Last year, Marvel Studios concluded Phase 1 of their Cinematic Universe with ‘The Avengers’ smashing records with aplomb through the summer, earning the favour of both critics and fans in a major way.
‘Iron Man 3’ kicks off the big summer ahead, with a major change in the director's chair. Jon Favreau, director of the first two (and Happy Hogan in the films), has stepped aside from directorial duties and long time Hollywood action movie scribe Shane Black is taking over the hot seat, marking a reunion with Robert Downey Jr., his star from his directorial debut ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ (2005).
Since the alien invasion that took place in New York City in the events of ‘The Avengers’, Tony has been suffering from insomnia and anxiety attacks. Fearful of what might happen should someone decide to attack him or Pepper, he's focused himself on tinkering and building suits in his lab, racking up an impressive count of 42 suits. Meanwhile, a new threat emerges in the form of the Mandarin, who has executed multiple attacks on the United States and has promised the President further “education” from him. And we haven't even mentioned this deadly new virus, Extremis, that allows people to regenerate their limbs. And Rhodey's got a new paint job! (Red! White! Blue! Iron Patriot!)
So, how do all the jigsaw puzzles fit for Shellhead's third solo outing? Pretty nicely, I'd say. Shane Black has done a tremendous job here, cooking up interesting new situations for Stark to find himself in, displaying cool new tech and infusing the script and story with plenty of laughs along the way. More importantly, he's centered the story around the character of Stark again and reminded us just how fascinating a character Tony Stark really is, a fact that gets lost on us when we all get excited about shiny mechanical robot suits.
Unlike ‘Iron Man 2’ where Tony seemed to be sidelined for a variety of characters and sub plots from S.H.I.E.L.D, this movie is really about putting Tony Stark in a back against the wall type of situation reminiscent of that in the first movie, without any access to his toys and now, his new superfriends. We get to see Tony make stuff again and the movie tilts towards that of a techno-thriller, with Stark relying on his smarts, some cobbled together guerrilla tech and even some stealth work to get the edge on the baddies. The result is a very fresh take on the superhero movie genre, at times resembling something of a funny spy thriller if that could be such a thing.
Of course, if you enjoyed the humour that was present in ‘The Avengers’, you'll appreciate that ‘Iron Man 3’ is fairly similar in that department, with Shane Black's slightly offbeat humour lightening up the rather serious tone of the events occurring around Tony. It's such an added bonus that RDJ and Black have worked together before; it translates beautifully on to the screen with Downey delivering witty zingers and quips at breakneck speed while still managing to emote the painful pathos that his character has experienced in three previous movies. The humour often takes the stage front and center but never takes away from the themes that are trying to be conveyed here; namely integrity and the corruption of it, the courage to do what's right, loyalty to friends and just plain old good versus evil. If this is truly RDJ's final bow (his contract with Marvel just ended) as Tony Stark, it's hard to imagine who could possibly step into his shoes as he's certainly made the character his own, such that it's almost impossible to separate the actor from the character at this point. The rest of the cast also turn in great performances; but it's Sir Ben Kingsley's performance as the Mandarin that'll have people talking. We can't talk too much about it but: his performance alone is worth the price of admission.
And while ‘Iron Man 3’ isn't a perfect movie by any means – the villains are forgettable for example – the highs the movie manages to hit sure outweigh the lows. The movie even manages to sneak in a few surprises here and there, not an easy feat in this era of 24/7 news cycles and spoilers. And the climatic battle sequence where Iron Man suits seemingly fill up every acre of the screen is not one to be missed. This movie manages to approach the dizzying heights of the one that started it all way back in 2008 and is definitely up there as one of Marvel's better efforts. And really, what else could a viewer be looking for in a summer blockbuster than such pure entertainment?