Directed by: Shane Black
Starring Robert Downey Jr.
This review comes after the film has already released so some assumptions will be made; the most important of those is that you’ve already seen the movie. If for some reason you’ve been hiding under a giant lump of kryptonite waiting for Superman instead of forking over the bucks for the man of iron then I’d recommend skipping to the last paragraph because spoilers will abound.
As many issues as Iron Man 2 had the film still managed to bring the heart to it that director Jon Favreau instilled into the first film. While up to that point the director wasn’t known as a hardcore comic book fan he is in fact enough of a fan of the Marvel Universe to really bring passion to the story he told in the first film and again in the second film even though it was kind of a mess. So, when he stepped back from the directing chair many fans were concerned. Shane Black was quickly ushered in to fill the daunting role of continuing the film franchise. Not much was made of this new director moving in and it was done really quickly, probably to try and slow down too much fan boy distress over the change. Prior to Iron Man 3, Black has only directed one other film; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. That film also starred Robert Downey Jr. Apparently the two had a good working relationship and with the success of the previous two Iron Man films Downey Jr. has much more pull in the direction of storytelling and obviously in helping pick those that get behind the camera. Black does have a phenomenal writing pedigree being the scribe of some of the best action films of the 80’s including Lethal weapon 1 and 2, The Last Boy Scout, and the highly under appreciated The Long Kiss Goodnight.
Iron Man 3 completes a story arc for both Iron Man and Tony Stark. One can’t help but wonder how many of the pieces have been in place from the beginning, especially since we got our first look at Iron Man’s greatest enemy, The Mandarin in the first film. Obviously the villain ends up being a lot different in this film than was previously hinted, mainly because of Black’s sort of comedic approach to the action. Black and his co-writers did use current versions of Stark, Iron Man, and the Mandarin from the comics in the storytelling though. Fans who are crying foul now at the twist in the film regarding the super villain aren’t obviously real fans of the comics as they might have you believe. They are fans of the old school somewhat racist version of the villain that just doesn’t fit in modern storytelling. What happens in the film isn’t too much of a stretch from the way the villain is portrayed in the modern comics and this portrayal just fits better with the Tony stark story along with the action of Iron Man. That really gets to the meat of this film, this third act in the Iron Man story is really a Tony Stark Story.
Tony struggles with what happened in New York in a truly interesting way. In the suit he’s nearly invincible but is that really where he’s the hero, is that truly where his super powers exist? This movie says no. He’s a super hero because he’s both a heroic person in heart and in mind and he’s brilliant, always one step ahead of everyone around him villain or not. So when the events of New York continue to haunt him as Tony Stark and not as Iron Man his true weakness may be finally revealed. In Iron Man 3 Stark spends a huge chunk of time being Tony stark, the new Tony Stark, the man who has become a hero, has settled down with one woman, and the man who is facing his most devious villain. Black managed to bring in notes of buddy cop, which plays into his wheelhouse (Lethal Weapon) and espionage, both very human elements of the story that are often not a part of super hero comics. Some of this more human type of story was previously best represented in Captain America: The First Avenger.
So, to the point, Black does a ton of things right with this film. Black crafts a human end to the trilogy, he still manages some of the best action scenes we’re likely to see on the big screen this year, he brings on a twist in the super villain that also humanizes someone that just wouldn’t have worked in the atmosphere previously crafted in the first two films, and he continues to let Downey Jr. shine in the role. Iron Man 3 isn’t a perfect film though. As great as Iron Man 3 is the film is missing that heart, that underlying passion for the subject that Favreau brought to the franchise. That feeling is a little crushed by all of the Black tropes that he manages to wedge into this film as good as they may be. Also, Iron Man 3 is a bit too comedic. The first two films managed comedy relief, even some goofy comedy relief, without making the film feel like an action/comedy. Those films worked because Stark was the only funny one in them and usually he was funny because he was being a smartass or just being smart, outside of the goofy robots. In this third film there are other characters that are just over the top funny which feels like too much when added to the inherent humor that Downey Jr. has infused into Tony Stark. There are some real hiccups in storytelling in the film too in a couple of places. There’s one scene in a bar where Tony and a new buddy are trying to get answers about the Mandarin where everyone either knows way too much or they literally know nothing for the first few minutes. The wrinkle does eventually get straightened out but what we get is a pretty awkward start. Also, we get explanation about how Tony’s armor can be at the right place at the right time but there’s another scene where he jumps into a car and you’ll wonder if he’s planning to hotwire it but when the car is driving itself you are just left to assume otherwise.
Nearly every Marvel character has a weakness that can end them if they don’t guard it properly. Tony Stark’s weakness has always been the piece of shrapnel being held in place by the power source for the Iron Man suit. So there has always been this fantastic story element that the device that makes him a hero is also the device that keeps him alive. One good comic book story arc adds to the story by making something happen to the device causing it to slowly kill him too. At the end of this film that weaknesses is just nonchalantly removed as if no big deal at all. Now Stark’s reasons for having not removed it before are interesting character-wise but removing that little piece of metal completely changes the character too.
Iron Man 3 is a fantastic movie and a true adventure ending film for this first trilogy. All of my complaints aside the film is still just fantastic. With that said though, there are some decisions that don’t work and hamper what could have been a perfect film. I have to say also, while the check your brain at the door requirement is fully in place, there’s a midair rescue done by Iron Man of several people falling from a plane that must be seen on a big screen. The scene was actually performed PRACTICALLY too! By the way, don’t see Iron Man 3 in 3-D, it’s not worth the bucks.