After the astonishing box office success of ‘The Avengers’ (or ‘Avengers Assemble’ if you live on British soil – thanks John Steed), it was going to take something special to kick off Marvel’s “Phase Two” and with ‘Iron Man 3′ they’ve delivered the goods.
Taking over from former director Jon Favreau is ‘Lethal Weapon’ scribe Shane Black, the guy who could be credited with reviving Robert Downey Jr’s ailing career with the tremendous ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ back in 2005. With ‘Iron Man 3′, the two are completely in sync with each other again as the script bristles with equal amounts of charm and smarm coming from the lips of Tony Stark.
The story starts with Stark still suffering from the after affects of his near death experience whilst with The Avengers in New York. With the threat of the maniacal terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) looming large, he fears for the safety of his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) yet openly invites The Mandarin to attack his Malibu home. And attack he does as Stark mansion is obliterated from the sky with Stark and Pepper both narrowly escaping by the skin of his teeth. Stark winds up in Tennessee and much like the original ‘Iron Man’ has to rely on his instincts and ingenuity to survive and rebuild not only his body but his fractured psyche.
Meanwhile, his former flame Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and her boss Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) have been working on a virus known as Extremis, which has phenomenal healing and destructive power yet is also unpredictable and potentially fatal when in the hands of The Mandarin.
Without wanting to give too much away, I’m expecting Marvel fan boys to be slightly disappointed by parts of this movie. There is one titanic plot shift halfway through the film that will take you by surprise and either have you praising writers Black and Drew Pearce for the brave shift in proceedings or leave you crying in to your comic books because they’ve been so unfaithful to the source material.
Either way, it’s an unexpected move that is played for laughs and comedy features largely throughout the two hour plus running time.
Of course, this makes sense with Tony Stark being the most charismatic of all the current Marvel characters appearing in film, but some will argue the action packed scenes from the first two movies have been overlooked in favour of sight gags and biting one liners that you would more likely find in a buddy cop film (no surprise with Black’s ‘Lethal Weapon’ background).
The action scenes don’t compare to the non-stop carnage which occurred in ‘The Avengers’ with ‘Iron Man 3′ being a more restrained character study interspersed with some excellent special effects, yet the explosive, battering ram of a finale should appease everyone who’s been waiting for an army of tin heads to smash everything in their path.
Robert Downey Jr is in fine form as usual and it’s hard to imagine anyone else that has ever inhabited a superhero character quite as well as him, with the exception of possibly Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman or further back, Christopher Reeve as Superman.
Ben Kingsley is suitably evil as The Mandarin yet I can’t help but feel the ace in the sleeve for ‘Iron Man 3′ is Guy Pearce. I’ve been a fan of Pearce since Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ and always thought he would make an excellent villain (I was hoping he would one day play Black Mask in a Nolan Batman movie) and here his portrayal of Aldrich Killian – from unkempt uber-geek to suave, calculated business man – plays off against the brash, improvised style of Downey Jr’s Stark.
Sadly the one character who misses out on most of the fun is Don Cheadle’s War Machine, here re-named and given a new lick of paint as Iron Patriot. Cheadle is a good actor and is comfortable enough in the suit so it’s a shame to see him not given a proper arc of his own to work with.
As with every superhero movie, there are numerous plot holes that purists are bound to have a field day over, but the whole point of something like ‘Iron Man 3′ is that it should be fun first and believable a very distant second. Shane Black has taken some chances and breathed new life in to Tony Stark’s journey with a razor sharp script and plenty of laughs to go along with the action.
Marvel’s Phase Two is underway with a bang and judging by the first weekend foreign box office figures (‘IM3 has already grossed more than ‘The Avengers’) and an obligatory post credits sequence, it’s obvious that Iron Man is here to stay for a little while longer yet.