Film Review – IRON MAN 3

Third time’s a charm is the case here. 2008’s Iron Man was a fantastic game changer for the big screen Marvel Universe that was not directly under the Marvel Studios and Paramount banner (i.e. Spider-ManX-Men, Fantastic Four, Blade, and Daredevil). Robert Downey Jr.’s inspired casting and his heroic, charismatic and spot-on execution in his portrayal of billionaire Tony Stark became the rock solid backbone of the subsequent series of superhero films that would seamlessly lead us to Marvel’s The Avengers.

After the disappointing sophomore slump misstep with 2010’s Iron Man 2 (good for business, disappointing as a bloated sequel rushed out to meet a pre-determined release date), the third film hits a home run by injecting new life into the series with a back to basics character driven action film that successfully  plays off why Tony Stark is at heart, a true hero.

Downey reunites with director / screenwriter Shane Black, who brought us 2005’s incredibly under appreciated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Though for all us ’80s action film aficionados, Black was the screenwriter of Die HardLethal Weapon 2The Last Kiss Goodnight and The Last Boy Scout. Thankfully the Downey/Black magic is back and showcased with the duo’s re-teaming in the first Marvel movie set after the shattering events of The Avengers.


In a post-Avengers world, also now known as Marvel’s Phase Two (which along with the upcoming sequels Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, will lead up to Avengers 2), Tony Stark is a changed man. Having both fought along side and against gods, monsters and aliens, after the battle of New York Tony Stark now looks over his shoulder suffering from panic attacks. When reminded of the possibility of future threats to Earth and how minuscule he relatively fits into it all, “I’m just a man in a can,” he admits to girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Moving forward on very little sleep, Stark has built up an immense arsenal of Iron Man suits while testing radical new technology that allows his to physically bond with his armor.
A new threat to the world arises however, not on a scale necessary for the Avengers, but nonetheless a mighty fright for the good ol’ U.S. of A fit for Stark and Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), whose War Machine has been repainted and rebranded by the government as the star spangled Iron Patriot. A relentless bin Laden-esque terrorist know as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has his sights set on American targets and when Stark’s pal Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is seriously wounded during a target attack at Hollywood Boulevard’s historic Chinese Theater, the matter becomes damn personal. Stark adresses the Mandarin during a press op and literally broadcasts his own address, offering the madman an invitation to a one-on-one confrontation.
The Mandarin wastes no time in putting Stark in his place by proceeding to obliterate his lavish Malibu abode and weapons lab that overlooks the Pacific, nearly killing both the billionaire and Pepper. Following a narrow escape, he finds himself in a snowy part of Tennessee (a white Christmas setting is a staple of Shane Black films) after his untested Mark 42 armor flies and strands him there for safety.It’s at this point that Iron Man is literally and figuratively stripped back to the basics when trapped in the boondocks. A huge plus for the film sees us re-acquainted with the Tony Stark who was held prisoner in an Afghanistan cave and relied on his tech genius to construct from metal scraps the first bulky armor to escape his terrorist captors. Tony also enlists the help a local boy Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins) to track down the location of the Mandarin and his co-horts Aldrich Killian and Savin (Guy Pearce and James Badge Dale).
The middle act reels it in and is where the true soul of the film is uncovered. The witty rapport between Tony and Harley brilliantly steers the film into unexpected buddy film territory that worked so well for Riggs and Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon series. It’s almost alarming how much screen time Downey spends not wearing an Iron Man costume, but the character is at his best here and the action packed left turn taken into the third act effectively wipes clean the slate of the time spent in witty low key conversations.There are plenty of noteworthy twists that I won’t detail here, that would be just spoiling the fun of it all. Some are more obvious than others, with a few turns that are just brilliant in their execution. But by the time we reach the uber expensive and explosive finale, we are jettisoned right back into the out of this world Marvel Universe we have come to expect from these summer blockbusters.

Its not giving anything away in saying that Stark has his Iron army of suits to fight along side him, that much has been revealed over and over on the one-sheets and in all the trailers. Granted there are toys to sell and money shots to exploit that make for good advertising for movies of this magnitude, but I can’t help but feel somewhat robbed of the great moment in revealing Stark’s massive enforcements had it been kept under lock and key. It easily would have been the stand out shot where the audience would be in full right to start cheering. It’s a minor point, nothing to hold against the film itself, more of a circumstance regarding the sometimes too much that’s put out there before a film is released nowadays.

In her fourth portrayal of Potts, Paltrow is given a big promotion in screen time as a vital part of the plot, some parts work better than others depending how you feel about Pepper’s overall active role in Stark’s business being a superhero. You’ll know what I mean when you see the movie. Cheadle as well gets to amp it up both in and out of his Iron Patriot armor, which allows for some superb on screen team work from him and Downey.

It’s another strength of the solid screenplay, which allows most of the cast moments to shine on many levels. Kingsley brings an amazing life to the Mandarin, which is a brilliantly written multi-layered villain that benefits equally with the inspired casting that brings it all home on the big screen. Pearce and Dale have a good time twisting their evil mustaches as heavies who intertwine themselves with the Mandarin via a bio-tech subplot involving the Extremis technology (based on a celebrated storyline from the comics lore).

The 3D is on target. Black is a director who is not out to induce seizures with a barrage of quick edits and insane camera movement, which works great here. The 3D adds depth to the right places and is never obtrusive or does it suffer from the dreaded motion blur and ghosting that in lesser conversions tend to nag and remind you of the hit and miss over utilized technology. The 3D is most effective when the film is not beating its chest with FX driven spectacle, and concentrating on the human aspect of the story. Even as true tech stickler, the RPX presentation I saw gloriously lacked the muddied dark picture that is typically associated with guilty theaters projecting 3D films below the ideal light levels for optimal viewing.

As the first Phase Two Marvel film, Iron Man 3 is a huge step in the right direction for the series and also a huge creative leap forward overall. It wisely pulls back the stakes to humanize Tony Stark with an Avengers-less Iron Man level adventure. RDJ brings his A-game charm and wit to the role we have come to expect and is allowed a lot of time to explore the troubled character a lot further, which pays off big time. It also wisely doesn’t pander to the rest of the Marvel Universe beyond a few lines of dialogue. By focusing squarely on the Iron Man family, thankfully the film avoids the trap and temptation of throwing in gratuitous distracting cameos. The sharp highly entertaining film finds the perfect balance of action, humor and well written scenes that work well for the cast of characters. If the summer season is officially underway, it does not disappoint and starts off with a bang with Iron Man 3.

Iron Man 3 opens in 2D, 3D, RealD 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D on May 3rd.

REVIEW RATING: ★★½☆☆
Directed By: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ty Simpkins
Studio: Marvel Studios / Disney
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes

Jim Kiernan
Founder and moderator of Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel. Steering this ship the best I can. Lifelong opinionated geek & pop culture enthusiast. Independent television & film professional. Born & raised New Yorker. My dog Nicholas is awesome.

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