Iron Man 3 is arguably the most anticipated film of the year, so it’s going to do well whether or not it’s actually a good film. Thankfully, the filmmakers don’t just rest on their laurels because Iron Man 3 is probably the best one yet. After the disaster that was Iron Man 2 I was more than a little worried about Tony Starks’ next outing. Yes he was the best part of Marvel’s The Avengers, but a lot of that was due to Joss Whedon. While I’m sure he had a hand in ensuring continuity with The Avengers 2, Whedon is not at the helm here. Shane Black is both writer and director on Iron Man 3 and he does an admirable job of picking up where The Avenger’s left off.
Iron Man 3 picks up shortly after the events of The Avenger’s. Tony Stark is back in LA, but both he and the public have been greatly affected the alien invasion that decimated New York. Tony in particular is experiencing what seems to be a form of PTSD. This is problematic since a new terrorist mastermind in the form of the Mandarin had targeted America. In the process of doing so, the Mandarin also dismantles Tony’s world in a fiery attack showcased heavily in the trailers. For those of you worried that the seriousness of the plot will stifle Robert Downy Jr’s trademark sarcastic playboy, don’t. Even as he takes on the most interesting Iron Man villain – sorry Jeff Bridges, not so much Mickey Rourke – Downy maintains Tony Stark’s wit and attitude with ease. Where this Iron Man succeeds is walking the line between the glib Tony we’re used to and the more serious persona Joss Whedon began crafting in The Avengers.
Black strips Tony, quite literally, of his amour to show us why only Tony Stark can be Iron Man. Not just anyone can step into the suit as Don Cheadle can attest. Cheadle is good as Iron Patriot, the rebranded War Machine, but he’s no Iron Man. Tony spends a good portion of the film without his suit, using only his ingenuity and surprising physical prowess to hunt down the Mandarin. And Robert Downy Jr plays all facets of Tony perfectly. While most of the film is peppered with the sharpness and humour only Downy can provide, there are a few moments of emotion where even I was surprised by his talents. In a popcorn superhero movie like this you don’t expect to feel the pain and loss the protagonist is going through (because let’s be honest, this is not the Dark Knight). I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but Downy and Black give us a glimpse at a tony Stark in turmoil and it is perfection.
Where Iron Man 3 really excels though is use of its cast. Downy is obviously in top form, but Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, and even Don Cheadle do an worthy job keeping up with juggernaut that is Tony Stark. Paltrow specifically. I’ve never been her biggest fan, but Iron Man 3 finally gives Pepper Pots more to do than scream and cry for Tony. This is the most empowered we’ve seen her, so kudos for that. However, no one is better in going toe to toe with Downy than Sir Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. So as not to spoil anything, I will just say that Kingsley is as awesome as you might expect, southern accent and all.
With all this praise, you might think Iron Man 3 is practically perfect. It isn’t. The film has its flaws. Iron Man 3 weaves the narrative of The Avengers with its own with relative ease. I like that the previous events have taken a mental toll on Tony, showing us his vulnerability. However, with the Mandarin going all Osama bin Laden on America it’s weird that Tony seems to be the only Avenger on duty. You’d think that maybe Captain America would have a stake in this. I know the filmmakers are trying to give Iron Man room to shine on his own, but there is no real mention of his crime fighting cohorts. They could have at least alluded to the whereabouts of the other, maybe Steve Rogers was on vacation? There are a few other minor slip ups, but with the layered performance Downy give’s I can’t seem to remember any of them.
There is talk of this being Robert Downy Jr’s last outing as Iron Man in a solo film. I hope that’s not true. Because if the Iron Man franchise continues like this, it will only get better.
Oh, and a word to the wise – stick around after the credits. The extra scene is one of Marvels’ finest, wrapping a seemingly innocuous framing device quite perfectly (for all you writer’s out there).