Iron Man 3: Spoiler-Free Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
“I’m just a man in a can”
– Tony Stark.
The first in our post-Avengers movie line has arrived in the spring of 2013, Iron Man 3 – or Iron Man Three, as it stylizes itself – blazes onto our silver screens in an ebullient fashion. Robert Downey, Jr. heads up an impressive cast as the billionaire playboy-cum-industrialist Tony Stark. Downey, Jr. plays the ladykiller with a driving charm, so common in the Iron Man series, but this third instalment in the franchise contains his most relaxed and easy performance. He’s toned down the smart-alecky snideness majorly, and manages to make the character much more likeable. The ego has dropped lower than before, and he’s less of a self-conceited and vain ladies’ man (as was the case with the first two). Tony’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts is unfortunately clinically under-utilized. Whilst Gwyneth Paltrow puts in a good turn towards the finale/denouement, she plays the damsel in distress shtick for the majority of the film. It is a shame because Paltrow is a fine actress, and she could have done much more with Pepper (although, quite ironically, Potts does more in Iron Man 3 than in any of the other films in the trilogy).
Director Shane Black takes the modern cinematic convention of casting a British star in the role of the villain (see Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises and Rhys Ifans in The Amazing Spider-Man) by choosing Sir Ben Kingsley to portray the Mandarin. He takes the Middle-Eastern supervillian and puts a very clever twist on him. The Mandarin is multidimensional here, and there’s a twist on the character you won’t be expecting. Diehard Marvel fans will be nettled though; however if you aren’t then you’ll take it in very good spirits. Kingsley’s rendition is one of the more outstanding performances, tied only with that of Ty Simpkins as Harley, a precocious youngster that assists Tony when he falls (quite literally) into bother. His inclusion is definitely one for the little ‘uns, but Simpkins plays him with a naturalness that is rare among child-actors, making older audiences like him much more. The badinage shared between him and Stark is the highlight of the entire feature. Some of it is so razor-sharp it could likely cause controversy.
Whilst Iron Man 3 is packed with exceptional performances, I felt the plot was very poor. There was no real motive for the baddies’ world-domination plan, and it was only there because every superhero outing needs an antagonist with a wicked agenda. The film introduced the Extremis scheme, an operation that helped disabled war veterans regain their lost limbs. Naturally there are side effects and the now healed soldiers develop superhuman heat-powers leading their creator, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce as your typical mad scientist) to use them for evil. It’s a hackneyed conceit in the superhero universe, and Black injects nothing new into it.
The dramatic tension is rippled throughout Iron Man 3 and the movie doesn’t build up to anything substantial. Some action sequences are superbly shot; the ruination of Tony’s ultramodern Malibu mansion, and a thrilling aeroplane rescue make for very exciting viewing, but these events lead to no conclusion. You have your customary peppy finale with exploding barrels, the Iron Man exoskeleton, a caged hero, and one last showdown with the villain. This is all great fun but I felt the whole thing was incredibly timeworn and audiences have seen it many times before.
Iron Man 3 is to date, the funniest Marvel epic, and Downey, Jr. is probably the source of this, but there are also a lot of visual gags and laughs to be found. The script includes some great one-liners that only Britons will get: there’s a gibe at America’s newfound love for ITV’s Downton Abbey, a sly reference to Croydon and a familiar footballing chant; these are all probably inserts from British co-scriptwriter Drew Pearce.
It’s probably the best film to have after last year’s mighty crossover, Avengers Assemble (and that behemoth is referenced many times) as forthcoming blockbusters; Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier look much darker than the light-hearted frothiness that is Iron Man 3.
If you were expecting a smart superhero thriller, in the vein of The Dark Knight saga then don’t bother popping along to the local multiplex. But if you want to feast on some easygoing and innocent Robert Downey, Jr.-fuelled action then Iron Man 3 is most definitely the film for you.