Movie review: Iron Man 3
Maybe it was just a general case of superhero fatigue, or perhaps a more specific case of metal fatigue, but the first two entries in the Iron Man series were nothing more than decidedly average.
But there have been a few changes at Stark Industries, mainly a change of director, with Jon Favreau stepping down from directing this third instalment. But has new director Shane Black been able to take the man in a can to dizzyingly new heights?
It appears that the events that took place in New York with The Avengers have taken their toll on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) not so much in a physical way, but definitely more mentally.
This wouldn't necessarily be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that a new menace to society, going by the name of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), has started a personal war of terror on the US of A.
He certainly gets Stark's attention when his bodyguard Happy Hogan (Favreau) gets caught up in an attack at the famous Chinese theatre in Hollywood. Although badly hurt, he survives, and Stark vows to have his revenge.
Meanwhile, brilliant scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is working on a fantastic virus, known as Extremis, that has the ability to re-code DNA with startling results. Stark is in the dark about this research, even though Killian brought it to his attention in 1999. Stark may not be able to remember their briefest of meetings, but Killian has not only never forgotten the humiliation he suffered, he's also very much looking forward to highlighting exactly what Extremis is capable of in a way that this time will definitely get Stark's utmost attention.
On this evidence, it feels that perhaps Favreau was a little overwhelmed by the technical side of the first two films. His background in directing isn't exactly littered with CGI epic titles and it could well be that he was out of his depth with the special effects heaviness of them both.
The same can't be said for Shane Black, thankfully. Although his only other effort at directing was in 2005 with the comedy crime caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – which also, incidentally, starred Downey Jr. – he seems to have embraced the SFX mayhem that comes from helming such a title remarkably well.
He's certainly helped from the strongest script out of the three, which he co-wrote with Brit Drew Pearce. There's a welcome zippiness from the off to proceedings, that rarely lets up. And although the story is a tad convoluted in the beginning, it kind of all makes senses by the end.
And what would normally be considered a drawback – the actual relatively little time that Downey Jr. spends in the Iron Man suit – turns out to be the film's biggest strength. There's nothing drearier than watching lengthy close-ups of Downey Jr. inside the mask chatting away with flickering information on his HUD in view. The script cleverly frees up Downey Jr. to flesh out the Tony Stark character (where he has a good old stab of making him more likeable and appealing), without compromising on the necessary action scenes with the iron suit.
There's also a strong supporting cast that sees both Gwyneth Paltrow return as love interest Pepper Potts and Don Cheadle as War Machine/Iron Patriot; it really benefits however from the performances given by Kingsley and Pearce, both whom clearly enjoying the opportunity of hamming up the comic villainy of it all to great effect.
There also seems to be more humour this time around too, which is also hugely welcome. Stark, as played by Downey Jr., is rather too full of himself to really warm to, but in this third film the character isn't taken as seriously, with much of the humour aimed at him which works really well.
And yes, there are still special effects aplenty, with all the required (metallic) bells and whistles necessary for a summer blockbuster hit.
Iron Man has done almost the impossible with this film, in redeeming himself in the most glorious of comebacks, by putting back the 'super' in his particular brand of heroics.
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