Posted by: themoviecheese | May 5, 2013

“Iron Man 3” reviewed by Tom Stewart

Iron Man 3

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce & Ben Kingsley

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Shane Black & Drew Pearce

Runtime: 130 mins

Rating: 12A/PG-13

Last year, phase one of Marvel’s massive film project came to an end with the huge team-up movie Avengers Assemble (or simply The Avengers if you live over the pond). This year marks the release of a triple bill of “phase two” starters, starting with Iron Man 3, then Thor: The Dark World and lastly Captain America: Winter Soldier.

So here we have the kickstarter with Iron Man 3, and Mr Stark is in a very dark place. Post-alien invasion he has trouble sleeping and constantly suffers anxiety attacked whenever somebody so much as mentions “New York”. Don’t be fooled though, Stark certainly hasn’t gone all Dark Knight Rises moody on us. The comedy is most definitely present, thanks to newcomer writer/director Shane Black’s (of Lethal Weapon fame) excellent dialogue.

Even Tony Stark has fallen prey to Google Glass

Even Tony Stark has fallen prey to Google Glass

It seems very fitting that Stark should be the one to kickstart Marvel’s phase two cinematic sequence, since he was the one who started phase one with that Nick Fury scene, forever condemning cinema-goers to stay seated for a further 8 minutes of credits “just in case there’s something else”. This is a slightly different Stark to what we are used to seeing though. Gone are the days of Downey Jr simply “playing himself”, he now has to actually *act*, and act he does. His performance is fantastic and really lends meat to the film’s underwhelming and ultimately predictable plot.

We open up in 1999 at the turn of the Millenium, giving us a pre-Iron Man Tony Stark partying and generally being a dick to everyone around him…everyone ecept Rebecca Hall, because you know, he’s trying to get her in bed. He is approached by Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian but quickly blanks him (bad idea). This serves as a set-up of the overall plot, but wasn’t really needed in such a context other than to show us the Stark of old. Flash forward to present day and we instantly see the effect New York has had on our hero: he’s messed up. He can’t sleep, his relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is on the brink, and he has become obsessed with creating the ultimate Iron Man suit. On top of all this, the world is under terror from The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist threatening the western world with death and destuction and a new virus known as Extremis – a virus that either kills someone or makes them much more powerful. There is also the return of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who claims to have perfected Extremis for good. Eventually Stark promises “good old-fashioned revenge”, to which The Mandarin and his Terminator-like, Extremis-infused lacky (played by James Badge Dale) respond to by blowing up, no totally fucking anihilating his Malibu pad.

Pepper Pots' idea of foreplay was a little OTT

Pepper Pots’ idea of foreplay was a little OTT

Broken, damaged and left with just one malfunctioning Iron Man suit, this is Stark like we’ve never seen him. Which brings me onto my first problem with the film. There wasn’t really any indication in Avengers Assemble that the New York incident had messed him up in such a way. He burned through aliens and even seemed to enjoy it, so much so as to ask “Let’s go get a shawarma” afterwards. I get that these things can snap and just happen, but for a series of films that prides itself on inconsistency, it doesn’t really make much sense.

Like I said previously though, Downey Jr’s performance (as always) really does stop this being just another superhero film. Playing what is esentially a dual role of cocky and broken, he gives it his all. The supporting cast are also fantastic: Kingsley is brilliantly menacing as The Mandarin, whilst Paltrow offers some some brilliant surprises. Don Cheadle also returns as Col. Rhodes in his new suit Iron Patriot. His performance is equally as brilliant as Downey Jr’s, thanks in full to Shane Black’s experience on “buddy” movies. His dabble with the script means that he is able to bring Stark and Rhodes together in just the same way he did with Gibson and Glover on Lethal Weapon.

