With Avengers Assemble grossing over a billion dollars globally the stage is set for Phase 2 of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Kicking off proceedings (as with Phase 1) is their designated hitter, the one known simply as Iron Man. The third outing of ol’ shell-head sees Jon Favreau step aside in favour of Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang director Shane Black but does the magic continue or in the wake of Avengers Assemble will a stand-alone Iron Man movie feel too small?”
The events of Avengers Assemble and the alien invasion of New York has left billionaire playboy genius Tony Stark a changed man. While the rest of the world has returned to its daily activities a restless Stark spends his sleepless nights tinkering away in his workshop, creating ever more elaborate versions of his iconic metal armour. Enter a new evil in the shape of global terrorist the Mandarin, a malevolent theatrical schemer who has his gaze firmly set on causing maximum damage to the American cultural psyche. When an attack on one of Tony’s friend makes the battle personal the armoured one calls out the mad-man and soon the battle comes home…literally!
Now in his fourth outing as Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. could play this role in his sleep. Thankfully this outing is much more Tony-centric than any of the previous three films and allows RDJ to add depth to his portrayal. The excellent script also gives him plenty of quality dialogue and help make his interactions with Cheadle, Paltrow and newcomer Ty Simpkins feel more honest. Don Cheadle also gets a chance to exercise his acting muscles with extended screen time and a larger buddy role to RDJ’s hero. Their dynamic is at the centre of some of the best wordplay and action sequences in the film. Gwyneth Paltrow’s role is meatier too, no longer the simpering love-struck girl of Iron Man 2 and more the confident strong business woman glimpsed in Tony’s office in Iron Man. She also gets to play with some of the toys this time around and make a bad-ass action-heroine. On villain duties Ben Kingsley gives a brilliant, and very different take on the usual big-bad, while Guy Pearce excels as the completely amoral Aldrich Killian and more than holds his own in the climactic battle. Ty Simpkin stays completely on the right side of cute/annoying kid Jon Favreau is in a more relaxed mood as Happy Hogan, having handed over directing duties to Black. Unfortunately while he does have some great comic moments Happy is more plot-point than character in this outing. Also criminally underused is the excellent Rebecca Hall. Her character is badly underwritten, serving only to fill out the female quota of the film and provide back-up duties to the two main villains.
More than anything else this is a Shane Black movie. It’s a Shane Black movie first, and an Iron Man movie second. If you are a fan of Black then you’re in for an absolute treat as this is Black pumped up on steroids. If you’re not a fan then this will do nothing to convince you otherwise. The script is full of Black-ism’s from the opening voiceover and “that” song, to the Christmas setting, right through to the final showdown. It’s a character driven piece as Tony spends more time out of the suit than in it and it is all the better for that. It’s by far the funniest of any of the Marvel movies with Black and co-writer Drew Pearce bringing the funny in bucket-loads. From a technical perspective a more unnecessary and underwhelming use of 3D you will not see in any recent film. There are large chunks of the film where you can remove the glasses and still see the action clearly. On the plus side the IMAX sequences and the overall quality of the CGI is top-notch. As is the cinematography on a whole, with well framed and choreographed fight-sequences and a lovely use of the darker colour palette to express Tony’s inner turmoil. The music too is excellent, if a tad repetitive, with the opening and closing numbers marking the film as something very different. The absence of AC/DC on the soundtrack is conspicuous and just one number would have tied the film back to its predecessor in a welcome way.
The best Iron Man film? Yes, it most definitely is. Although I do say that as Shane Black fan. The best Marvel film? No, Avengers Assemble is still better, first act lag and all. Irrespective of that Iron Man 3 is quite simply the most fun that you will have at the cinema this year.