Ror Reviews: IRON MAN 3 (IMAX 3D)
The embargo has finally lifted and I can give you guys my take on the highly anticipated Marvel threequel. Does Phase 2 kick off with a bang or has Shane Black delivered an armor plated turkey? Read on for my thoughts..
The following review contains no major spoilers, but if you want to go in knowing absolutely nothing about the film it might be best to skip it.
As Tony Stark's opening narration (yes, we get a voiceover this time) leads into the strains of Eiffel 65's "Blue" while the Marvel logo flashes, it's already clear that director Shane Black has delivered a very different Iron Man movie from the previous two -- and indeed, all previous Marvel films. Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, that's going to depend on how light-hearted you like (or don't like) your movies.
The story begins with a flashback to before the events of the first Iron Man. This Tony Stark is still the brash, arrogant, womanizing businessman he was before becoming the slightly less brash, arrogant, womanizing superhero. We are introduced to Maya Hannsen (Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and see how a couple of bad decisions on Stark's part sow the seeds for the mayhem about to be unleashed in the present day. We then move on to post-Avengers Tony "tinkering" in his workshop. Stark has become obsessed with building newer and better suits or armor, and spends most of his time trying to improve his weaponry. He also suffers from panic attacks every time he's reminded of the battle with Loki's forces and his fall from the wormhole (a nice touch though never fully explored). So when a combination of these things drives a wedge between he and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his past comes back to bite him -- along with a new enemy in The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) -- Stark must rely on his wits to see him through and maybe gain a level of revenge while he's at it.
Robert Downey Jr. gives another superb turn as Tony Stark here (maybe his best in an Iron Man movie, though he hasn't topped The Avengers for me!) and he's backed up by an excellent supporting cast. Both Paltrow and Don Cheadle get much more to do as Pepper and Rhodey and step up to the plate admirably. Jon Favreau also makes a big impression as a returning Happy Hogan, and gets some of the biggest laughs. Guy Pearce is his usual dependable self as Aldrich Killian, though his villainous motivations are a little generic. Then there's the mighty Sir Ben Kinglsey as The Madarin. A truly chilling, unsettling performance gives rise to something else entirely (more on that later) but Kingsley is always on top form. It helps that all are working off a razor sharp script by Drew Pearce. The story rockets along with never a dull moment (take that Iron Man 2!) and really allows us to get under Stark's skin like never before -- and if some of the other characters suffer a bit because of that, well, his name is in the title after all!
The script also allows Shane Black ample opportunity to indulge his flair for action, and there are some spectacular set pieces on display. You've all seen the guts of the mansion attack in the numerous clips and trailers, but a mid-air rescue and the final showdown actually top that in my opinion. There's also a very welcome buddy-movie vibe introduced between Stark and Rhodey near the end that's so successful, you'll wish they had more scenes together. The film looks fantastic too, be sure to try to catch it in IMAX if possible. The 3D didn't add anything to the movie for me though.
There were concerns that this would take a page out of The Dark Knight Rises' book at bring things down the "grimdark" route, but as you may have already heard, this is by far the most comedy driven of Marvel's movie output so far. Pretty much every scene has a tinge of humor, with even (what should have been) a tragic moment near the end immediately followed up by a sight gag. That being said, the comedy works and the movie IS frequently hilarious, but for me it offset the drama somewhat. There's a reason many movies add in a bit of the 'ol "dark" and "gritty" -- it makes for a more dramatic narrative and heightens the tension. Sure there can be too much, but it can also go too far in the opposite direction and if I have one major criticism of Iron Man 3 it's that. A perfect example is the soon-to-be-endlessly-debated twist involving one of the main characters. It takes balls no doubt, but it didn't work for me in terms of the overall story.
A very entertaining action comedy, with maybe just a bit too much emphasis on the comedy for my liking. But while not reaching the heights of the first Iron Man, Shane Black's film is a definite improvement on the second. A very good, if not quite great start to Marvel's Phase 2.
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