Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sir Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall
In some ways, this is the hardest review I have had to write for Adventure Amigos so far. On the one hand I had such a great time with this film, that all I want to do is pour hyperbole soup all over it and tell you spend your money as fast as you can to see it.
Sadly, however, being a reviewer for one of the fastest growing websites in the world (NB – I have not checked this statistic, but assume it to be true), I have certain responsibilities to you, dear reader. I have to ensure that not only do I speak with my non-shrapnel-threatened heart, but also with my non-billionaire-philanthropist-playboy-genius mind as well.
Now, I’m not going to do my usual routine by starting off telling you all about the premise. Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this you already have a fair idea of who our hero is, those who are important to him and what his motivations are.
Similarly, you have more than likely seen at least one trailer for this summer’s first real blockbuster, and have an idea of which villainous protagonists are coming for dinner.
So I’m just going to be blunt and tell you what I liked and what I didn’t like.
Firstly, in no particularly order, is the action. Inwardly, I have always been a bit critical of how small-scale the action sequences are in the first two films. Ok, Iron Man saves a few people in the Middle East, and yes, Stark Expo get’s attacked by a number of killer droids, but this is a comic book movie, one featuring a man in a flying suit no less, and I it all felt a little contained.
Possibly as a direct consequence of The Avengers, they had to up the ante a little with this instalment. Whilst we don’t reach the heights of Marvel’s flagship ensemble, we do however see a huge increase in the scale of action, in particular the scene where Iron Man saves several government officials who have been sucked out of Air Force One and the finale, this definitely feels more epic.
I also loved Shane Black’s directing and writing. I will always be thankful for Jon Favreau and his work on the first two films. Without him, there is a strong argument to suggest The Avengers wouldn’t have been made. That being said, I think Black has somehow improved upon Favreau’s work, which is no mean achievement for a third film in a series, which usually the worst.
His writing style dovetails perfectly with Robert Downey Jr’s acting, which we already knew from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and what you end up with is a Tony Stark performance which feels much more natural than the one we saw in the second film.
So much so that my first thought after the film was that this is what the second film should have been. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the second film very much and even on re-watching I still get a kick out of it, but Iron Man 3 has a darker tone, which is usually the staple for the middle films in a trilogy.
Not only that, but it’s a much more personal affair. One thing people wondered was why would Iron Man deal with things on his own, when he is now part of The Avengers group? Whilst this is still an Iron Man film, it is much more concerned with Tony Stark. We see his character have a hell of a time outside of the suit, which leads to some interesting character development. The first two films deal with Stark’s redemption and then his arrogance, but this is all about his insecurities. Given everything that he has and had in his life, it’s not something he deals with well.
The rest of the returning cast also respond well to Black’s writing, with Paltrow, Cheadle and Bettany continuing the fine work they have shown in the series so far. Even Favreau get’s an increased role in the first half of the film, which may be as a thank you for the directing role he vacated.
As for the new faces, Rebecca Hall (Dr May Hansen) is perfectly subtle, and James Badge Dale (Eric Savin) is smugly dangerous lighting up every scene he is in, but the two I want to concentrate on are Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian) and Sir Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin).
Pearce is a bit of an enigma to me. He can be sublime, as Memento and LA Confidential prove, but when he tries big budget movies I am not sure he is well suited. His role in Prometheus was, quite frankly, weird, but in Iron Man 3 he is at points laughable. His introduction into the story does not set him up well for a good film, and the less said about the make up used the better. Whilst there is in improvement around the middle of the film he does end up overacting a little towards the finale.
As for Kingsley, who is no doubt one of the most respected actors of his generation, I just don’t know how to rate him. His accent in the trailers seemed to garner some criticism, but I think it works given The Mandarin is treated as mysterious character in the film. My problem is that his acting is all over the place. In one scene he is completely wooden, to the point he was barely moving, whilst the last 45 minutes he was completely over the top. I dislike criticising a Knight of the Realm, especially one as talented as Kingsley, but I would say he is the worst part of the film.
The Mandarin will polarise people, due to the way he is handled. To some degree, Kingsley’s acting aside, I liked what they did with him, however I have no doubt that alot of fanboys will be pissed. Should that matter? Do the film makers have a responsibility to the people who loved the comics, or should we recognise the fact that until the first film came out, Iron Man was a B-list Marvel hero, and it is the films that have put him on the map? I’m not sure I would want to be the one answering that question!
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know to stay until after the credits. I won’t give away what happens, but all I will say is that whilst it’s a decent couple of minutes, it’s a complete waste of an opportunity.
Overall Iron Man 3 is a great addition to not only the series, but the Marvel cinematic universe. There are faults, mainly with those two performances above, but it works really well regardless. It has a strong story which unfolds evenly across the film, with a few nice twists and turns. There is a great blend of both action and popping dialogue, with a finale battle which I think will be difficult to beat this year.
Only time will tell whether this is the start of a great summer of blockbusters, or whether we have peaked too soon.
Rating – 4.5 out of 5
Did you know? The Iron Man character was created by Stan Lee and made his first comic book appearance in March 1963. Not bad for a guy of 50, huh?