Since ‘Iron Man 2‘ proved to be less than stellar back in 2010, this third adventure for the Marvel hero returns with a much-needed boost of attitude and character. ‘Iron Man 3’, which can be also considered a sequel to ‘‘The Avengers‘, takes us through many twists and turns and tons of new Iron Man suits. Director Shane Black tosses away some of the wham-bam action to focus on the quick-witted humor and our hero’s internal struggle with crippling panic attacks. I have no doubt that this will be a fan favorite of the franchise and will light up the box office something fierce.
Jon Favreau serves only as producer this time, but appears as his recurring character Happy Hogan. It’s known that Favreau turned the opportunity down to direct this new sequel (as well as ‘The Avengers’) due to creative differences with Marvel. Shane Black is famous for writing the screenplays for ‘Lethal Weapon‘, ‘The Monster Squad‘ and ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight‘. He made his directorial debut in 2005 with the wonderful modern noir ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘, starring Robert Downey. Jr.
As we’ve seen in his previous scripts, Black has an uncanny talent for writing stories with serious situations and characters, while at the same time being silly and over-the-top. The formula works, and is perfect for a comic book movie like ‘Iron Man 3’. Tony Stark continues to belt out cynical remarks and make us laugh, even in the most diabolical situations. This cross between seriousness and sarcasm seems to be a trait of every character, particularly Stark and Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who both show their much different sides in and out of their respective suits.
We start out with Stark narrating a past event from New Years Eve in 1999, where he attended a party in Switzerland with fellow scientist Maya (Rebecca Hall). They run into the odd and clingy Aldrich Killian (an unrecognizable Guy Pearce), who wants to talk with them about something new he has developed. In perfect Stark fashion, he stands Killian up for a one-night stand. We cut to present day at the Stark mansion in Malibu, where Stark has not been sleeping and spends his nights tinkering with his Iron Man gear.
Meanwhile, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the head lady in charge of Stark Industries. Head of security Happy Hogan (Favreau) follows her around and makes things run almost too smoothly. Stark himself can’t be bothered with any of the bad news in the world. He’s too preoccupied with his panic attacks and fumbling with new Iron Man related projects. Even mass bombings around the world and the hacking of the world-wide television networks by a bin Laden-type terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) don’t seem to phase Tony.
As Pepper is at the office, a now handsome and suave Killian tries to persuade Stark Industries to team up for the old project he tried to get off the ground back in Switzerland. Pepper turns him down for reasons unexplained, but things seem a little off. Then, maybe hitting too close to home these days, a bomb goes off at the famous Hollywood Chinese Theater, killing a bunch of people. Amongst the victims is Happy Hogan. He’s survived, but is badly injured.
This sets Stark off, which leads the terrorists to show up at his mansion with a swarm of heavily armed helicopters that literally destroy everything. (It’s not a spoiler if it’s shown in all the trailers.) Tony regroups in Tennessee without any fancy gadgets or an Iron Man suit. For a good chunk of the film, he has to rely on his brains rather than his machines to fight back. He even has the help of a lonely kid (Ty Simpkins), as they slowly figure out what is causing these bombs and who’s really behind this terrorist regime.
This is my favorite Downey performance of any of the ‘Iron Man’ films. While still the same snide yet funny, charismatic yet somewhat offensive hero, Stark is forced to be the hero he has become without any of his usual money, technology or resources. In one scene, he reminded me of Batman, as he used his intelligence and bravery to scale a mansion and easily take out his foes. Then we have Stark being his brash self, who’s not above calling a kid a pussy or threatening to run him over with his car. Downey just owns both Stark and Iron Man. I believe this was the role he was born to play.
Cheadle is also great as Rhodes this second time around. He gives more depth and insight into both sides of his character, Rhodey on the one hand and War Machine on the other. Pearce shines here too. I haven’t seen him do such a great job since ‘Memento’. Kingsley looks like he had a ball with this role. Every time he appears on screen, I yearned for more. Paltrow has much more screen time in this sequel, and we finally get a glimpse into her relationship with Tony.
It’s truly great to see Tony Stark rise to the occasion without the suit and deal with the deep-seated issues that have plagued him since the beginning. The script is witty, funny and smart, with brilliant and memorable performances from everyone. The film has some stellar action scenes on land and in the air that will leave you on the edge of your seat, drenched in sweat and wanting to see more.
In true Marvel fashion, stick around until after the final credits scroll to witness a few more minutes that are quite amusing. ‘Iron Man 3’ is a great addition to the Marvel universe, and might be the best ‘Iron Man’ film yet.