Iron Man Three came out last Thursday night in the US… Well over a week ago in many other territories. So I’m about to spoil the shit out of it. Live with it, or read the review after you go see it. Your choice.
In many ways, Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man movie Marvel has ever made. Let me tell you why:
Director/Writer Shane Black’s Dialogue:
Drew Pearce is listed as co-writer on the film, but anyone remotely familiar with the first Lethal Weapon or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (to name only two fantastic Shane Black scripts) can hear Black’s unique words and phrasing throughout the entire movie.
Having Tony call a bald bad guy “Westworld” in one scene is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Tony Stark Spends Most of His Time OUTSIDE of the Iron Man Armor:
Don’t get that wrong. There’s plenty of Iron Man action… But Tony’s thrown into a situation (at the beginning) that sends him reeling– which often means he has to access/use his armor remotely.
Why is this a good thing? Well, it’s sorta simple: 1) He’s having anxiety attacks after the “other dimensional incident” in New York. After seeing Gods (Thor, Loki, etc) and Aliens, Tony realizes (maybe for the first time ever) he’s just a regular guy in a suit… And a guy in a suit can get hurt/killed very quickly.
It also makes perfect sense that a Billionaire (who has the tech and the brain power to kick mucho ass while not inhabiting his armor), would choose to do more than one thing at once– especially when situations dictate he save his girlfriend and the President of the United States at the same time… In two different parts of the country.
This also gives audiences a chance to see Stark as an American James Bond… Finally showing there’s more to Tony than a few acidic quips and a cool super suit.
Tony Having Anxiety Attacks:
Iron Man 2 (abomination that it was) showed Tony Stark refusing to believe he was anything but invincible. The action in The Avengers taught him the exact opposite.
So it’s natural to see him locked away in his lab after these tumultuous events– single-mindedly devising all kinds of new armor and barely talking to his girlfriend Pepper Potts, or anyone else. Tony is searching for something in Iron Man 3– wondering if his playing dress-up is a silly lark in need of a massive adjustment.
Making the Mandarin a Joke:
Many comic fans (and people drawn in by the trailers) seem to be up in arms with Shane Black turning the long-time Iron Man villain into a joke. But this is one of those moments where the movies got it right. The comic book Mandarin was a product of his times– and that time has long passed. There’s no room for an obvious Asian comic book stereotype in a 21st Century movie. (Hell, The Mandarin has been offensive to me for years.)
Sir Ben Kingsley is superb in every single frame too… And if you watch and listen closely, Black and Pearce warn you The Mandarin is a Straw Man for someone much, much worse from the beginning– so to see him revealed as such is very refreshing… And took a lot of balls. There are no power rings here, no idiotic posturing, no preposterously wordy villainous dialogue. The Mandarin is just one huge bait and switch– and the ruse works to great effect.
Guy Pearce Kicks Ass:
Jose and I were discussing Guy’s career just a few months ago– wondering what happened to it. Prometheus did nothing for the actor, but Iron Man 3 will go a long way toward reminding Hollywood how brilliantly malevolent and dramatic Pearce can be when given the chance.
Pearce’s Aldrich Killian HATES Tony Stark… And is all the more unique because I don’t think anyone in the audience will blame the bad man for feeling this way. Tony Stark was/is/will always be a dick… And Pearce embodies the “little people” Tony must have most assuredly stepped on (and over) to become the man he is.
For once, a comic book movie villain with a genuine reason for wanting to cause a hero harm… Wow.
Gwyneth Paltrow Wasn’t the Least Bit Annoying:
Gwyneth gives a lot of people pause with the outlandish, often pompous way she speaks and chooses to live her life in public. But hey, it’s a free country.
Having lived in Hollywood for a long time, I decided to stop reading all the crap written about actors: How they live and what they do has to be particularly heinous for me to dislike them personally. Seriously, if I only went to films where I liked the Producers, Directors, Screenwriters or Actors personally– I’d never go to movie theaters anymore.
Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is spot on in Iron Man 3. Her performance is heart-felt, tough and understanding. And like a certain Nastasha Romanov at the end of The Avengers film, Pepper shows the term “the weaker sex” needs to be abolished from the 21st Century vocabulary. (And damn! Those abs!)
Nice to see Marvel Studios making the case for strong women heroes– even if Marvel Comics often portrays them like scantily clad whores or inconsequential playthings.
Of course, what’s good has to be followed by what’s bad, right? Surprisingly, like the original Iron Man film, I didn’t find much wrong here. There are a few disassociative events which could have been better explained… A few deleted scenes which could have been left in for better dramatic effect and connectivity… A few character moments which could have been held a beat or two longer. But as is, Iron Man 3 clocks in at 2 hours, 20 minutes. It’s already a long film– yet it never gets boring… And the few nitpicks I have are minor compared to the overall excellence and fun on display here.
Iron Man 3 is a much more personal film than its predecessor (which was more intent on setting up an Avengers movie than anything else.) This is a concoction content on exploring and defining Tony Stark’s place in a post-Avengers world. Marvel Studios should be commended for taking this lower-key. It’s rumored Thor The Dark World and Captain America Winter Soldier will continue this trend and I say, “Great!” Leave the “no character development and non-stop action” to The Avengers movies.
By making the individual films more character-driven, the combo movies can be forgiven if their heroes go from Point A to Point B without really changing much. Every Marvel movie doesn’t have to be apocalyptic. Not every frame needs to mean something. That said, Iron Man 3 has a little something for everybody… And very little to gripe about.
In fact, I can’t wait to see it again.
For those readers expecting me to rake this film over the coals given my current distaste for Marvel Comics’ output, I’m not the least bit sorry for not doing so. Marvel Studios is not Marvel Comics. And as much as I can’t stand most of what Marvel Comics is currently publishing, I often feel the exact opposite about Marvel Studios’ work. While the comics side of the corporation portrays almost everything they crap out as monumental, Marvel Studios seems perfectly content to entertain… And that they do. So much so, I wish more film studios would follow their lead.
Don’t try to impress me. Just entertain me.