The dust has settled and director Shane Black‘s highly-anticipated Phase Two kick-starter for Marvel/Disney’s gigantic venture is here. Iron Man 3 has landed and it just might be the best in the mostly over-rated series. It’s also not a very good movie. Iron Man 3 is Robert Downey Jr.‘s best turn as the playboy millionaire Tony Stark, because of its deeper interests in the character, but the film as a whole is weighed down by too many pointless villains and action sequences that feel like nothing more than expensive set pieces. Iron Man 3 feels almost as sluggish as Iron Man and also suffers from a deflating ending, much like Iron Man 2.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has survived the alien events of The Avengers. He’s found a new focus on life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), yet he insists on continuing to build more and more suits. He acts like his usual self on the outside, but on the inside he’s a ticking time bomb of a mess, barely able to catch a few hours of sleep if he’s lucky. The truth is that his entire life changed on that day of the alien invasion and he’s having a difficult time finding out where he fits into a world that already has a God (Thor) and a super soldier (Captain America).
Is there still a purpose for Tony Stark? Can Iron Man exist among these other galactic forces?
There’s also a new villain in town who goes by the name of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). How he fits into this cryptic puzzle is unknown to Tony just yet, but the more he digs into his past the more he discovers the truth to what is going on around him. Does Tony have what it takes to rise to the occasion yet again or is Iron Man going to have to sit this one out and let his pal the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) take things over?
Shane Black‘s Iron Man 3 is an incredibly difficult film to discuss without dropping major spoilers. This is because the marketing smartly only hinted at the surface of the film’s actual plot and to detail it any further would be to ruin the big surprise. So, I’m going to review certain parts of the film that I enjoyed and the parts that I didn’t care for too much, but I’m going to be intentionally vague.
Let’s dive right into Shane Black‘s ability as a writer and a director. The man works wonders on-screen when it comes to comedy and establishing a very specific tone that can only be described as half-way serious, but mostly joking. Iron Man 3 feels light and brisk and like one big adventure, yet it’s the darkest Iron Man film yet — one that’s not afraid to tackle some of Tony’s emotions that are swirling around inside his head. The film handles these emotions rather seriously and helps give Iron Man 3 a much-needed boost ahead of Iron Man and Iron Man 2.
Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man film because of how it treats the character of Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. returns to his usual dickish antics, but this time pairing with Black to back each and every snarky reply with some meaning. RDJ has worn out his welcome as of late mostly playing the same guy in almost every film that he’s been in over the past few years, yet Iron Man 3 feels like a rebirth of that persona. He still cracks the same lightning fast jokes, but he does it with an edge that wasn’t as sharp as the previous films.
This is because Black is a fantastic writer and director that knows tone. He co-wrote the film with Drew Pearce and together the two balance the funny, the serious and the action. It sounds like all of the makings for the perfect Marvel film, especially one that needs to come off strong after The Avengers, yet Iron Man 3 limps to the finish line due to a case of way too many villains piled on top of a story that’s all over the place.
Ben Kingsley does a splendid job as The Mandarin. His cold monotone line delivery sends chills up the spine, while his general physical presence sets whoever is near him back a few feet. He’s given a lot to do in the film and he handles it all very well. This is a character that can’t be discussed in detail due to spoiler reasons, so we’ll just leave it at that. Kingsley nails it.
Guy Pearce…. not so much. It’s not entirely his fault either, but Aldrich Killian is a boring mess that comes off as nothing more than confusing and irritating. Pearce attempts to give the character a few layers, but nothing sticks longer than five or ten minutes.
Rebecca Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau are all given key slices of the film, but none steal their scenes away from RDJ or Kingsley. Hall is mostly an afterthought, while Paltrow only comes butting in when a plot line needs minor focusing. Cheadle and Favreau make for some great back-and-forth dialogue between RDJ, but like almost everyone else they’re completely tossed aside when the film’s dodgy plot makes its way in.
It starts out going in one direction and takes a hard right in the opposite direction without any real rhyme or reason. Details are left in the dark as Black reveals the film’s true intentions with little impact. Characters get robbed of importance, while pointless ones are all of the sudden deemed worthy of attention.
The action suffers from this shift in quality too. Expensive and well-filmed sequences suddenly lack any weight and feel like nothing more than fancy set pieces to show in a Marvel highlight reel. The last battle is particularly bad, because it’s in a poor location and suffers from way too much on-screen noise. You’ll get sick just trying to figure out who you’re even supposed to be following around and then when you think you have an idea the plug gets pulled and everything gets wrapped up with a nice bow on top for good measures.
You can say Iron Man 3 feels like the most complete Marvel movie yet, if we’re talking about the films made within the Phase One/Phase Two boundaries. It does a fine job distancing itself from The Avengers and not resting solely on the idea of continuing the massive franchise just for the sake of it. It feels like a full Iron Man story, from beginning, to middle, to end.
And I enjoyed that fact. Shane Black certainly stamped his own brand onto the film and onto the series, but Iron Man 3 still suffers from the same thing that the first two did. It’s too long, with a dozen or so scenes bogging down the film’s attempt at a consistent pace, which was Iron Man‘s main problem and then it goes all-in and unleashes way too many ideas and characters for the final act, which is something that Iron Man 2 had troubles with.
Still, Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man yet, but it’s also one of the worst “new” Marvel films. Robert Downey Jr. is clearly running out of gas with Tony Stark and it seems like Marvel is running out of ideas for the character. Hopefully Stark takes a back seat in The Avengers 2 and lets the rest of the much more interesting characters of the Marvel universe takeover.
*Do not waste your money on the 3D. It adds absolutely nothing but a headache.*
Iron Man 3 – 6.5/10