Robert Downey Jr. anchors the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe in his Tony Stark role. Without him it’s difficult to imagine the current peak of global interest in the comic book characters that comprise that group or the high box-office grosses of superhero movies in general, even those based on properties from their “Distinguished Competition”. If the first Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau, had not been successful, modern cinema would be very different. Sequels were inevitable, especially taking into account Marvel’s “Phase One” master plan that culminated in The Avengers. Iron Man 2, also by Favreau, was a bit long and slower-paced than the original, but it almost had to be considering it’s job was world-building. Still, it helped develop the Stark character, as well as explore his motivations, personal relationships and demons. Like the first one, it benefited from linking all similarities the acclaimed actor shared with his brilliant and fictitious engineer/entrepreneur.
Now comes Iron Man 3, the first installment of Marvel Studios’ new Phase Two of intertwined superhero films, which will culminate in a sequel to The Avengers, itself one of the most commercial successful and acclaimed feature films of all time. While not as much as Avengers “part deux”, the expectations for Iron Man 3 are high. As if that weren’t stressful enough for the filmmakers, they didn’t have Favreau as director this time around, since he gave up his seat to Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). To make matters worse, rumors abound that this could be the last round for Downey Jr. as Stark. With such obstacles, could the Marvel Studio people achieve a repeat miracle after five years? Apparently so, since Iron Man 3 is right up there with the original in terms of history while surpassing it in the action department.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) look for an escape route
in Iron Man 3. (SOURCE: Marvel Studios.)
Iron Man 3 in a Nutshell
For those who like good flying armored suits stories, the plot is as follows: on the eve of 2000, during his hedonism phase, Tony Stark meets two young scientists he will run into again in the future. One of them, the beautiful and intelligent Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), Tony seduces; the other, disabled and self-conscious Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), he ignores. Years later, Stark is living happily with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Tony’s girlfriend is now also his boss at Stark Industries whereas Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), his former bodyguard, has been promoted to head of security. However, the events showcased in The Avengers—heretofore referred as “the New York incident”—have left Stark with some mental scars, to the point of giving him insomnia and anxiety attacks when out of his armor.
It’s during this existential crisis that Killian returns, this time conceited and cured of his physical defects, to offer Pepper some biotech called Pepper Extremis and a night out, if she’s willing. Maya Hansen, now working for Killian, contacts Stark with suspicions about her boss. Add to this the rise of a mysterious terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who has taken responsibility for several attacks with mysterious explosives. His apparent obsession with destroying the United States has led the U.S. President (William Sadler) to order his capture, a task assigned to James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Tony’s best friend, under the identity of Iron Patriot (the War Machine armor, painted in Captain America’s colors). Happy is wounded in another strange explosion while investigating Killian, which motivates Stark to declare war on the Mandarin. Only this time it will be without the help of super-beings or S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) schemes away in Iron Man 3. (SOURCE: Marvel Studios.)
As a director, Shane Black—like Favreau—has a knack for working with actors, but is above all a genius in both dialogue and establishing action, talents he honed as screenwriter of the Lethal Weapon film series. Tony’s character, just like Downey, suffers from an addictive personality, something all Iron Man flicks have exploited effectively. Interacting with foreign entities, who don’t need technological prostheses for their superhuman abilities, has affected Stark more than he’s willing to admit, and Downey plays that inner conflict convincingly. The best dialogue in the movie is between Tony and a boy named Harley—played by veteran kid thespian Ty Simpkins (Insidious)—but every character in the movie has plenty to say.
It’s a Party and We’re All Invited
All the actors here got a kick out of their roles for sure, especially the bad guys. Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) is a respected actor who never backs away from a challenge, however controversial or ridiculous it may seem. It’s a trait Black fully takes advantage of for Kingsley’s Mandarin, one of the most infamous enemies in Stark’s comic book rogue gallery. Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), meanwhile, is so used to being a baddie that it fits him like a glove. Only their goons seem to be enjoying themselves more than the rest of the cast, especially Stephanie Szostak of Dinner for Schmucks fame and James Badge Dale, who had a short but memorable role in Flight.
James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) suits up as Iron Patriot in Iron Man 3. (SOURCE: Marvel Studios.)
Iron Man 3 may be different in tone than its predecessors, but with more action and a touch of espionage that makes it loads of fun. At times it resembles a James Bond outing, if both 007 and Q happened to be one and the same. The film also manages to explore deeper issues such as the nature of power and terrorism, but Black never gives in to those extended scenes of introspection that derailed the rhythm of Iron Man 2. In short Black, Downey Jr. and their team successfully create another smart, large-scaled amusement park ride in Iron Man 3, an excellent Summer movie season opener that achieves its goal of making us anticipate all the goodies Marvel Studios has in store for the future.
Movie title: Iron Man 3
Movie description: The first entry in Marvel Studios' "Phase Two" is a fun and worthy sequel to the original with a touch of espionage.
Date published: 2013-04-26
Director(s): Shane Black
Actor(s): Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, Ty Simpkins, William Sadler
Genre: Action, Adventure