The one downside to Iron Man 3 is that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has events of two previous films, as well as The Avengers, to deal with. So someone like Shane Black can’t bring much to the franchise without having to deal with the baggage of two other films. And unfortunately he doesn’t have much to bring outside of harnessing Robert Downey Jr’s pure star presence in a more significant manner than Jon Favreau ever could in Iron Man 3.
This time around we’re a year after the events of The Avengers and Tony Stark hasn’t been able to handle the events of that night very well. He’s having panic attacks and spending all of his time making Iron Man suits. The world has changed, too, as Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) has gone from being the ubiquitous War Machine to the red, white and blue themed Iron Patriot to go along with a new super villain: the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). He has a henchman from Tony’s past, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), and a new and lethal method of implementing terrorism onto the masses. It’s up to Tony to save the day, per usual, as his past comes back go influence the present.
It has all the hallmarks of a Shane Black film meshed with the comic book genre: lots of snappy dialogue, solid building to action sequences and significant character development. Black established the modern action film formula nearly 30 years ago and essentially has applied it to this genre; the film has a nice pace and feels like it could hold its own on a structural and plot level as Lethal Weapon, et al. This is a rehash of the formula Black rode to fame as a screenwriter and it works with the genre; the pacing is much more even than Favreau’s prior two efforts and there’s a clear effort to build to every major action sequence.
Unfortunately the film isn’t all that good.
Iron Man was a revelation that launched the modern comic book movie movement in a lot of ways but we tend to overvalue it because of how excellent Downey was as Tony Stark; it was a revelation then and still is in many ways. It was a brilliant, career redefining moment for Downey that has launched him into one of Hollywood’s preeminent leading men and did so virtually overnight. But that film was good but elevated itself because of how good Downey was; we forget that it was fairly ordinary but had a brilliant performance in the lead that made its flaws seem smaller by comparison.
And while Black punches the fairly formulaic film up a bit with good dialogue there isn’t anything new or interesting about the character. Tony Stark is no longer a womanizing drunk, of course, but Black doesn’t do anything notable with the character outside of give him some snappy dialogue. Black’s utilization of the Mandarin, and of Kingsley in general, is fantastic but in the end it doesn’t mean as much because we’re not nearly as invested in Iron Man as we used to be. He’s dull and there’s nothing unique about him in the film; there are so many suits being used that the special factor wears off quickly.
Iron Man 3 is going to be the biggest hit film of 2013, most likely. It won’t be its best, though, not anywhere near it.
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.