It’s hard to believe that Iron Man 3 is Marvel’s seventh film since it created its own studio to produce movies. I still remember the post credits sequence from the first Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury stepped out from behind Tony Stark’s couch and teased what would end up being one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. But now that The Avengers has happened Marvel is pushing on into what they call Phase II which will lead into The Avengers 2. Iron Man 3 is the first part of Phase II, followed by Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I think it’s safe to say that there is a lot to look forward to.
So, In Iron Man 3 Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is trying to recover from the events of The Avengers. Having to deal with demigods, a full on alien invasion, and all of the other insanity has left Tony very shaken up. He cannot sleep and he is suffering from panic attacks. To cope he spends all of his time tinkering with various iterations of his Iron Man armor. As a result his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes very strained.
It doesn’t help his situation any when a demon from his past returns to haunt him in the form of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist he spurned years before at a Y2K New Years Eve party. Killian plans to use his Extremis technology to wreak havoc and take control of the United States. On top of that a mysterious terrorist leader known only as the Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) is targeting America with terrorist bombings and cryptic messages aimed at the president of the United States (Deep Space 9’s William Sadler). I won’t say much more about the plot to avoid big spoilers but it goes on to have a couple of unexpected and amusing twists that M. Night Shyamalan would be jealous of. The film then culminates in a huge dockside battle between Killian’s men and all of the Iron Man armors Tony has been working on.
To keep the franchise fresh Marvel brought in Shane Black to co-write and direct Iron Man 3. If the name isn’t familiar it should be. Black’s credits include writing the original Lethal Weapon and writing and directing the film that began Downey’s phoenix-like comeback, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black and co-writer Drew Pearce made sure to deepen the character of Tony Stark while maintaining the fun of a Marvel movie. They’ve done this by focusing on the man behind the armor. In fact many of the action scenes involve no armor or just pieces of it, showing that Stark is quite capable without it.
The dialogue is typical of a Shane Black screenplay, quick, witty, and fun. Scenes between Tony and Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) are quippy but even better are Tony’s interactions with a kid from Tennessee (Ty Simpkins). They’re endearing interactions that are also quite hilarious thanks to Stark keeping it real with the kid. He doesn’t sugarcoat things and that leads to some hilarious one liners.
Iron Man 3’s plot is a lot more streamlined than the plot in Iron Man 2. There are still a couple of pieces that don’t get a satisfactory exploration. Stark’s PTSD gets kind of forgotten as things get going later in the film and brilliant scientist and ex-flame of Tony, Dr. Maya Hanson (Rebecca Hall) is underused. Cheadle’s Rhodes also feels a bit left out though he appears frequently for short bits throughout the film. In fact Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan (Stark’s faithful bodyguard) almost has more to do than Cheadle. He becomes head of security at Stark Industries and also becomes the reason Tony goes after the Mandarin after he is injured in a bombing.
The performances are brilliant as always. Downey is at his best as he wrestles with panic attacks, tries to keep Pepper safe, and continues to be hilarious. Paltrow is also great. She’s every bit Downey’s equal on screen. It’s very refreshing to see an adult relationship that has continued and grown throughout four movies. Most franchises would have had the hero hook up with four different women by now.
Kingsley’s take on the Mandarin is scary and the voice he uses is unique and terrifying. The Mandarin of this film however has polarized fans of the comics. I won’t get into it here though to avoid spoilers but the character you may know and love is not the character you end up getting. Personally I enjoyed it. Pearce is also great as the other villain, Dr. Killian. He is the complete embodiment of big business douche without copying Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer. He’s also very menacing when his Extremis gets going.
The rest of the cast is great as well, especially Simpkins as the kid that helps out Tony. It’s hard to get the little kid in a movie right but somehow they did it without veering into annoying or cheese.
You can’t talk about a superhero movie without mentioning the set pieces and Iron Man 3 is full of them. As mentioned above, there are several instances where Tony is without any or all of his armor. You would think that you would only want to see Tony fully suited up but Black does a magnificent job of making these scenes fun and entertaining. Again, it really helps to show that it’s the man that makes the armor and not the other way around.
There is also a very thrilling aerial scene where Iron Man has to save a group of people falling out of a plane. Apparently they used a skydiving stunt team. Thanks to this practical approach the scene is one of the most real-looking and exciting in the film. The final battle is also well done, but for me it was lacking something. I’m more a fan of the finale to Iron Man 2, which I know will get me some shit thrown my way.
The CGI throughout the film isn't bad either. It’s on par with all of the other films in the series, including The Avengers. Even when there are 40 Iron Men flying around at the end of the film it never looks too too fake. It’s also fun to see more of Stark’s holographic tech in his garage. I really hope that is a real thing someday soon.
Overall Iron Man 3 is a good movie. I won’t spoil the ending but it left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. They seem to have left things in a way that will allow for Downey’s exit or his continuation of the character depending on what happens with contract negotiations. As of right now his involvement in future Marvel films is up in the air. Marvel will need to throw lots of money at him to get him back. They’ll also have to convince him that there are more interesting things for Tony Stark to do. Hopefully, at the very least, they’ll get him to appear in The Avengers 2. I’m confident that they’ll find a way to make it happen. In any case Iron Man 3 is one of the best out of the seven movies that Marvel has made since beginning this amazing journey. 4 out of 5 stars.