Movie Review: Iron Man 3
Pros:Downey is tremendous as usual; the script has plenty of wit; its action scenes are spectacular.
Cons:It's unlikely to appease people who aren't fans of the series; it's dispensable and not a film that will live long in the memory.
Robert Downey Jr returns in Shane Black’s witty and unusually dark addition to the Iron Man series.
Generally speaking, threequels don’t have a particularly good reputation in the history of cinema. More often than not, they’re inferior to their predecessors, and often ruin an otherwise good film series – Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, The Godfather and Terminator are all prime examples of popular franchises that come a cropper at the third instalment. Even Toy Story 3, arguably the greatest threequel of all time, is still not quite as good as its predecessors.
It’s refreshing, therefore, to report that Iron Man 3 not only equals the achievements of previous efforts in the series, but it’s also arguably the best one of all.
Tony Stark is back, played again by the inimitable Robert Downey Jr, and while it isn’t quite as grim as say, The Dark Knight films at their bleakest, Iron Man 3 is certainly the most serious movie of the trilogy. The film picks up where The Avengers left off, with Tony still recovering from the unenviable task of having to save the world. Much like Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, Stark suffers from defects that are unmistakably human during the first part of the film. He struggles to sleep and so spends most nights tinkering away at his base. He is even prone to panic attacks, or ‘freaking out’ as he puts it, and is perpetually struggling to master the intricacies of his Iron Man suit. Meanwhile, a terrorist group are wreaking havoc on the world, and are led by an evil dictator-type figure known as The Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley, who is clearly enjoying himself in this scene-stealing role), who has a penchant for filming his murders of innocent Americans, while teasingly asking the country’s president to intervene. Stark also has to worry about Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a suspicious-seeming geneticist with designs on his beloved girlfriend Pepper Potts.
Director and writer Shane Black – who has emerged from relative obscurity, having enjoyed a few years as a Hollywood golden boy after selling the script for Lethal Weapon aged 22 and earning a hefty $4m for writing The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1996, before his career went awry – does a fine job at the helm. He has spoken in interviews of wanting to give the film ‘an edge’, and the conspicuous level of soul-searching that he engages in means Downey has to do more genuine acting here than in the first two Iron Man films combined. And this change also helps breathe fresh air into the series, in comparison to the far lighter first two efforts, as Stark’s problems with self-doubt and human frailties are conveyed impeccably, and thus give the viewer renewed reason to root for him.
Black’s customary wit – most noticeable in his 2005 directorial debut, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – has also remained intact in this more mainstream effort. The film rivals The Avengers, with its abundance of sharp one-liners, and Downey’s delivery is as amiably deadpan as ever: ‘Occasionally, I save the world’, he remarks wryly at one point. Even the appearance of a child character – who happens to be hyper-intelligent in the way only kids in movies tend to be – adds to the hilarity, as he engages in some priceless banter with Stark, never coming across as irritating in any way.
That said, while the movie has many pleasant surprises, it’s still very much an Iron Man film – Black has tweaked the formula rather than tearing it up and starting again. Thus, it has plenty of all-too-familiar and remarkably noisy action scenes that demand to be watched in an IMAX theatre in order to absorb their full effect. And consequently, there is enough of this manic madness, replete with spectacular explosions and well-choreographed fight sequences, to ensure that long-term fans will go home happy. And while viewing this well-orchestrated chaos may feel far more dispensable than your average Oscar-winning movie, in terms of pure frenetic fun, it’s hard to beat.
But of course, those who were never quite sure what all the fuss was about in the first place may well feel underwhelmed once again, but Black’s wit, coupled with Downey’s effervescence, means even they should find elements to admire in this third outing.