Starring: Robert Downey Jr (Tropic Thunder), Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en), Guy Pearce (Memento), Don Cheadle (The Guard), Rebecca Hall (The Town), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi)
Director: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Writer: Drew Pearce & Shane Black
Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes
Release Date: 25 April (UK), 3 May (US)
It’s hard to imagine that only a few mere years ago, Iron Man was considered just a B-list superhero and Robert Downey Jr was a washed-up actor. Now, one stands amongst the most famous and popular of them all, and the other is one of Hollywood’s most desirable and well-paid actors. After the game-changing first film, the good-but-not-great sequel and the mega-smash that was The Avengers, where could the adventures of Tony Stark possibly go next? Well, Iron Man 3 is upon us and it answers that question in the most satisfying way anyone could possibly imagine.
By now, the superhero movie formula is pretty well-established, and is one that even the best of its genre follows to a T. Iron Man 3 eschews all of that and goes in a completely different direction, veering more into the territory of an espionage thriller than a sci-fi blockbuster. Whilst the grand stakes are smaller than those found in The Avengers, the emotional stakes are much higher and equal out to a payoff that is just as emotionally satisfying. Whilst The Avengers was mostly an excuse to smash a bunch of superheroes together (and it did so in perfect fashion), Iron Man 3 is much more of a character piece, delving much deeper into the character of Tony Stark and focusing more on his emotional journey than him trying to save the world again. Despite spending a fair majority of the film out of the suit, the film remains an absolute joy to watch; a testament to how endearing the character of Stark is that we can enjoy him taking out bad guys using his smarts rather than just his gadgets. The main aspect we have to thank for all of this is the fantastic script; anyone who knows Shane Black knows that he has a knack for witty dialogue, a skill that is perfectly tailored to Downey’s portrayal of Ol’ Shellhead. He and Drew Pearce have crafted a story that full of great character moments and witty banter, but have also managed to provide something that the first two films seriously lacked: a truly kick-ass climactic showdown full of all the thrills you want out of a summer blockbuster. Top it all off with pacing that never lets up, a satisfying wrap-up on both a story and character level and a brilliant post-credits scene (c’mon, you knew one was coming), and you’ve got everything you could possibly want from an Iron Man movie. If this is the last solo Iron Man movie ever made, it is a great place for them to call it quits. They’ll probably keep making more of them, but I would not be sad if this is the last we ever see of Mr. Anthony Stark.
The role of Iron Man is one that Downey has to credit for resurrecting his career, and he continues to bring his A-game as always. Everything that comes out of his mouth is pure gold and you can never take your eyes off him. But his performance has been greatly improved by some sense of subtlety. Many, including myself, found the way Stark was portrayed in Iron Man 2 as so OTT that he started to become obnoxious. That has thankfully been “ironed out” (get it?) and we have a protagonist that we can attach ourselves to emotionally as well as laugh with. Returning players Paltrow and Cheadle get their moments to shine too, providing solid chemistry with Downey and getting to kick some ass as well. The new blood to the franchise is also very welcome. Pearce’s villain is genuinely threatening and an equal match for Stark in more ways than one, and much closer to how Hector Hammond should have been played in Green Lantern. Rebecca Hall, whilst not getting the most screen time, does well with what little she has. But the stand-out here has to be Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. His portrayal of Iron Man’s comic book nemesis is one of the most surprising and inspired characters to grace the superhero movie in years and steals every scene he is in. Whilst some nerds may call it disrespectful to the source material, I’d call it absolute genius. Seriously, not even the most fanatic of comic book fans will see this coming.
On a technical level, Iron Man 3 also knocks it out of the park. The action scenes on display here are very creative and a joy to watch, most notably the much-publicized freefall sequence. The cinematography here is also near-flawless and the editing compliments it well to make a cohesively enjoyable visual experience. All of that and a cracking score that evokes classic spy films, and you’ve got the technical perfection to enhance an already great film.
Some may find the following statement to be hyperbolic and overenthusiastic, but f*** it: Iron Man 3 could quite possibly be not only the best Iron Man film, not only the best film Marvel has put out so far, but may even be the greatest superhero film ever constructed. After The Avengers increased all expectations of the genre, this film somehow managed to top the spectacle of seeing all these heroes fighting together by focusing on what is truly important: just telling a good story with interesting characters. Iron Man 3 accomplishes on many levels what The Dark Knight Rises tried to do and ultimately fell short of; it tops its predecessors by not actively trying to, and focuses on what actually makes these movies so great in the first place and lets all the spectacle flow out of that instead. Shane Black has finally proven himself as a big budget director, and I expect him to be suddenly getting a lot of work after this. If Iron Man 3 does not end up being in my top ten films of the year, it will have been a bloody amazing year for cinema.
FINAL VERDICT: 10/10!