With Robert Downey Jr’s big movie contract expiring after the release of the third installment in the surprisingly good Iron Man series one begins to wonder if this is a swan song for Downey as he will be replaced in the follow up to the Avengers or will he renegotiate. The word was that Downey made fifty million (yes fifty million) on the first Avengers film and it’s needless to say that the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man revitalized a career that was non existent. So here is the question though, how does the third Iron Man film stack up to the previous two while ushering in the start of Marvel’s Phase Two in their film program.
In a nut shell Iron Man 3 is a romp. A joyous ode to Downey’s acting chops, the way he portrays Stark, it’s all about him, and why shouldn’t it be? He is the lead, he is the main character. But while Iron Man 3 soars as a comic film and an action film, the comic reading portion of the audience might feel slightly let down. Leading up to the film’s release several pieces of news got me at least titillated. The first was the big one. The Mandarin. They cast a well known British actor, Sir Ben Kingsley, to play the archenemy of Iron Man which got me excited for all the possibilities but by the film’s end I felt let down by this to an extent (an elaboration later will occur). Another was the inclusion of the Extremis arc from Warren Ellis’ comic run. It was a fabulous story arc in the comics, but something felt off about it. I can’t put my finger on it. But once more that will be mentioned a wee bit later. But then there was the Iron Patriot. If you have read the comics like five years ago or more you know that Norman Osborne was the Iron Patriot. He took the mantle after he “defeated” the Skrulls in the Secret Invasion and won the president and pretty much outlawed the Avengers and all the other do gooders. Another great Marvel arc slightly dampened by the film community. So then with all this hate from me how does Iron Man truly stack up?
I don’t want to give away the story too much but I would recommend atching the first two films again if you need a refresher. The big part of this film is the evolution of Tony Stark. Not so much of Iron Man but Tony himself. I wasn’t quite counting but I would say at least half of it was Tony out of the suit, and about the struggles he has. The first film was not as dark but it showed him struggling to cope with his “youthful” lifestyle while trying to just live with the shrapnel in his chest. The villain was Stane, a struggle from within, sort of like metaphor. The next film had Whiplash and his carbon copies of Iron Man, this was the start of the whole making your own demon part of the series but it wasn’t until we reach Iron Man 3, after we see the Avengers that we see the fully evolved Tony.
He doesn’t drink anymore. He is in a committed relationship. He’s grown up. Yes he’s still an ego maniac but he isn’t the playboy party rock monster he was and this, we believe this because of Downey and his portrayal. He was born for this role and we see him live this role. I have said this since the first film and kept saying it, no one else can play Tony Stark because none of the other actors they talk about has lived like Tony Stark. Downey has found a role that he can find redemption in and that is what his character is doing.
Like I said I don’t wish to spoil the story seeing as the film just came out a week ago and I know there is quite a few who haven’t seen it yet, but it’s fun, it’s full of classic Iron Man style humor, the writing style. It’s very similar to the first two but it does feel more light hearted at points compared to the first two and that’s because the director is a different director than the first two. It’s Shane Black this time and while he does a good job getting the action shots in and keeping it fast paced there are some minor hiccups. Some jump cuts exist in some scenes that ruin the fluidity of the scene and there are at times just way too much going on at one point. At several points before the huge reveal there feels like there might be a few too many villains, I call it the Spider Man 3 treatment, see Sandman, Venom and James Franco. But unlike Spidey 3 it wraps up more in a nice neat package.
Effects in the film range from the suits in action to the Extremis effects. All of which are well done. Yes you can tell it’s more CGI than make up for the Extremis but it isn’t bad, no it’s kind of cool, the whole concept, but the suits once again shine. The final climax scene was a toy company’s wet dream, watch out for once they can make all these Iron Man figures and it would make sense. You’ll see when you see it and if you did see it then you know what I am talking about. The entire action scenes didn’t look choreographed like some films or even television programs feel and that is a huge positive. I loved the scenes where Downey is doing the action part himself as Tony and not as Iron Man (see the Miami scene). The balance of action and story though is well done.
I seem to have jumped around from one portion of a review into another. Let me jump back in, my thoughts seem to be everywhere. The cast was in almost every aspect well cast, there was of course some that I haven’t liked almost ever but the majority was well done. I have given Downey his props and I have for all four of his Iron Man roles so let’s jump to another. Gwenyth Paltrow was alright as Pepper Pots again. I have never liked Paltrow. She’s an alright actress but she doesn’t stand out to me. You could cast almost anyone else to play Pepper and might have gotten a similar if not slightly better job done. I’m not sure I am wording that right but she wasn’t bad, and I was grateful she wasn’t in it much. She doesn’t really work exceedingly well with Downey but it isn’t bad. The scene in the bed where Tony is having the nightmare about New York is my best example. It is a scene that shows Tony’s evolution more so and that Pepper is becoming the bitch, it’s true!
Don Cheadle, who of course replaced Terrance Howard in the second had more screen time and looked a smidge more buff than in the last one was actually much better. He had a bigger part in it too. Cheadle was always a fantastic actor and seeing him in something that doesn’t scream an Academy Award nomination is a bit weird but he made the role of Rhodes work well. He’s a convincing actor and it shows. Plus seeing him do rolls with a gun was kind of neat. Of the remainder of the large cast we come to Guy Pearce. Pearce was cast at Killian, who was in the Extremis arc of the comics but I personally don’t remember him but that’s alright. Pearce went from being a cripple in the first few minutes to fighting hand to hand with Stark at the end. His awkardness turned into sex appeal then into the true villain of the film. A quickly developed character that worked well to Pearce’s acting chops (see him in Memento if you don’t think he’s good). I liked this casting after seeing it, I was confused at first but now it makes sense.
And then there was Kingsley. A knighted actor playing the villain. Or so we think but I don’t want to delve too deep. He was fantastic as the terrorist known as the Mandarin. The middle eastern look with a slight Heath Ledger esque voice. Kingsley was the actor who I was most excited for to see play the role of the villain in thei film, at least when they started announcing the casting. I was more excited for the Mandarin but that was a bit of a let down if you read the comics then you know why. And I can’t go any further into Kingsley’s role without spoiling it. Just know he makes a good villain.
Overall Iron Man 3 stacks up very well. It’s inferiority to the first film is quickly forgotten due to it’s superiority to the second. It’s well cast and the actors give it their best effort and it shows. Downey’s swan song adds up as the summer’s first big hit and is a welcome addition to the Marvel Lore. (B+/88.5)