With Iron Man 3, Marvel kicks off their set of Phase 2 movies with a film that may well surpass last summer’s The Avengers. Surprisingly enough, I think that on the whole, Iron Man 3 was the superior film. There’s so much here to love, and it sees Robert Downey Jr on the top of his game, in what is his best movie to date.
I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers in this review, but, at times, it will be hard. I won’t give away any major plot aspects, though I’m sure that, considering it’s been out for four days, many people have probably seen it already.
What I liked about this movie is that, in the end, the trailers gave away almost nothing of the movie’s plot. It may have seemed that they did, but, on the whole, they really only gave away one major plot point, which is Tony Stark’s anxiety/PTSD. In many ways, this is a classic Iron Man story. Sure, we don’t see Tony going off on a period of alcoholism, but this is more a movie about Tony Stark than Iron Man, in a similar vein to The Dark Knight Rises.
In Iron Man 3, we see Tony Stark on the bottom of his game. At this point, he’s essentially falling apart, after his near death experience in the wormhole and his encounters with gods, aliens, super soldiers, and a Hulk. He can’t sleep, and so, what does he do? He builds more armor. Now, flash back to the last day of 1999, at a tech expo in Bern, Switzerland. Once that came up on the screen, I instantly thought “Iron Man”.
And yes, Yensin, the scientist who saves Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man does make an appearance, albeit a brief one. Rather, this flash back centers around a young Aldrich Killian, as he tries to get Tony to get behind A.I.M. This is a rather nice nod to the comics, as, for those who don’t know, A.I.M. is one of the biggest criminal organizations in the Marvel universe.
Anyways, here we meet both Aldrich Killian and Rebecca Hall’s character, who is so under used I don’t even remember her name. One of the movie’s few flaws is this character. She actually plays a fairly major role in the Extremis series, from which this movie draws it’s inspiration. She has three scenes in the movie, and, as a result, we don’t get to know her character well enough to actually care when Killian puts a bullet in her.
However, every other character is handled so well in this movie that one under used character isn’t that problematic. From Tony Stark to The Mandarin, every character gets some excellent character work and is acted excellently. Ben Kingsley’s performance was stellar, both before and after the ridiculously hilarious and well done plot twist concerning his character.
Kingsley’s performance is excellent, as is the rest of the cats, but, really, it’s Robert Downey Jr. who steals the show. At this point, I can’t envision anyone else as Iron Man/Tony Stark. While he’s not the eccentric character we’ve seen in the past Iron Man films, he does an excellent job as depressed Tony Stark, and still is excellent at the delivery of his comedic lines.
Which Iron Man 3 certainly has a lot of. Is that a good thing? Why, yes it is. It could have been a depressing, Nolan trilogy esque film, but, instead, it alleviates that tone with jokes that make the movie funnier than most comedies.
Still, the movie manages to strike a great balance between Marvel’s signature light hearted tone and a heavier, character oriented tone. When Captain America asked what Tony Stark was without the suit in The Avengers, I doubt he was expecting Shane Black to make a movie about it. Because this movie answers the question, and does a great job defining who these characters are.
The plot isn’t as strong as I expected, but I’ll take great character work over plot any day, which is part of the reason Scott Snyder is my favorite comic book author, and Shane Black may well become one of my favorite directors.
And then, of course, there’s the action. The special effects are stellar, especially in the high intensity attack on Stark’s home in Malibu. Even Tony Stark jumping between dozens of Iron Man scenes on the oil tanker at the end doesn’t match that scene. And then there’s the plane sequence, in which Iron Man (just the suit) saves the passengers of Air Force One. What’s so amazing about this sequence is that it isn’t a green screen, it’s actually a team of stunt men and women.
The plot, while not as strong as it could have been, was a lot of fun, and threw quite a few wrenches in the gears. There’s a twist with the Mandarin and an unexpected death about halfway through the movie – one executed extremely well, and one that just didn’t matter. The reason that the Mandarin twist is so great is because it could have – and, frankly, should have – been horrible. But Ben Kingsley does a great job with it, partially because of the movie’s excellent writing.
Now, back to character work. In addition to Tony, Aldrich, and Pepper, both Rhody (now Iron Patriot) and Happy get some great character work. Especially Rhody, now War Machine – or Iron Patriot – full time, and working for the US government as a sort of super human deterrent. And then there’s Happy, who’s pretty much just been in the back ground, but now takes on a full fledged role, and actually gets an intriguing side plot towards the beginning of the movie.
So it’s a pretty amazing movie. Sure, Rebecca Hall’s character isn’t as fleshed out as she should have been, and the plot isn’t as great as it could have been, the rest of the movie outbalance these flaws. The plot is good, to be sure, showing us who Tony Stark really is, but that’s more character work, and in that area, the movie excels. Plus, it’s got some great action, and, on the whole, is downright hilarious.