This is my first review on this blog, and I’m starting with a big one.
[I’ll try to keep this review reasonably spoiler free, but beware!]
Wow. Just wow. I’m not really sure where to start, but the best start for this review would probably be me telling you to go and watch this movie right now! Iron Man 3 is that good. OK, I’ll start at the beginning by discussing one of the best movie openings of recent memory. The movie opens up with Tony doing an ominous narration. Anyone familiar with director Shane Blacks’ previous work such as the severely underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) will see the resemblance to it here. There’s something about Robert Downey Jr and Shane Black that goes together so very well, so if you like Iron Man 3 make sure you check out Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Anyway, Tony suddenly sends us back to the beginning of the story; back to 1999. Now this is when this scene gets unique. Anyone remember this?
Yep. This song opens the movie, it’s played over the Marvel title card and the Paramount one as well. This sets the tone perfectly, from Happy Hogan dressed as Vincent Vega out of Pulp Fiction to the two Downton Abbey references the film contains, this film has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. The rest of the film stays consistent with the tone, never dwelling on the dark side of superhero fiction, people die, sometimes in humorous ways, and it’s forgotten. This isn’t The Dark Knight Rises with its constant somber tone, and Iron Man 3 is all the better for it.
After the director of the first two Iron Man films; Jon Favreau, left the directors chair I was worried who would take over. In my opinion Iron Man (2008) is one of the best movies of this generation. I have seen the film an upwards of 25+ times and it has become my favourite superhero movie of all time, perhaps even being in my top 5 movies of all time. So you can understand my concern when Favreau stepped down. But any worry I, or any other Iron Man fans had, was soon forgotten when it was announced that one of my favourite directors; Shane Black, had taken the reins. Anything Shane Black has done, I’ve loved. From Lethal Weapon 1+2, which he wrote, to The Last Boy Scout (1991) which he also wrote, to the aforementioned Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I have thought them all brilliant. So I had no worry about the writing of the screenplay for Iron Man 3, which he did with the help of the reasonably unknown, Drew Pearce, writer of the upcoming Guillermo del Toro blockbuster; Pacific Rim. And the screenplay is, as was expected, brilliant. The film’s action is superbly mixed with comedy, with some of the best bits coming from the back and forth between Tony and a young boy (Ty Simpkins) he befriends. This back and forth between characters is reminiscent of the buddy cop films that Shane Black is famous for, and Iron Man 3 is just as funny as one of his earlier R rated film. The film also contain a plot twist or two, the smaller ones you may see coming, but the one big one is so left field and so brilliant, most people won’t see it coming. Its refreshing to see that, even though the film is a huge blockbuster and a summer tent-pole movie, it is still the work of an auteur.
But, the thing that most worried the fans of the series about Shane Black directing was whether or not the action would be up to the standards of the other Marvel movies of late. But Iron Man 3 does not disappoint on the action front. This is Shane Blacks’ first proper blockbuster and he passes with flying colours. The action is smart, funny and some of the best of the series. The scene where Tony has only a gauntlet, a boot and a sub-machine gun is a stand out moment for me though, and gives way to some creative fighting and is a refreshing take on the normal ‘Iron Man vs the Bad Guys’ scenario. Without going into detail there is also a dramatic mid-air rescue scene, which has to be seen to be believed, especially seeing how it was done partly with parachutists rather than CGI.
Everything about Iron Man 3 seems to be stepped up from the slightly disappointing sequel; Iron Man 2 (I liked it though), including the performances. Robert Downey Jr has never been better a Tony Stark, and this film has the highest Tony Stark to Iron Man ratio of all the films. Gwyneth Paltrow is also the best she’s been in the series, and Jon Favreaus’ increased role as Happy Hogan is another highlight in the film. Guy Pearce is menacing as villain Aldrich Killian, and Rebecca Hall is good as scientist Maya Hansen, even if she is extremely underused. It’s also good to see everybody’s 3rd favourite Die Hard villain; William Sadler make an appearance as The President of the United States. HBO’s The Pacific star James Badge Dale plays a menacing villain, with an unexpectedly great performance and young actor Ty Simpkins shines as a young friend for Stark. The stand out performance though is Ben Kingsley’s The Mandarin. He is the best comic book villain, since, well, ever. He is even better than Heath Ledgers Joker, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. His performance is the highlight of the film in my opinion.
If I have any criticisms, and they are few and far between, one would be that the stakes never feel too high. Admittedly, it would be hard to match the high stakes of an alien invasion seen in The Avengers, but the fact that Tony is meant to be dead is only glossed upon. The fight is never really Tony’s, and he gets involved only because Happy is injured. This means the audiences investment in the conflict completely relies upon the audience feeling angry for what happens to Happy, which we do, but not much. Perhaps they should have killed him off instead, or killed Pepper or Rhodey. This is only a small issue, and once the story has kicked off, is quickly forgotten about. Some fans might have a problem with the lack of Avengers 2 set up, but for me this is a good thing.
This film, is not only one of the greatest superhero films of all time, but is also one of the most consistently entertaining films I have seen for a long while. For those who said that the post-Avengers films won’t match the quality of The Avengers, they were wrong.
The Bottom Line: A better film than The Avengers, and the best film of the year (So far…). Watch Iron Man 3 as soon as you can.