With Iron Man 3 Marvel Studios found themselves in a somewhat precarious situation. Coming off the back of the super hit superhero extravaganza The Avengers, they had a lot to live up to and in a sequel to the poorly received Iron Man 2, they had some damage to undo. Stuck between a team of superhero rocks and an iron suited hard place they’ve managed to pull it out of the bag once more and produce a thoroughly entertaining action movie which is in my view, the best Iron Man movie to date.
Our arrogant, former playboy hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is now settled with his live in girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). While Potts manages Stark Enterprises, Stark himself tinkers in his basement on new designs and upgrades for his Iron Man suit. Unwanted flashbacks to the events at the close of The Avengers movie provide a distraction to his work and coupled with insomnia he begins to lose focus on what really matters in the life of Stark, instead focussing on his alter ego. With his dedication to Iron Man reaching addictive levels he finds he needs to focus when a new menace threatens the world in the form of shady terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and a small army of indestructible men whom he has at his disposal.
One of the problems with Iron Man 2 was that it felt like a film that just put the Tony Stark character on screen and said “There you go. Isn’t he cocky and funny? Oh and here’s some other stuff”. While Iron Man 3 again focuses on the arrogance and cockiness of Stark and is by far the funniest Marvel film to date, it is also heavy on story and good story at that. Weirdly the film shares similarities to the Evil Dead remake with which this movie is sharing multiplex space. Both films have a strong anti drug/anti addiction message. Although this is more overt in the horror remake, it is equally apparent here. Tony Stark is addicted to Iron Man. He can’t separate himself from it and is gradually becoming more Iron Man and less Tony Stark. He shows the classic signs of addiction and a closing voiceover even sounds like something you’d hear in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Alongside this thread the movie is also topical and a little satirical. The plot takes in aspects of current affairs such as Islamic fundamentalism, fame hunger and American ultra nationalism and blends the threads together superbly to form a plot which despite occasional logical inconsistencies is deep, entertaining and smart. It also manages to be both the most personal Iron Man movie and also the biggest.
One of the strengths of the Iron Man films has always been its design and effects. The third instalment continues that and looks spectacular. The CGI is almost faultless with just one shot looking bad to me. Considering the number of effects in the movie and the complexity of those effects, I thought that the film looked tremendous. The technology on display is equally as juicy. Stark’s equipment always looks as though it’s just out of reach of what you and I could get our hands on. Suits aside, it’s grounded in reality but fantastical enough to be exciting. His phones, displays and other gizmos look great and add to the overall effect the film has on the senses. On the subject of senses, the movie sounds fine but the score doesn’t stand out. The song played over the opening credits though is one of the most surprising choices I’ve heard in an action movie but somehow works rather well despite being blue. I saw the movie in 3D against my wishes but to be fair it rarely bugged me. I deeply dislike 3D in the cinema but Iron Man 3’s was some of the least annoying I’ve seen. Considering the quick movement and cutting and the fact that I went to a midnight screening, it also didn’t strain my eyes too much. That being said, I don’t feel as though it added much to the experience.
Robert Downey Jr seems as though he was born to play Iron Man and now, four films in, still suits the character down to a tee. He’s looking a little mahogany coloured and the signs of aging are creeping up on him but for a 48 year old man, he handles the role remarkably well. He brings a little more depth and emotion to the character in this instalment but remains his usual wise-cracking self for much of the runtime. Returning to the franchise is Gwyneth Paltrow who is fine as Pepper Potts and has good chemistry with Downey Jr but doesn’t shine until the latter stages. Don Cheadle is also back and has some nice scenes with Iron Man. Paul Bettany is once again inch perfect with his performance as Jarvis and James Badge Dale continues to impress. Rebecca Hall joins the series and is a welcome addition and Guy Pearce is great. There are two standouts though. The first is an eleven year old actor called Ty Simpkins. He shares some of the film’s best scenes with Robert Downey Jr. They are funny and touching and Ty performs admirably in them, striking up a great double act with the star. The second standout is perhaps less surprising. Ben Kingsley is superb in both incarnations of The Mandarin and his first scene with Iron Man is the best in the movie. Kingsley is mesmerising and menacing when he needs to be and despite only being on screen for a short time is the best villain of the series. This is even more remarkable when his arc comes full circle. It’s a great turn and a fantastic character.
The film ties off the trilogy well and in a way it’s a shame that the character will return in The Avengers sequel because this film’s ending would have been a nice ending for the character and series. I liked Iron Man 3 a lot and was relieved that Marvel managed to move on successfully from the crossover of The Avengers. Although I enjoyed the film, I found the final battle to be the weakest part. The large assembly of Iron Men felt like a bit of a cop out and almost forced because of The Avengers’ large cast and giant battle. There was also a surprise which could be seen a mile off and in general there was just too much going on. This was a shame because up to that point the film had taken its time and allowed the story and characters, as well as the action, to do the talking. Even so Iron Man 3 is a triumph and sits behind only The Avengers as the second best Marvel film for me. It’s wildly entertaining, laugh out loud funny, full of action and has a decent story to propel it along. The characters, new and old, are great and a few wobbles aside it’s a wonderfully well executed action movie.
Spoilers may follow
- Stan Lee makes his usual cameo, this time as an enthusiastic beauty pageant judge.
- The after credits scene is worth staying for and features another of The Avengers.
- This is the first Iron Man related movie not to feature Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.
- At 130 minutes it is the longest Iron Man movie and at $200 million, it is the most expensive. $60 million was added to the budget following the success of The Avengers.