Iron Man 3 isn’t really an Iron Man movie for much of its run time, but that doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining and hilarious ride from nearly start to finish.
Following the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark seems to be having a hard time adjusting to the revelations that experience had on him; aliens, gods, wormholes, all of these things messed up Stark’s world view. Lack of sleep added to the need to prepare for everything the universe can throw at him has sent Stark’s world spiraling and his relationship with Pepper Potts is strained. When a terrorist, The Mandarin, accidentally makes his political crusade personal to Stark, Stark challenges him to a head on fight, but Stark wasn’t quite as ready as he thought he was.
When I say the film isn’t really an Iron Man film it’s that unlike the first two films in the series Tony isn’t really dealing with the responsibility or creation of that persona. Here he is more of a detective solving an isolated crime and before things get blown to hell he was already investigating what The Mandarin was all about. This isn’t a problem, it was just a tad unexpected, as the film unfolds almost entirely without any Iron Man action till the third act. People who worry that this is a problem should relax, writer/director Shane Black has you in good hands.
Black crafts an investigation that is fun and hilarious while also having weight and stakes at every turn. The Mandarin’s plot is nicely, gradually, woven into the story and it’s refreshing to see our hero is never two steps ahead. Stark is on his own here for much of the film and he is constantly evolving with the situation and adjusting as needed. Just because Stark is going it alone doesn’t mean he doesn’t have someone to interact with, as Black wisely pairs up Downey Jr. against/with someone for some excellent comic relief all along The Mandarin’s trail. Black was always known as a writer up to his excellent directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the writing here is as about as strong as Whedon’s on The Avengers. There are a number of big laughs throughout, the dialogue is great and the plot always keeps you on your toes; the film is always delivering something unexpected.
The effects work is also top notch here and you will see Tony enter an Iron Man suit in what seems like a hundred different ways; it’s Iron Man suit porn. The Malibu action scene that is in all of the marketing is riveting and has an early favorite for one of the best “oh shit” moments of the year. The effects are actually spectacular compared to a recent watching of the original Iron Man films and the villainous characters have a certain glow about them that looks fantastic every time. The third act is filled with three major set pieces stacked on top of one another and each gets better than the other, escalating our excitement and moving you to the edge of your seats.
The only complaint I can really make about the film is that a couple characters could have used a bit more screen time and that the opening sequence seemed a bit shoehorned in. I also think Tony’s “issues” in the film could have been played up a bit more/portrayed better, especially since they remain rather inconsequential by the time the film’s credits roll. Maybe an Avengers 2 set up?
The returning cast is as great as expected, Downey might be his best Stark here, and it was nice to see Paltrow is getting to do a bit more heavy lifting. The newcomers are all excellent as well with Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian serving as an excellent scientific foil to Tony Stark. Rebecca Hall has always been under used, and the same goes here, but it is nice to see her do a fine job regardless. James Badge Dale is delightfully creepy and menacing (and another underrated actor if I might say) while Paul Bettany turns up the C-3PO for the best Jarvis role yet. Ben Kingsley might steal the show though as The Mandarin and the duality of his role is perfectly executed and injects a whole lot of life into the plot right when it needs it.
You are probably already in line to see Iron Man 3 this weekend, maybe even for a second time, and I have to agree that is a smart move. It stands firmly alongside the previous two films in quality, but I think this might have the chance to elevate to the best of the series after a second viewing. The tone and plot were a bit unexpected and I am not going to lie if I wasn’t a bit thrown off for a bit, even if I was enjoying it. Unexpected is a good thing though when it comes to these giant franchises and the second half of Iron Man 3 is a great ride all super hero fans will enjoy.
Iron Man 3 is a B+