Stark confirmed that attempting the drive-thru McDonalds head-first wasn't such a good idea

Stark confirmed that attempting the drive-thru McDonalds head-first wasn’t such a good idea

Iron Man 3 is definitely problematic though. Just like all the previous Marvel stand-alone films, this is a feature that simply “goes through the motions”, it is a sequel for the sake of a sequel. And even though the film does definitely give Stark’s story closure, Marvel have been extremely clever in leaving the tale just the right amount of “open” in case Downey Jr does decide to sign those sparkly new contracts. Everything feels very streamlined. Why does everyone turn to Stark for help in stopping a terrorist that has absolutely nothing to do with him? Have everyone all of a sudden forgotten about the rest of the Avengers? I understand this is Stark’s movie, and the Mandarin is Stark’s villain, but at least acknowledge them. Captain America vs. a middle eastern terrorist? Come on, that’s just the perfect opportunity for symbolism right there.

ANYWAY, at this point I know exactly what you are thinking: “Why haven’t you talked about the BIG TWIST yet, Tom?” So, without going into deep spoiler territory, about half way through the film, a HUGE twist is revealed that has seemingly split audiences down the middle. It was a gargantuan gamble on Marvel’s part, with them obviously wanting to try something new, but unfortunately for them it doesn’t look to have paid off. Did the twist bother me? Well, yes and no. At first I thought “Holy shit!” and genuinely applauded Marvel for being so brave, whilst at the same time giggling to myself about all the Marvel fanboys who will no doubt be throwing popcorn and/or grenades towards the screen at this point. But then I stopped and thought to myself, as a DC Comics fan, how would I have felt if Christopher Nolan did a similar thing in The Dark Knight? Again, I’m not going to go too much into this comparison because that will spoil Iron Man 3’s twist. But if I think about a similar twist happening in The Dark Knight, I would have been severely pissed off, and probably would have left the theater. So, in that respect, yes the twist does piss me off. It pisses me off because I know that Marvel fans have been waiting for a certain aspect of this film since the first Iron Man film was announced. And not only have they neglected to include that aspect, they have taken it and completely butchered it. Marvel may have seen it as a gamble; a daring, innovative and ingenious ploy. I myself see it as Marvel taking a giant shit in the mouths of all their fans.

Looks cool doesn't it? Well you see each one for about 10 seconds. No shit

Looks cool doesn’t it? Well you see each one for about 10 seconds. No shit

Despite this, however, the film is still blistering entertainment and is easily as good as the first film (and obviously beats the second by a mile). The center set-piece (the aforementioned Malibu attack) almost matches The Avengers in sheer spectacle and CGI mastery, with a real fist-in-the-air moment featuring Paltrow’s Pepper Pots donning one of the suits. Oh, and about the suits…there are a LOT of them in this installment. With most of them put to use during the final confrontation. The only problem is that just as quickly as they are summoned, they are disposed of, thanks to the totally uneven movie physicality of any character that is infected with the Extremis virus. One minute, Stark can KILL one with just a powerful burst shot, the next they can tear each suit apart with their bare hands and rip out the arc reactor from each suit. Why does Stark’s abilities fluctuate in this movie so much? Why is he kicking 10,000 flavours of pure ass one minute, and then getting stomped on the next? If you’re going to steep your film in as much realism as possible by taking away Mandarin’s ten rings of magic, then how do you explain a character who can breathe fucking fire?!

In Conclusion:

Acting: 9/10 (can’t fault anybody, apart from Guy Pearce’s ham at times)

Directing: 8/10 (Black is for the most part on true form, but the film still remains uneven, giving credence to Black’s rumoured 3-hour cut)

Writing: 6/10 (don’t get me wrong, Black’s dialogue is nothing short of amazing. The film’s narrative flow, however, is extremely broken. And then there’s that twist. Fuck me, that twist)

Iron Man 3 will definitely go down as 2013’s most controversial summer blockbuster. On one hand, it is an extremely competently made action comedy with some outstanding performances, but on the other hand it has some serious problems that are only made worse by an almost soul-destroying twist in the middle act.

Final Score: 7/10

Disclaimer: As always, stick around after the credits!

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