Review: Iron Man 3 (Chris Bumbray's take)
(click here to read JimmyO's review)
PLOT: Not long after helping save the world as part of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has retreated to his mansion, obsessively building new Iron Man suits, while ignoring his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Meanwhile, the U.S is being threatened by a series of bombings by a mad terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). When one of his ruthless acts of terror hits too close to home, Stark dares The Mandarin and his minions to attack him, with explosive results.
REVIEW: IRON MAN 3 has the unenviable task of following THE AVENGERS, which has gone down in box office history as one of the highest grossing films of all time (not adjusted for inflation, it sits at number 3 domestically, right behind AVATAR and TITANIC, making it the highest grossing film not directed by James Cameron). After watching Iron Man fight an otherworldly menace alongside Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, how’s a solo film going to fare?
Pretty damn well actually. Rather than try to go bigger than THE AVENGERS (which is a task best left to AVENGERS 2), IRON MAN 3 is wisely scaled down, honing-in on the franchise’s greatest asset- Robert Downey Jr. If it wasn’t for his career-redefining performance in the first film, THE AVENGERS would have probably never happened. The biggest problem with IRON MAN 2 was that the director, Jon Favreau, was shackled by having to include too much exposition in order to set up the first phase of THE AVENGERS franchise, resulting in a film that felt more like IRON MAN 1.5, or THE AVENGERS 0.5. That does not happen this time.
Whatever Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe is going to be, not much time is spent on it here, with the focus being squarely on Tony Stark, and his relationship with the three people closest to him, Pepper, Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Happy (Jon Favreau, in an expanded role now that he’s no longer behind the camera). Truly, this is a stand-alone installment. One of the coolest things about IRON MAN 3 is the fact that Marvel, in an inspired choice, recruited writer/director Shane Black to take the helm. Already a legendary screenwriter (LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT), Black’s KISS KISS BANG BANG is arguably the film that gave Downey Jr the juice he needed to win IRON MAN. The two already worked brilliantly together once, and again with Black at the helm, their styles mesh perfectly.
KISS KISS BANG BANG was a bit of a multi-genre mash up (a great one mind you), but Black’s tailored his style to fit the IRON MAN/AVENGERS franchise, although there’s still a few flashes of his humor here and there, with the movie opening with Eiffel 65’s nineties hit “I’m Blue” played back-to-back with Lou Bega’s “Mambo Number 5” (don’t worry- it all makes sense). Black also devotes a significant amount of time to exploring Stark’s post-AVENGERS mentality, with him having been badly shaken by the battle in New York where suddenly he was fighting aliens alongside a God and a giant green monster. It’s a nice touch, and I like that towards the middle, Stark is forced to spend a significant amount of time fighting the villains outside his suit, relying more on his ingenuity and cleverness than his billion dollar toys.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking IRON MAN 3 is somehow lacking in the action department. While Black’s maybe never directed a huge action film, he’s written plenty of them, and definitely knows how to stage major action scenes. A helicopter attack on Stark’s mansion is maybe one of the best action scenes in the franchise (including THE AVENGERS), and I was surprised at the level of carnage they managed to pack into a PG-13, although some of that is offset by a bit of a tacked-on subplot pairing Stark with a precocious ten-year-old (which I’m sure gave them leverage to make the film a bit rougher than other installments).
While undoubtedly IRON MAN 3 is Downey Jr’s show in a way THE AVENGERS couldn’t really be due to the ensemble of heroes, the rest of the series’ regulars get plenty to do. Paltrow’s part as Pepper Potts is greatly expanded here, as is her tumultuous relationship with Stark. Don Cheadle is back as War Machine, re-christened “Iron Patriot” and gets in on most of the major action set pieces. His buddy-buddy give and take with Downey Jr is even better here than it was in IRON MAN 2, and after this I imagine a lot of fans will be hoping Iron Patriot gets drafted into THE AVENGERS (why not?).
The new additions are a little more hit and miss. As The Mandarin, Kingsley’s performance is no doubt going to be wildly controversial, but it’s a ballsy approach, and I absolutely loved him in it. Guy Pearce is solid as billionaire inventor Aldrich Killian, although wasn’t the whole dark side of Tony Stark thing done with Sam Rockwell in 2? Rebecca Hall is pretty much wasted in a small part as one of Stark’s old flings, although another newbie, James Badge Dale, is really good as a mercenary henchman who has a great scene with Favs’ Happy early on. It’s also neat seeing cool character actors like William Sadler and Miguel Ferrer show up as the president, and vice-president, respectively.
Thanks to the hefty $200 million plus budget, you can also expect some really great visuals, although as per the other Marvel films, the 3D conversion is only so-so (although it’s improving). The up-and-coming Brian Tyler also contributes a really solid score, which I’d wager is the best Marvel soundtrack since Henry Jackman’s work on X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. In a departure from the other movies, there’s no AC/DC or classic rock tunes here, although this suits Black’s approach, and keeps it from feeling like they were trying to emulate Jon Favreau’s style too much.
Obviously, if you loved the other Marvel films, you can reasonably assume that you’ll have a great time with IRON MAN 3, even though some purists may object to some of the twists and turns Black and company have managed to incorporate. For me, these twists are what makes IRON MAN 3 standout from the pack a bit, and I’d love to see Black and Downey Jr return for another solo round with the character. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether this happens. If it doesn’t, IRON MAN 3 would be a fitting, and very solid way to close out the first phase of this series. That said, I have a feeling we’ll see more of Tony Stark in some incarnation before long.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Don't you dare leave before the end credits are over.|