Film Review: Iron Man 3
Director: Shane Black
Producer: Kevin Feige
Production Studio: Marvel Studios
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gywneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), emotionally scarred by the events which nearly claimed his life during his battle alongside ‘The Avengers’, is forced back into action when a powerful extremist known only as ‘The Mandarin’ begins launching devastating terrorist attacks worldwide.
The Avengers undeniably set a landmark for superhero cinema as it spectacularly brought together an ensemble cast of characters each with drastically clashing personalities. Aside from the ominous stinger at the end of the credits sequence, featuring intergalactic bad-guy Thanos, people were left uncertain as to where this left each of the individual members of the now-established superhero team. Iron Man 3 marks the beginning of Marvel’s “Phase Two”: a series of solo-flying movies which will, like their predecessors, will intertwine in setting the ground work for “The Avengers 2”. It’s only fitting that the first member to set foot in this new era is the one that started it all!
The story starts an undisclosed time after the events of The Avengers. Since the earth-shattering events in New York the Iron Avenger “Iron Man/Tony Stark” has succumbed to a vivid form of post traumatic stress disorder that in addition to depriving him of sleep makes him hallucinate and suffer chronic panic attacks uncharacteristic of the normally suave and collected superhero. When a string of terrorist bombings, orchestrated by an extremist known only as ‘The Mandarin’, comes to American shores the people turn to Iron Man for assurance of security. The shaken hero is forced into action when the Mandarin strikes far closer to home than he could have ever feared. In addition to dealing with this new mysterious threat Stark must also contend once again with the shady world of militant industry in the form of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a genius inventor once rejected by Stark who has developed an incredibly powerful experimental treatment called Extremis which allows its users to quickly recover from crippling injuries and gain superhuman-like strength and endurance.
Who is the Mandarin? What are his motivations? Do his beliefs mask a more sinister objective?
These questions and more are faced by Tony Stark as he learns to fly once more, rising from the proverbial ashes of his stupor.
What really makes the plot of Iron Man 3 work, staple and revamped performances from its’ stellar cast aside, is that it always keeps its’ audience thinking. It keeps you thinking in a way that never risks losing your attention but at the same time never takes your intelligence for a ride. Robert Downey Jr portrays a visibly rattled Stark with an interesting mixture of uncharacteristic anxiety and seriousness, Gywneth Paltrow finally gets her time to shine in her role as Virginia “Pepper” Potts and does far more this time around than merely be Stark’s arm-girl, Don Cheadle amicably reprises his role as the stoic Colonel James Rhodes, and newcomer Guy Pearce delivers an interesting character in the form of Aldrich Killian who comes across as a more sinister mirror-version of what Tony Stark himself may have become or may indeed have once been. The real scene stealer here however is Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, a character that is surely going down in superhero cinema for many reasons!
I won’t be spoiling anything here but director Shane Black epically pulls the rug out from underneath your feet just over half way into the story and in the process completely changes the mood and premise of the narrative, you’ll know EXACTLY what I am referring to when you get there! It’s probably one of the best plot twists in cinema I have seen in recent years, where a built-up setting is spectacularly turned on its’ head with only a handful of soon-to-be-legendary scenes. From this point on the story almost flip-flops between overtly serious scenarios and amazingly buoyant moments, such juxaposition really deserves credit which I am all too happy to provide! Whoever wrote the scripts and screenplays did one hell of a job that’s for sure.
The score has also undergone a number of changes, and arguably for the better. I found myself not just wondering but expecting when an AC/DC track would crop up but amazingly there is not one song from the Australian legends to be heard here! Instead we have a number of tracks composed by Brian Tyler including the catchiest original theme song for a superhero film I think I have ever heard (I’ve embedded it above, just listen to it!). Action sequences are frequent as they are diverse and for a series now on it’s trilogy outing they still manage to do new and neat stuff, it seems that when Stark is ‘up against it’ he busts out his license to kill in creative ways.
Before I wrap this up I need to come back to the plot twist, not to spoil it, but to say that it probably won’t resonate well with everyone for a good reason. Recent superhero films such as The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises have all featured brooding and serious storylines of varying degrees and this may well have wet audience appetites for more stories of this vein. Therefore the tangent Iron Man 3 shoots off on during it’s own story after having established a similar track may not go down well with absolutely everyone, it did with myself because it was executed nigh-perfectly and didn’t compromise the film as a whole. It’s often said that trailers lie but every trailer for this film lied through their teeth without being offensive for doing so. The best way I can get my point across is really for you to watch the embedded trailer at the head of this page, see the movie, then come back and watch the trailer again – you’ll see exactly what I mean if you do.
So, what part does Iron Man 3 play in ushering in Marvel’s “Phase Two”?
That’s a very good question… I’m not sure it plays a significant role in the bigger picture but it does portray an interesting and somewhat conclusive story arc for Tony Stark. References to the events of The Avengers are scattered throughout the story, references which are somewhat essential for understanding the turmoil taking place within Stark’s mind, but there is little-to-no sign of either SHIELD or of Stark’s superhero buddies here. What has kept them busy you say? I guess we’ll have to see for ourselves when Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier arrive in theaters.
Final Score: 8/10
+ Resounding performances from most of the cast.
+ Rounds-off and somewhat concludes Tony Stark’s personal story on a satisfying level.
+ Fantastic action sequences.
+ Creative usage of the Iron Man armor, and it’s many other variations.
+ Ben Kingsley nearly steals the entire film as ‘The Mandarin’.
– The plot twist may disconnect some viewers from the film until the final thirty minutes.
– Doesn’t appear to add much to the wider picture, although perhaps that is being compensated for by Thor and Captain America?
Iron Man 3 is a high-flying, ass-kicking, character-driven story of a hero fallen to murky emotional depths who tries to piece himself back together to face up to great adversity. Whilst it does not contribute much at all, at least openly, to the wider Marvel universe it is a thrilling solo outing for Tony Stark.