Iron Man 3 is the fourth movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and I’m inclined to believe it’s his most exciting adventure yet. Most of the third entry’s wit and excitement can be attributed to writer/director Shane Black. You may or may not recognize that name, but he’s the guy responsible for writing the original script for Lethal Weapon, when he was only 23 years old. He’s also famous for writing and directing the fantastic film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black has infused the classic 80’s/90’s action movie machismo a la Lethal Weapon, into Tony Stark’s world. And it works. Very well.
The second Iron Man gave us a Tony Stark who was a narcissistic ass, and the script provided the character with all-too-convenient solutions to all of the snarky protagonist’s problems. If Iron Man 2 featured Tony Stark at the top of his game, living large. Then Iron Man 3 features the billionaire playboy philanthropist at his lowest point, struggling to come to terms with his own vulnerabilities and especially, his mortality. Where Iron Man 3 begins, Tony is struggling to adapt to a post-Avengers world, where aliens and gods live on the periphery of our dimension. Knowing, he’s just a “man in a can,” Tony spends all of his time obsessing over his various Iron Man suits. It’s this internal conflict that drives the narrative. Even while the supervillain is gallivanting around the globe, blowing shit up, Tony Stark is struggling to come to terms with his lack of actual super-powers. Tony definitely gets his ass kicked up and down the street in Iron Man 3. But even though the throughline is centered on some pretty heavy subject matter, it’s still the funniest and most exciting Iron Man movie yet. In terms of general “fun-factor” I’d rank it alongside The Avengers. No question.
The film isn’t just about Tony Stark though. From the outset, we’re introduced to a few newcomers, namely: Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). These two scientists are the creators of the infamous bio-engineering project called, Extremis. If you’re a fan of the Iron Man comics, then you know what Extremis is. If you’re not a comic aficionado, then I won’t spoil any more of it here. What you do need to know, is that Extremis may or may not be related to the film’s supervillain: The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). What Kingsley has done with his portrayal of The Mandarin, is nothing short of awesome. The film’s promotional materials (i.e. trailers and TV spots) have been wise to avoid featuring the mysterious Mandarin, and with this review, I’ll do the same. What I will tell you, is that Kingsley’s performance is worth the price of admission alone.
Pepper Potts also plays a big role in Iron Man 3, and isn’t relegated only to tidying up Stark’s paperwork this time around. What is disappointing though, is that she doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime. Stark’s girlfriend Pepper, is smart, capable and generally fun to watch while interacting with Stark. But in this movie, she’s mostly off screen, doing her own thing. So the loveable Stark/Potts repertoire is sorely missed. Pepper provides Iron Man 3 with its emotional core, but it’s a shame most of her story takes place just outside the frame. Oddly enough, this is the first entry in the series that places Pepper in the role of ‘damsel in distress’ but quickly disposes of the trope by giving her a moment of real empowerment. There’s a great article about that very theme out there on the web (I’ll link to it, when I find it).
The few scenes featuring Stark and Rhodes (Don Cheadle), are where Iron Man 3 really falls into place. What surprised me most, is that when the two are running into harm’s way (without their super-suits, mind you), the movie is most entertaining. There are whole sequences that feel like these two characters were copy and pasted into a Lethal Weapon script. And it’s entertaining as hell.
If you’re a fan of the Iron Man series, even a casual fan, you really can’t go wrong with Iron Man 3. For two straight hours, it’ll make you forget about all of your woes. The movie does its best to charm your pants off, and will do so consistently. Oh, and there are a lot of explosions. If I have any criticisms, it’s that there are a few plot-holes sprinkled about here and there, and that we’re deprived of the much beloved Tony/Pepper word-wars. There’s also a somewhat disappointing ending, that seems to wrap things up in a somewhat confusing manor. Regardless, for the first major blockbuster of 2013, Iron Man 3 has set the bar pretty damn high. I can’t wait to see what happens to Tony Stark in the future.
Rating Overall: 4 out of 5