Phase Two of Marvel’s film universe starts up the same way Phase One finished: Totally kicking ass. Iron Man 3 continues the trend of Marvel films that have more action than most action films, and more laughs than most comedy films, all of which equals out to one of the most entertaining Marvel releases to date.
This time out the feeling is quite different from the past Iron Man films, which likely has to do with the fact that there’s a new director at the helm in Shane Black. Black has worked with Robert Downey Jr. before, directing the actor in the 2005 film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (the film that kick-started RDJ’s career right before he became Iron Man) which definitely helped the duo this time out, as Black knows exactly how to bring the best out of RDJ on the screen in every way possible.
Black, who co-wrote Iron Man 3 along with Drew Pearce, has great comedic timing and that proves to be one of the film’s strongest points, as Tony Stark is basically a one-liner machine for the film’s entire 130-minute runtime. While this could get tedious or tiring depending on who’s delivering the lines, RDJ has a way of just lighting up the screen with everything he says, and this is definitely something fans have come to expect from Iron Man at this point.
One of the most noticeable things in Iron Man 3 is the lack of the Iron Man suit. This is a very Tony Stark-centric film, which focuses a lot more on his character, and how he’s dealing with the repercussions of the alien attack on New York that happened during the epic conclusion of The Avengers. If I had to throw out a guess after a single viewing, I’d say the ratio is roughly 80% Stark to 20% Iron Man suit.
But you know what? It completely works, and actually makes the film stronger in some ways.
The story focuses mainly on Stark trying to come to grips with the nightmares and panic attacks he’s been having ever since he went through a wormhole at the end of The Avengers to save the planet. He rarely sleeps, and spends most of his time down in his workshop creating suit upgrades so that he can keep his mind off the things that bother him. In The Avengers, Iron Man revealed the Mk. VII suit, continuing the trend that Stark is constantly upgrading; however, his most recent model for this film is the Mk. XLII (Version 42), which shows just how busy he’s been keeping himself.
Stark’s now live-in girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), can’t understand what’s wrong with him, and feels neglected by how much time he spends on his work. Tony, who’s the master of the pick-up line but not long-term relationships, can’t figure out how to explain what he’s going through to her and can only let her know that she’s the reason he hasn’t gone completely off the deep end.
The threat this time around is found in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a mysterious man who broadcasts viral feeds across all American networks to get his messages out, which usually coincide with bombings that leave no trace of the bomb itself. The basic gist of his eerie telecasts is that America will pay for being an unworthy, cowardly country, and that the violence and bombings will continue until The Mandarin is ready to make his big move against the President himself (William Sadler).
Another new character to the fold this time out is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who was scorned by Tony Stark back in 1999 when he was trying to get him involved in his new start-up company AIM. However, time heals all wounds – or at least lets them fester to the point where proving Stark made a huge mistake underestimating him and his company becomes Killian’s main goal.
Also returning to the fold is Stark’s good friend – and former bodyguard (until he realized that being the bodyguard of Iron Man was kind of a ridiculous job) – Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who now works as head of security at Stark Industries, and he takes his job very seriously. He smells something off about Killian and his “assistant”, Savin (James Badge Dale) right off the bat, and decides to follow them. While doing so, Happy inadvertently gets caught up in the latest bombing attack by The Mandarin, which puts him in the hospital and catapults Tony into full-on revenge mode. He threatens The Mandarin as publicly as he first declared he was Iron Man, and in doing so he poked a bear that will challenge him like never before.
There’s a lot to love about Iron Man 3‘s story, but a lot of it is best left discovered by experiencing it yourself. There are things that could be mentioned here, however, that would take away some of the fun, as there are a few unexpected – or semi-expected – twists and turns along the road over the course of the film that really keep the momentum moving forward. I will say that the chemistry between RDJ and Ty Simpkins (who plays a young boy Stark befriends during his time of need) is superb, and the two play off one another really well. The same can be said about RDJ and Don Cheadle, who get to have their own little “buddy film” heading into the third act, which is really a nice treat.
For anyone who knows Black’s writing and directing style (even though this is only his second time to bat in the director’s chair), it’s clear that this film has his influence all over it – which is evident by the aforementioned buddy sequence. The witty one-liners are abundant, and the stylistic approach is much more human, much more real and much more entertaining than the past Iron Man films. Black isn’t afraid to strip Stark of his armor and put the character himself front and center for the abundance of the film and it really lets RDJ shine in the role more than ever before. Black also has a natural eye for action, as this film has some incredibly dynamic and fluent action sequences that really deliver.
Speaking of delivering, Robert Downey Jr. does it again as Tony Stark – maybe even better than ever before. He’s completely embodied the character to the point where it seems like it’s second nature to him to just fall into the part. While this is one reason he may decide to hang up the iron boots after The Avengers 2, here’s hoping that’s not the case. RDJ is definitely the main reason why the Iron Man franchise has become so popular. He is Tony Stark, and his delivery and overall look is everything any fan of the character could ever hope for. Of course, standing on the outside looking in it’s much easier for us to say that – as who wouldn’t want to play Iron Man forever from our perspective? But when you make four films – with a fifth on the way – in five years, it makes it a bit more understandable why he may want to move on.
Kingsley and Pearce deliver on all fronts. Kingsley is absolutely brilliant as The Mandarin, and the way he delivers the lines during the viral feeds is downright creepy and methodical. His performance here is something people will be talking about afterwards, and is something that people will revel in upon repeat viewings. Pearce once again proves himself to be one of the most underrated actors around today, as he steals quite a few scenes as the malevolent Killian and really makes him a character that helps take the movie to another level.
On the technical side of things, the special effects are absolutely fantastic, the sound mix is incredible and the 3D this time out is really well done, as I completely forgot I was wearing huge plastic glasses on my head about 30 seconds in. Sometimes with action films things can move too fast, and end up blurry or just hard to follow in 3D, but since this seems to be a technology that isn’t going anywhere, at least it seems to be improving for the better.
If Iron Man 3 is RDJ’s last time out as Stark in a stand-alone film, at least he’ll be leaving on a high note. It’s the exact type of blockbuster you want to see kick off the summer, as it’s loads of fun, packed with laughs and filled with the perfect amount of action to coincide with the character moments this film looks to touch upon. While you likely don’t need me to tell you, this is a movie you don’t want to miss.
Director: Shane Black. Writers: Shane Black and Drew Pearce. Notable Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Ty Simpkins.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.