***THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE FOR THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS ON APRIL 24TH, 2013***
Director: Shane Black.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ty Simpkins, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, Stephanie Szostak, Paul Bettany (voice).
Running Time: 130 minutes.
Synopsis: When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) finds his world challenged by a terrorist simply known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), he embarks on a mission to protect those he loves, no matter the cost.
After Joss Whedon set the Marvel bar to dizzy, Asgardian heights, Shane Black’s first venture into the superhero realm was always primed for comparison. With the director’s second feature with Robert Downey Jr. to be viewed as the fourth part of Tony Stark’s metallic journey and a direct response to how, “Nothing’s been the same since New York,” many will feel it suffers for not necessarily belonging to the IRON MAN canon. But the decision to honour its central story instead of competing with its bigger, brassier AVENGERS predecessor makes it a surprisingly personal tale about the testing of our favourite mechanic’s mettle.
From his opening, imperfect narration, it’s clear Stark is stumbling and without his usual showman sensibilities. Though spectators are in awe of the events that left him unsteady, the adoration and misunderstanding leave him claustrophobic and needing the suit for more than just otherworldly battles, even parking it up amongst motorbikes and scooters for an easy getaway. Fundamentally a film about coping with things you can’t explain, Shane Black and Drew Pearce’s script very wisely decides to merely tease previous events rather than get caught up in specifics – even if Rhodes’ (Don Cheadle) red, white and blue identity change is one of a few rather blatant nods to a certain Steve Rogers.
IRON MAN 3 may be heavy on subplot, but the amount of supporting players never spoils the superhero broth. Though Rebecca Hall gives as good as she’s got in a role that didn’t necessarily need to be written in, Guy Pearce is on blistering form as former Pepper pesterer and fellow scientist, Aldrich Killian, with associate James Badge Dale once again justifying why he is in such high demand. However, it is the young Ty Simpkins who proves to be one of the film’s major trump cards in a move that initially appears to be token Disney, matching Robert Downey Jr. joke for joke and never missing a beat to guarantee things refrain from REAL STEEL territory. But for all its family friendly intentions, this is no sugarcoated affair.
Sharing the same vocal RPM as Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith, this is ultimately Ben Kingsley’s film, with Black’s self-assured direction displaying the terrorist crime lord to us before any predicated backstory. From hijacked airwaves to devastating missiles, the Mandarin’s tactics feel frighteningly real, and the fate of certain characters is difficult to anticipate due to some surprisingly brutal moments. With vulnerability and pain snapping straight into big laughs, IRON MAN 3 has the potential for some serious emotional whiplash, but where things occasionally steer off-track and threaten to go a little ‘Carry On Marvel’, the choice to steep the antagonists in such deep-rooted realism prevents this comic book outing from predictable gimmickry.
Things may start slowly, but once we are reintroduced to Hall’s Maya Hansen post-Millennial flashback, things get very real, very fast. From Stark’s first epic, Jarvis-assisted suit up (Paul Bettany’s contribution really must not go undervalued in this installment), the imagination behind each metallic melding considerably ups the ante and kicks what THE AVENGERS had to offer out of the park. IRON MAN 3 may not set out to challenge Whedon in terms of scale, but it is host to some spectacular set pieces that will have you clawing at your seat, especially when thrown amongst an intense, high-octane air rescue thats authenticity is beyond astonishing.
Incredibly funny, but all the while mixing spine-tingling geekery with a healthy dose of heartache, IRON MAN 3 may put story before spectacle, but it does both so well. Though it doesn’t feature the theme it’s become synonymous with, Brian Tyler’s fabulous end title music begs to be sat through, and not just for the customary post-credits sequence that follows. This may not be the summer blockbuster you were expecting, but this wildly entertaining slice of superhero perfection is undoubtedly the best and bravest IRON MAN yet.