Should I Watch..? 'Iron Man 3' (2013)
What's the big deal?
Iron Man 3 is an action sci-fi superhero film released in 2013 and is the first film in Marvel's Phase Two of its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a single unified continuity running between every Marvel Studios production. It is the final part of the Iron Man trilogy and deals directly with the events seen in the previous Marvel movie, the blockbusting Avengers Assemble. However, it also incorporates aspects of an existing mini-series of comics featuring Iron Man called Extremis written by Warren Ellis. It is also the first Iron Man film not to be directed by Jon Favreau who directed both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. As it was the first Marvel film released after the huge success of Avengers Assemble, anticipation for the film was rabid and helped this film to become equally successful as it too took more than $1 billion at the global box office.
What's it about?
Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the so-called Battle Of New York against the Chitauri, Tony Stark retreats to the isolation of his workshop and leaves Pepper Potts as the CEO of Stark Industries. Tony's insomnia forces him to create numerous versions of the Iron Man suit which creates friction between him and Pepper, who are now romantically linked.
But nothing good can ever last and sure enough, things quickly get complicated. A terrorist known as the Mandarin issues warnings against the US via hacked broadcasts and leaked video messages and after irking Stark into issuing his own warning to him, he launches an attack on Stark's home - destroying everything there and nearly killing Stark in the process. Escaping in a prototype suit to rural Tennessee, Stark is isolated and alone and without his precious workshop. Potts, meanwhile, fends off the business attentions of rival industrialist Aldrich Killian - the head of Advanced Idea Mechanics. But Killian's not just interested in Stark Industries...
What's to like?
Shane Black's trademark wit and humour help elevate Iron Man 3 beyond its usual superhero boundaries, giving Downey Jr. fresh impetus and a whole load of scathing one-liners. But this is also much darker than before - instead of having Stark face off against another machine, the Mandarin is a villain all too familiar to those of us in the real world and one which won't be defeated through fisticuffs and weapons alone. The script, which has plenty of genuine surprises, is an absolute corker and makes this arguably the best Iron Man of the lot.
Pearce is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding list of baddies while Kingsley displays real brilliance as the Mandarin, his voice calm but menacing as he echoes the chilling messages of present-day terrorists. Paltrow finally has a bit more to do and she just about makes the grade as the damsel in distress. And, naturally, the film looks amazing - the number and variety of suits on screen is staggering (one might almost say confusing) while the epic destruction of Stark's cliff-top mansion is a sight to behold. It's great to see that after the mild disappointment of Iron Man 2, Marvel were prepared to take no chances with this - it's sleek, exciting and a real buzz to watch, thanks to Black's sharp scripting and direction. This is one upgrade that old Rusty Bucket desperately needed.
- The original budget for this film was due to be $140 million but after the huge success of Avengers Assemble, the budget was upped to $200 million.
- In the comics, Iron Patriot was an alias of Spiderman's chief nemesis the Green Goblin. In this film, it is War Machine painted to resemble Captain America.
- As he was no longer director, Jon Favreau spent more time as Happy Hogan, Stark's chauffeur. He also pushed for Downton Abbey to be Happy Hogan's favourite TV show as it is a personal favourite of Favreau's.
What's not to like?
Fans of Marvel's light touch when it comes to their movies might be a touch dismayed that Iron Man 3 is more introspective than previously seen. I've always said that Marvel films should feel like comic books while the likes of Batman should be darker, more like graphic novels and this was the exact approach Christopher Nolan took with his all-conquering Dark Knight trilogy. This film actually treads a fine line between the two, maintaining its comic touches but also feeling much more grown up than before. This isn't some simple comic-book blast of action like much of Marvel's output at the time.
The ending also felt a little typical, as though all that effort to break free of the mould abandoned the film at the last minute and they settled for a big old shoot-out instead. Nothing wrong with that as such - like most of the action scenes, it's brilliantly shot and very exciting - but I had hoped for more. The other thing I wasn't sure about was the relationship between Stark and the kid that sticks with him. It just didn't feel right seeing Tony behave like that and while Ty Simpkins does well in the role, the two of them exchanging quips didn't feel like it belonged in the movie, funny though it was. Am I being harsh? Maybe...
Should I watch it?
With one fell swooping, Shane Black gives Iron Man a welcome shot in the arm and reinvigorates the MCU for its second wave of movies. It is right that this world we had become accustomed to has changed after so much destruction in Avengers Assemble and it's smart of the filmmakers to acknowledge this, keeping the movies that followed fresh and interesting. Everyone had brought their A-game to this project and the results speak for themselves. If you don't mind a little plot exposition missing then prepare for the best Iron Man film of the lot.
Great For: the MCU's Phase Two, Shane Black, audiences tired of the same thing
Not So Great For: traditional Marvel fans, people wishing for a fourth Iron Man movie (he still pops up now and again)
What else should I watch?
Up next for Marvel die-hards is Thor: The Dark World which is a heady mix of Norse mythology and alien invasion. If you only enjoy the Iron Man movies then this is slightly better than the first film and much better than Iron Man 2 which felt slow, bloated and frankly unexciting. And if you enjoyed Shane Black's treatment of the character then allow me to suggest another of his films. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang also featured Robert Downey Jr. and it's a twisted detective tale set in Hollywood's seedy underbelly but with such rich and humourous dialogue that even Val Kilmer gets a laugh.
Going back to Marvel for a second, the MCU gets ever more complicated with each release and there are certainly some characters that feel over-exposed compared to others. Neither of Thor's first two films set my world alight while I would love to see a Black Widow & Hawkeye film or a Hulk movie done properly. And as Marvel's archive of characters continues to be raided in search of profitable franchises, one fears that the B- and C-grade characters may be serviced before some much-loved classics.
Robert Downey Jr.
Tony Stark / Iron Man
Trevor Slattery / The Mandarin
Col. James Rhodes / Iron Patriot
Drew Pearce & Shane Black *
Release Date (UK)
25th April, 2013
Action, Superhero, Sci-Fi
Academy Award Nomination
Best Visual Effects
© 2015 Benjamin Cox