I love superhero movies! I love superheroes, period! I own a few comics too! When these films come out, the critic in me disappears and the fanboy emerges. That doesn’t mean I liked every single Marvel film. I’m not a pushover, but I do highly anticipate every single one. Iron Man is probably among my favorites. The first one is probably my favorite stand alone hero film. It’s near perfect. The second one was good enough, but suffered a bit from overkill. Now, Director Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and director of the criminally under seen KISS KISS BANG BANG, also starring Downey Jr) takes over the franchise from Jon Favreau (he still stayed on as producer). After seeing the first trailer, I was pretty stoked. This one promised to be much darker, which I was totally ready for.
The prologue takes place in 1999 at some kind of Scientists convention/party and Tony Stark is seducing an up and coming scientist named Maya. They are approached by a creepy dude named Killian who has an experimental proposition for Stark, who of course blows it off cause he just wants to bang Maya. Fast forward to the present. The event of what happened in THE AVENGERS loom over the movie. Tony is suffering panic attacks due to what happened during those events in New York. His relationship with Pepper is not going so hot since he spends most of his time making more Iron Man suits (he’s up to 42). Meanwhile, a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is blowing shit up around the world. Well, when one of the attacks almost kills his faithful bodyguard Happy Hogan (Favreau), Stark sends out an open invitation on television for the Mandarin to attack him. This backfires. Tony’s home is destroyed and assumed dead. He is left without any suits, and must rely on his wits to save the day. Also in the mix is War Machine, who has changed his name to Iron Patriot, who is working for national security. And the characters Maya and Killian return, and appear to be working for the Mandarin.
After the first 2 IRON MAN films and THE AVENGERS, this one definitely is a change of pace. And it’s welcoming. Instead of insane action scenes, I thought it was refreshing that it was more like a thriller. Because Tony is stripped of his armor, he must make shit…. kind of like MacGuyver. But for me, the real reason to see these films is for the characters. There’s something comforting about watching Tony Stark constantly toss out one-liners to Pepper Potts. I love seeing their relationship grow from film to film. Or in this case, grow apart. The middle portion has Tony befriending a kid in a small town, who helps him in many ways. It’s a cute relationship, but it’s not schmaltzy. I love how Tony interacts with a little boy using a no-bullshit attitude. When the kid tells him that his dad left 6 years ago, Tony replies by saying, “Dad’s leave, let’s not be pussies about it”. I’m glad the movie showed some balls in that regard. It also added some fun humor in an otherwise pretty dark film.
Now, this isn’t all talk, talk, talk. There’s quite a few impressive action set pieces, like the attack on Stark’s place. That probably had my favorite moment in the film that shows just how important Pepper is to Tony. Gave me goosebumps. There’s also an effects heavy sequence that has Iron Man saving people in mid-air who fell off from Air Force One. And the finale, which has tons of Iron Men flying around attacking the bad guys. I liked that the movie wasn’t completely action oriented, but it does have enough thrilling moments to satisfy action buffs for sure.
I do have some problems with the film. And they pretty much all have to do with spoilers. I’ll do my best to not give anything away here, but there were some surprising developments that I didn’t see coming. Some were cool, and others I thought were kind of lame. I had a tough time with the motivations of the villain in this movie. Speaking of the villain, the Mandarin is known as Iron Man’s biggest arch nemesis. I think some die-hard comic book fans are going to have some trouble with how he’s handled. It was kind of weird for me. Also, on one or two occasions, I thought the movie tried TOO hard injecting some humor in this, otherwise, dark film. There’s a scene that I thought felt like it was more from a HANGOVER movie than from an IRON MAN movie. Didn’t quite fit. I almost expected Ken Jeong to appear in the scene. But, these things don’t completely ruin the film. In fact, I think that this contains the most satisfying fight between Iron Man and the main villain in the entire series.
Robert Downey Jr. IS Iron Man. He knows this character inside and out and can practically play him in his sleep. But he doesn’t, he gives it his all and it’s a great performance. Gwyneth Paltrow is terrific again as Pepper. Don Cheadle is solid again as Rhodie. It was nice seeing Favreau as Happy Hogan, and he’s got some nice moments. Rebecca Hall is a great actress and she does a good job, even though her character wasn’t fully developed for me. And also, how did she not age from 1999 to now? In fact, I thought she looked younger in the present day, which was weird. Guy Pearce is kind of campy here, but he fits the comic book style of the film. Ben Kingsley gives a bit of an odd performance. This guy has been type cast as a villain more times than Dennis Hopper. Sometimes he’s right on, other times it’s clear he’s collecting a paycheck. That’s not the case here. He’s doing something different and I can definitely see what attracted him to the part. It was also nice seeing some favorite character actors getting some work: William Sadler (bad guy from DIE HARD 2 , and the Grim Reaper from BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY) plays the President and Miguel Ferrer (Bob from ROBOCOP) is the Vice President. Got a kick out of that.
Shane Black! Yes! Love this guy. You know something? He was an actor in the first PREDATOR. He was the nerdy looking mercenary who told bad pussy jokes (and the first one to be killed by the alien). He’s also a terrific writer and in 2005, proved to be a kick-ass filmmaker. This is only his second film, and he does a bang up job here. You can immediately tell, during the first second, that this is a Shane Black movie. It begins with Downey Jr. doing snarky narration, just like KISS KISS BANG BANG did. That had me “all smiles” right away. And the final confrontation takes place on shipping dock, just like in LETHAL WEAPON 2! In fact, that sequence even begins like a LETHAL WEAPON movie with Tony and Rhodie (suitless) holding guns back to back. It was a clever homage to buddy action films from the early 90’s. That was a nice tough. The script is mostly good. Like I said, some of the villain stuff was kind of a letdown. The franchise has now brought on yet another composer, Brian Tyler. He does a great job, and for the first time actually gives IRON MAN his very own “hero” theme. It’s awesome!
Fans of the franchise, Marvel nuts, and people who like entertainment in general will probably enjoy this. I definitely think it’s better than two, but it’s far from the genius of the first one. But that’s okay. You don’t have to hit a home run every time. Sometimes, hitting a double is just fine. Shane Black proves that he can helm big budget blockbusters as well and even better (in some cases) than the rest. If you keep your expectations realistic, IRON MAN 3 will not disappoint. It’s a great popcorn movie and a perfect way to start off the summer movie season! ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
– Running time: 2hrs 10min.