Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Marvel Studios’ first follow-up to last year’s breakout hit The Avengers has just hit Australian cinemas and I saw it last night.

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Starring:
Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley
Director:
Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Rating: M
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It was just about one whole year ago that Joss Whedon‘s The Avengers single-handedly changed the face of the comic book movie sub-genre, illustrating in truly emphatic fashion that sometimes when you manage a risk as skilfully as Marvel Studios did, it can pay off in a big, big way. Five separate superhero movies led up to that blockbusting success and Hollywood is now abuzz with talk of people who want to emulate its winning formula. But Marvel Studios itself is not done with The Avengers. Not by a long shot. A gigantic sequel is coming and for that to pay off in any kind of similar way, another build-up of movies needs to happen. At least that’s what the Disney-owned company has suggested. So Iron Man 3 has the task of kicking off what people are calling the “second generation” of Marvel features.

It was a wise decision to start with the “man in steel”, as not only has Robert Downey Jr‘s portrayal of Tony Stark proved to be the most bankable of the four Avengers leads, but the character also has arguably the most number of dangling questions left over from the end of that super-movie (You could make a case for Thor in this regard, but if you do then have no fear – he has a movie coming out later this year as well). Stark had a hell of a traumatic experience saving the world from one of its own missiles – an experience that very nearly killed him – and the effects of this are visible from the very beginning of Iron Man 3. Stark’s ego has been cut down considerably by the otherworldly things he has seen. He is shaken up.

Superheroes very rarely get a break, of course, so Stark is forced to deal with his newfound anxiety attack issues in the face of a fresh and very formidable new threat, the Bin Laden-esque Mandarin. When a Mandarin bombing puts one of his friends in a coma, Stark snaps and taunts the terrorist on live TV, giving away the address of his home and headquarters. It is subsequently torn apart by missiles with him and girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) still inside it, which separates them and forces Tony to reassess and literally rebuild in a Tennessee country town. It’s around that time that his past comes back to haunt him, as back in 1999 Tony blew off a crippled science geek (Guy Pearce) whose partnership with Stark’s one night stand victim Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) will bring about a terrifying new type of super-soldier.

All of this and more is helmed by Shane Black, a newcomer to the comic book movie scene. Although Black has only directed one Hollywood feature film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he is more famous for writing the Lethal Weapon series as well as one of my all-time favourite action films The Long Kiss Goodnight. He co-writes here as well, which means that fun, zinging buddy cop sensibility makes its way into Iron Man 3 both when Stark is with his armoured pal James “Rhodey” Rhodes (the awesome Don Cheadle) and when he is paired with an ambitious child midway through the film. Make no mistake, Iron Man 3 is funny, particularly in its second half. Black can also handle action sequences really well, exemplifying the unprecedented success of that lovely current Hollywood trend: throwing relatively untested directors into big budget action flicks. The action in Iron Man 3 is not only spectacular, but also tremendously creative, with Stark’s new prehensile “Mark 42” armour the centrepiece. The number of ways that Black utilises a suit that can fly onto Stark in bits is astounding. A special mention also needs to go to a mid-movie plane rescue action sequence, which was filmed with only skydiving stuntmen; no CGI. It took me back to a similar sequence in 007’s Moonraker, in the best way possible.

Despite all the fun it has, this trilogy capping effort is somehow also its most dramatically sound. Tony Stark is seen less in his armour than ever before, a deliberate choice on Black‘s part. Downey Jr shows us a side of the character we have scarcely been shown beforehand, reminding audiences of just how good an actor he truly is. He dominates the movie but his supporting cast also shines, as most of them have inhabited these roles for multiple movies now. The majority of the newcomers are memorable as well. Guy Pearce usually is, but Ben Kingsley is an absolute scene stealer as the Mandarin, even if Black‘s interpretation of the character is at odds with his comic book origins. Paltrow‘s Potts finally gets among the action herself. One glaring exception to all this is Hall‘s Maya – she tries hard with what she has but I struggle to think of an actual purpose that her character fits.

Although one could argue that the film takes a good half-hour or so before it starts to really get going, it packs a surprising number of twists in its excellent second half which both lead up to and span a climactic oil rig showdown  It both opens and closes with gleeful and surprising use of music. It features the standard Stan Lee cameo and the now-requisite after credits scene – an entertaining dialogue between familiar kindred spirits. It raises some real questions about the potential role of Tony Stark in the Avengers initiative going forward. It is the best and most complete Iron Man film to date and it has set a very high standard for the second generation of films set in Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Impressively creative action sequences, unpredictable second half, awesome Downey Jr performance
Bad:
Rebecca Hall’s character is pointless
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Shannon on May 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Hear, hear!

    Reply

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