Directed by Shane Black
Written by Drew Pearce & Shane Black
With the upcoming release of the new Superman reboot, Man of Steel, it may seem strange that I lead into my review of the new Iron Man film with a personal anecdote of mine about Superman. I could have waited and had the perfect lead in for my review of the new Zach Snyder/Christopher Nolan collaboration. But I chose instead to use it hear because, strange as it may sound, it actually fits much more with the story of Iron Man 3 than it would any Superman film. When I was a small child, my brothers and I were playing around in the basement, and I made the fateful decision to jump off the couch as if I were the flying superhero Superman (I had not been properly introduced to Tony Stark yet). Upon doing so, my eye found the corner of the coffee table. Lucky for me, it was just above my eye actually, and I survived on six stitches and gnarly scar.
I say it seems a better fit for the Iron Man narrative because, like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), I am a filthy rich playboy genius. Wait, no, that’s not it. Like Tony Stark, I have a scar to live with, and, at least then, a motivation to be a superhero. As a kid it was to be cool, now…I would say I want to be a superhero so that I don’t have to tell people knowing baseball rosters and being able to tell whether a TV is on in a room without looking are my superpowers (you can hear the low-pitched buzz, I swear). But Stark’s scars are much deeper and more affecting than any of mine. In the latest installment of the series, he finds himself pitted against a world terrorist, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), in a “good old-fashioned” revenge story after his friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) falls into a coma after a mysterious bombing at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. Contacts from the past (Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce) come into play, and no one is quite sure where to find The Mandarin, or how to stop his reign of terror.
Like the two films that came before it, Iron Man 3 is full of plenty to please the casual popcorn popping blockbuster seeing masses, and quite honestly, neither the film itself nor I, really want it to be anything else, and that’s fine. In an age of increased seriousness in our blockbusters (The Dark Knight trilogy and recent James Bond flicks), a funny, light action adventure blockbuster like this is quite welcome. Robert Downey Jr. is perfect in the role of Tony Stark once again. He has his one liners working and flowing like never before in the series. He may be at the top of his Iron Man game in this installment. The humor throughout the film really is spot on and a major strength of the film. To compliment Downey, the producers have surrounded him with a stellar supporting cast which includes an amazing performance from Ben Kingsley. Guy Pearce is once again good, and Rebecca Hall seems to be summing up her career in this performance, great, but so little of it, which is a bummer.
But with all the strengths and fun to be had in the film, and believe me, there is plenty, there are also the standard glaring issues found in most summer blockbusters. In some cases the viewer won’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, care about them, but I found some of them a little off putting this go round, keeping the film from being one of the smarter and better of the genre in recent years. The visual effects are brilliant, but like many films these days, it feels like a crutch the film is leaning on (and I have to admit I was a bit distracted when I saw the 200+ VFX people scroll through the credits just so I could see the after credits scene, though I often watch the credits to gain an appreciation of the amount of people and the hard work that goes into making any movie, no matter how big or small). In connection to the effects was the action scenes, whose geography seemed out of place, and was only attempted to be covered up by the quick edits. Heck, the geography of most of the movements in the film make little sense or go unexplained.
Shane Black brings a new feel to the franchise, accepting the reigns from Jon Favreau. The comedy and performances are great, and the marketing team even managed to keep under wraps some decent twists along the road, though I can’t say they were all that much of a revelation as they came. I was left with some logic questions when it came to the bad guys and how they were defeated, but there were some really interesting ideas flowing around in the film. I just don’t think some of them ever became fully realized, or were perhaps ever fully thought out. With the elements that worked, and those that didn’t, I luckily never found an imbalance, or what some might call a mess. A mess this film is not. It is also not great, nor is it horrible. It is a perfectly adequate summer blockbuster that will probably please most fans of Iron Man and the superhero genre, and have the definite potential to disappoint many others.
**1/2 – Good