Iron Man 3 ReviewMay 7, 2013
Iron Man 3 is a fun, exhilarating and even deep superhero film that is vastly superior to its predecessor.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe was one of the biggest financial risks ever made by a film studio – it asked that a studio introduce comic book characters (some rather obscure) with standalone films in preparation for The Avengers, in which these characters would finally team up. Fortunately for Marvel Studios and Disney, this gambit really paid off, for all of those films received solid reviews and The Avengers is now the third highest-grossing film of all-time. However, that was just “Phase One” in Marvel’s planned universe of films, for now the third installment of the Iron Man franchise is here to kick off the second phase, which is leading up to The Avengers 2. With that, has Iron Man 3 ultimately succeeded in kickstarting that second phase?
Following the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a damaged soul. He may have saved the world from an alien invasion, but those memories torture him day and night with post-traumatic stress, insomnia and night terrors. This leads him to burying himself in his work on many more Iron Man suits, also causing some issues to arise between himself and his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). To make matters worse, a powerful new terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has surfaced, in which he has many agents issuing deadly – and equally baffling – bomb attacks across the world. In response to these attacks, Tony Stark issues a televised threat against The Mandarin, which soon results in the fight literally being brought to his doorstep. As Tony Stark and those he love are put into the greatest peril any of them have ever been in, he realizes that he must finally come to terms with who he is and sacrifice all to bring an end to the forces that oppose him.
Iron Man 3 has some issues, so do not expect the level of excellence we saw in The Avengers last year. The story has plot holes that are typical in franchise films, but that’s forgivable since they are few in number. There are very obscure issues working against Iron Man 3 here, but they still must be addressed. Perhaps the biggest of these is a major twist that occurs a little over an hour into the film – after that point, I felt that Iron Man 3 lost something regardless of my subjective reaction to it. It is possible to still enjoy this film even after the twist, but I can completely understand why others would absolutely loathe the experience afterwards.
Also, in that second half there is a lack of thematic focus, and there are multiple moments of silliness that upset what should have been some of the film’s most dramatic moments. Nonetheless, Iron Man 3 is a fun, exhilarating and even deep superhero film that is vastly superior to its predecessor. What’s surprising about Iron Man 3 is that it features the eponymous alter ego the least out of all the Iron Man films (similar to The Dark Knight Rises). This film is more deeply rooted in taking the character of Tony Stark himself down dark, emotional paths, and due to smart writing and Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance, Iron Man 3 is a unique entry into the Marvel canon. This direction works very well for Iron Man 3, and it makes for an interesting lesson on how we must protect what we truly value as important in our lives, even if we have to make the greatest sacrifices of all.
Other than that, Iron Man 3 is endlessly entertaining, whether it be through the great action or hilarious dialogue from Shane Black – and yes, this is the darkest yet funniest of the Iron Man films. This film also succeeds largely because of the two villains. I can’t talk in depth about them as to avoid spoiler territory, but let’s just say that their interactions with Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 are intense and compelling. Not only that, but they are both memorable and entertaining additions to the villain line-up we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is much more that can be said about the story of Iron Man 3, but in summation it is well-written, consistently entertaining and is one of the stronger stories seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Everyone already knows Robert Downey, Jr. is fantastic in this role, but in Iron Man 3 he pulls out all the stops. He conveys all of Tony Stark’s narcissism, sarcasm and charisma with his usual nuance, but here he also shows an emotional side to him that was previously unseen in his portrayals of this character. In short, it’s perhaps the best performance he has yet given as Tony Stark, and from that I doubt that he has anything left to surprise. Equally good supporting work comes from Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Jon Favreau, who respectively reprise their roles as Pepper Potts, James Rhodes and Happy Hogan.
I also found it interesting how many different directions the story asked Paltrow to take in her performance, which results in her having some rather awesome moments in the film. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley play the two villains in Iron Man 3, and they both do a great job as well. Kingsley handles himself well as The Mandarin, and I expect that many people will be trying to emulate his voice in the future. He also proves to be very intimidating during his televised monologues as the villain, which certainly enhances his onscreen presence. Guy Pearce is also a great fit for villainous roles, and here he proves that once again with his performance as Aldrich Killian. He is sly, conniving, and simply entertaining to watch, while also making it easy for us as the audience to sympathize with him in some cases. With all of that in mind, it’s easy to see that Iron Man 3 is another example of the intelligence of the casting directors hired to work on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Even though there are some sequences in which computer-generated imagery is simply plastered onto the screen, Iron Man 3 has great visual effects. Generally when there is CGI on display, it is convincing. The visual effects are especially impressive in a plane sequence teased in the trailer, along with the climax of the film. Truth be told, there is less action in Iron Man 3 than in previous installments; however, when the action scenes arrive, they are frenetic, intense and hugely exciting. Shane Black was also a good choice as a director, for along with his DP he has photographed some great imagery for this film. Black also left some breathing room between the actors, stuntmen and camera crew during the action scenes, so it also helps that the action is neither claustrophobic nor incomprehensible.
I guess one negative thing that can be taken out of the technical aspects of Iron Man 3 is the 3D. The transfer is standard as far as 3D post-conversions go, which means that the format is completely unnecessary. That’s not to say that it is a terrible experience, but there was nothing in the conversion that stood out as worth the added ticket price – plus, my eyes were strained after a while. Still, considering that Iron Man 3 is a great-looking film, the 3D was not a detractor from my overall viewpoint on it.
Iron Man 3 is not exactly a great film, for it has its share of narrative and tonal issues that hold it back from being a summer blockbuster masterpiece. Even so, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a good choice for those looking forward to the summer movie season. Iron Man 3 is a fun, exciting, sometimes thought-provoking and hilarious superhero flick, which is a credit to the talent of writer-director Shane Black. Also, this film does a good job at picking up where The Avengers left off and transitioning into Phase 2 of this potentially enormous Marvel universe. While it may disappoint some moviegoers, Iron Man 3 is not a bad choice for those craving a summer blockbuster experience, and shows much promise for the Marvel films to soon come.