Apologies for the late posting of this review. It’s been a gloriously beautiful chaos the last two weeks and things have finally settled down enough for me to post my thoughts
“Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?”
-Steve Rogers, Captain America
Tony Stark has come a long way since his early days as a B-lister superhero. Ten years ago any comic book fan or film producer would have laughed at the notion of such a lesser known hero developing not one, not two, but three box office hits. That said, and here we are in 2013 with Iron Man’s fourth outing and third solo picture where his popularity has never been higher. While Iron Man 2 was no doubt a stumble, the character still bounced back stronger than ever in The Avengers. We all know Robert Downey Jr. still knows how to deliver a crowd pleasing performance, but is there enough momentum left in the character to give us an exceptional third outing or does Iron Man 3 leave us with the same taste of disappointment that is found in most films ending in 3?
It doesn’t take long to see that Tony Stark hasn’t exactly been the same since the events of The Avengers. He no longer sleeps, makes excessive numbers of new suits in his spare time, and worst of all has developed a form of PTSD that kicks in every time he thinks of the battle in New York. In the meantime Pepper(Gwyneth Paltrow) is approached by a man named Aldrich Killian(Guy Pearce) who wants to partner with Stark Industries on a new project called Extremis. When Happy(reprised by former director Jon Favreau) thinks one of Killian’s body guards(James Badge Dale) is up to no good, he investigates and is drawn into a terrorist attack by the Mandarin(Ben Kingsley) that sends Tony on a vengeful path for revenge.
Iron Man 3 is the first post-Avengers Marvel Studios film which has had us all wondering just how they were going to follow up one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. Instead of trying to top it, they made Iron Man 3 a movie that focused solely on Tony Stark and only made passing mentions to The Avengers. Taking the emphasis off of the action and spectacle and focusing on the heart of Tony Stark finally gave his character time to breath and grow in ways that the action would not allow for.
This outing takes Stark out of the suit and breaks down exactly what has made Tony and Iron Man one and the same. He begins the movie as no longer the selfish narcissist that he was in the past, but has now become a man who lives in paranoia of the larger beings in his universe. This fear has driven him to act hastily without thought, and he now lives his life with a bit of a death wish. While it may sound all doom an gloom, we still get to see plenty of the cocky, sarcastic, and egocentric Tony Stark we all know an love despite his rather difficult circumstances. If Robert Downey Jr. hadn’t already proven that he could play Tony Stark in his sleep, prepare to be enlightened.
Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark performance may be front and center of this film, but his supporting cast isn’t slouching either. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper gets quite a bit more to do in this film even if she ultimately falls into the trap of damsel in distress by the films end. Fans of Don Cheadle‘s Rhodey are also in for some fun as he returns taking out bad guys both in and outside of his suit(renamed “Iron Patriot” to be more focus group friendly). Rest easy comic book fans, this is the War Machine/Iron Man team up you’ve been waiting through two movies to see. Lastly, Iron Man 3 would be nothing without a great villain and luckily it delivers two. Guy Pierce and Ben Kinglsey both look like they are relishing every second of screen time they get as their respective bad guys. Pierce plays the predictably sleazy businessman we’re used to seeing in these movies, but it is Kingsley’s shocking turn as the Mandarin that more than makes up for the shortcomings of Pierce’s lack of creativity. While fans of the old school comic books may be disappointed in the movie’s version of Mandarin, newcomers will love the clever twist and tweak of origins brought to Iron Man’s arch-foe.
Iron Man 3 is without a doubt the funniest of the three movies and the credit has to go to co-writer/director Shane Black who somehow hits the perfect balance between Stark’s inner battle, the flashy action sequences, and the staple humor we’re used to seeing. Black was Downey Jr.’s pick for director after their collaboration in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and it turns out to be a match made in heaven. Black brings in a tone that feels more 60’s spy thriller than superhero popcorn flick which suits Tony Stark’s heavily reliance on his brains and gadgetry this time around. The comedic tone makes the movie the most enjoyable of the three, but never falls out of the realm of dramatic believability even in its most silly and sarcastic of moments.
Iron Man 3 works on every level that a Marvel superhero movie should. It’s funny, action packed, focused on Tony Stark, and even moves the mythology of the universe forward enough to keep fans happy. Despite all of this, the movie seems very formularized with it’s cookie-cutter villainous plot, predictable character arc, and familiar spectacle. Unlike the first Iron Man which felt new, fresh, and risky, Iron Man 3 feels like a product of the Marvel machine that is producing quality movies every year that are at this point beginning to feel less and less unique from each other. Iron Man 3 stands firmly on its own right, but sadly nothing feels new or innovative, but instead feels like it’s redundantly going through the motions of making a summer comic book movie. The story takes very little risk in the creativity department with everything falling into place almost too neatly which makes the rushed happy ending of the film feel far from deserved and even a bit hollow.
Make no mistake, Iron Man 3 will deliver in every way you would expect it to, but do not hope for any surprises or new ideas that will push the genre forward. If you’re looking for a good time at the movies and you’ve loved Downey Jr. in the other films, then you owe it to yourself to see this movie in prime viewing at your theater. Fans will not be disappointed. But if you’re more interested in watching a superhero movie that is looking to buck the trends and break new ground then you may want to wait for the likes of Man of Steel later this summer.
The story in Iron Man 3 works as top notch entertainment despite its lack of internal logic or explanation. The problem is that it feels almost manufactured with everything in the movie feeling as if it’s been put through the “Marvel Blockbuster” formula.
Robert Downey Jr. continues to dominate every single scene with his spot on characterization of Stark as well as his keen since of comedic timing. The supporting cast is serviceable with both villains being enjoyable and Stark’s banter with the child actor Ty Simpkins highlighting the movie.
Shane Black brings a fresh take to the screen with his attempt at making Iron Man an action-comedy spy thriller. He successfully brings his own unique stamp to a character and franchise that has already seen at least two directors. Iron Man 3’s direction seems to be the best fit so far making this Stark’s most enjoyable outing yet.
Overall Effectiveness of the Movie: 6.5
This is a tough category to judge. The movie delivers in all of the categories you would want from a superhero blockbuster, but ultimately it feels predictable, hollow, and sapped of any true creativity. It’s as if Marvel got online and saw what fans wanted and gave them that, but failed to come up with any of their own ideas. Everything about the movie wreaks of studio whims and fan pandering which were sadly the chains that were broken with the original Iron Man.