this film makes changes, but they work. Iron Man Three is a truly great experience at the movies, you will be surprised on multiple occasions at where this movie goes. Even when you think it’s going clichéd, like the relationship between Tony Stark and a young kid played by Ty Simpkins, it doesn’t, with Tony being just as much of a sarcastic dick to a 10-year-old as he is to everyone else. That’s the true strength of this film, it makes things darker and more personal, yet also keeps the humour and action that we’ve come to expect.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now 7 movies long, that’s more movies than Star Wars or The Lord Of The Rings, and it’s showing no signs of stopping and Iron Man Three may very well be the best one yet.
As always for the Marvel Movies, make sure to stay through the credits (that are entertaining in their own right, paying tribute to all 3 Iron Man films) to see one final teaser scene. It’s more comedic than previous ones, but it’s still well worth the wait. Hint, it’s Tony and another Avenger.