Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Directed by: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley
“[Stark is] stripped of everything, he’s backed up against a wall, and he’s gotta use his intelligence to get out of it. He can’t call Thor, he can’t call Cap, he can’t call Nick Fury, and he can’t look for the Helicarrier in the sky.”
A post-Avengers Marvel film was always going to be a challenge after a triumphant Joss Whedon well and truly threw down the gauntlet with the little-known comic book ensemble. It is with great joy then that I can write that Iron Man 3 puts the hammer down, and responds well to the Firefly director’s challenge, even putting its armour in for contention as one of the most entertaining superhero films of all time.
Narrated by Tony Stark, Iron Man 3 takes place in the shadow of the events that saw an alien threat attack New York and a guy from space spout Shakespeare in the park. New enemies stemming from the past threaten House Stark and leave Robert Downey Jrs’ playboy billionaire philanthropist largely stripped of his gadgets. While it may sound like the comic book cliche in the wake of Dark Knight Rises the film’s successes come in its unique action scenes that use the Iron Man suit as an ever evolving centrepiece to some captivating action scenes. While in many dramatic moments the films light tone can seem like a hindrance, it makes for the ultimate fan experience, offering hilarious surprises built around simple gags.
Taking over the mantle from Happy Hogan himself Jon Favreau, Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) brings a joyously inventive piece to the table, even poking fun at Croydon and Downton Abbey in what I suspect were references wasted on an American audience. This overwhelming sense of humour is the perfect match for the wise-cracking hero at its centre. Avoiding the cloying sentimentality that would have rendered sequences featuring Ty Simpkin’s child sidekick aiding Stark a lead weight, these jokes do render later moments somewhat flat, but reinvent and surprise in a way that borders on the self-referential and effectively so.
This is what Marvel excels at however; giving a director a carte blanche and allowing each individual film to become an infectious viewing experience. Genius to some, this is more likely a sign that Kevin Feige’s slate is awash with films of personality; stunning character pieces that, while not the most intellectual fare, offer the chance for hugely enjoyable revelation (such as Ben Kinglsey’s game-changing Mandarin).
Sure, a lot of the film’s problems are resolved in their presentation (e.g. it is only minutes after we see Tony’s troubled relationship with Pepper that he gives her the “you are the only thing that matters” speech) but it’s this that gives Black the opportunity to avoid what audiences have already seen and give them something new; a bold thing to do with an established franchise that has already yo-yoed in its reception. The only real detractions from Iron Man 3’s excellence are an underdeveloped Guy Pearce and an omnipresence of a Christmas theme, something which suggests a different release date may have been intended.
In reality, you could not what anything more from a film than what Iron Man 3 offers. Visually stunning with excellent performances all round, it’s a real treat to watch and gives the rest of the Marvel slate something to live up to. Robert Downey Jr. seems born for this role and it will cement him as one of the most likeable characters in Hollywood today (we’ve forgotten about all the drugs).
As custom with Marvel films it goes without saying that you should stick around for a short scene after the credits, that will probably be the only thing on Tumblr for the next year or so. It’s simply another lovely moment, demonstrating that Marvel are tapped into exactly what the world wants to see, especially with the final announcement that “Tony Stark will return.”