Written by Zac Platt.
Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark has been one of the most charismatic heroes of the last decade, and with the momentum built up by ‘The Avengers’, there is a lot to get excited about with Iron Man 3. I’m happy to say that despite some early missteps, Iron Man 3 delivers one of the best entries into Marvel Studio’s already impressive lineup.
Director Shane Black capitalizes on the tone Jon Favreau established in the first 2 films, and injects so much fun and personality into this installment that it feels like it could burst. This is ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘ meets ‘The Avengers‘, which should be more than enough to sell the film.
IM3 boasts a great cast, with nary a one failing to deliver on any of the film’s dramatic or comedic beats; though some do fade into the background compared to the more bombastic personalities. Most notably perhaps is The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, who is clearly having the time of his life playing this genius twist on Iron Man’s classic rogue.
Don Cheadle really gets a chance to shine in this installment as Iron Man’s (sort of) sidekick James Rhodes. Cheadle very much holds his own against Downey, and the two have a terrific onscreen chemistry. Watching these two bounce between working together and competing was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film.
Downey brings the same zest and enthusiasm to the role as he always has, and is only let down by some contrivances in the script. The most notable of which is his alleged P.T.S. from the events of ‘The Avengers‘. While there is ground here to explore, it’s never explained why he is so rattled. Only that he is. Over and over again. It’s a subplot that adds very little to the film, and mostly serves as a reminder that none of his superhero pals are showing up to help.
The films first act is quite messy, and the events leading up to Stark’s involvement feel extremely contrived. There are more conveniences driving the film’s plot later on, but honestly you’ll be having way too much fun to worry about it.
This installment also gives us some much needed variety in the villain department. Killian (Guy Pearce) and his fellow ‘Extremis’ enhanced super soldiers provide us with much more interesting battles than 2’s whip wielding Russian. The superheated villains here melt down the set and tear through Stark’s armor with ease, keeping Iron Man against the ropes throughout the film’s fights.
Black dodges the traps of the superhero genre by focusing on the man and not the suit. Iron Man is not the hero of this story, Tony Stark is. So often in this genre it’s the protagonist’s resolve that conquers all, but not here. Stark’s edge is his resourcefulness. He sees a need, and he builds. Black maintains this philosophy the entire film, especially during the amazing final setpiece. I won’t spoil any more than the previews already have, but it’s an action sequence that is as kickass as it is refreshing.
Nitpicking aside, Iron Man 3 is a hell of a good time. It works both as the next chapter in Marvel’s ongoing saga, and the perfect finale to Stark’s story. The ending is even more bittersweet given the uncertainty of Downey coming back now that his contract is finished. And while another actor will likely wear the Stark suit going forward, I couldn’t agree more when RDJ announces yet again in the film’s final moments that he is Iron Man.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10
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