Here’s the thing about The Avengers – it was a perfect. Okay yes I’m biased but it was pretty much everything I wanted out of a comic adaptation. The problem is that it has set the bar pretty blood high and I was starting to worry that the next round of Marvel films just wouldn’t live up to it… I was wrong. Iron Man 3 has renewed my excitement for Phase Two and here’s why.
Everyone’s favourite genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is recovering from the events of The Avengers. There were actual aliens – that’s a difficult thing for anyone to wrap their head around. Rather than sleeping or fixing his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) – Tony’s spending his time creating new and improved versions of his Iron Man suit.
Meanwhile a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) claims credit for a series of bombings. Despite the fact that Rhodes (Don Cheadle) insists that this is not a superhero problem Tony decides to get involved after his faithful bodyguard turned Stark head of security, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is injured in an attack. Looking for some “good old-fashioned revenge” Stark gives out his home address to the general public goading The Mandarin to come out and play… it doesn’t end well.
His home is destroyed and Tony is believed dead when really he’s just hanging out in Tennessee with a wise-beyond-his-years kid named Harley (Ty Simpkins). Meanwhile Pepper hangs out with one of Tony’s ex’s Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who is working with geneticist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) on a project called Extremis – a method of hacking into the human brain and reprograming it so it can repair and regenerate limbs. Basically they’re the bad guys.
From there Tony has to overcome his issues, save the girl and figure out once and for all whether or not it’s worth hiding behind the Iron Man suit (both physically and metaphorically) forever.
Confession time - I’m a Marvel girl, and there is not much I love more than a fantastical comic book inspired action film so I was predisposed to like this film. Even though The Avengers raised the bar Iron Man 3 would have had to have been Spiderman 3 level’s of horrible in order to disappoint me. That said, outside of my fangirling predisposition, Iron Man 3 is actually an excellent film.
Sure it doesn’t take any risks; it generally follows the successful formula of the first two films but considering it’s the third film in an action adventure series it does what it does well. It’s fast-paced, fun and everything a superhero film should be. I’m not an expert but I thought the 3D conversion was unnecessary and overall it didn’t add much to the experience. Otherwise the visual effects were well done and the action sequences – especially the destruction of Stark’s Malibu home – are extraordinary.
Shane Black’s signature style – as showcased in the brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – shines through but doesn’t overpower the world established in the previous films in the Iron Man franchise. Black and Pearce’s script is for the most part witty and intelligent but falls down in the presentation of Pepper and Tony’s tempestuous relationship. It often felt forced as if Tony was playing at being a superhero in love rather than actually being in love.
Without a doubt the best part of the film is Ben Kingsley. I’m not a purist so Black’s controversial depiction of one of Iron Man’s biggest foes, The Mandarin didn’t really bother me but I knew the success of this storyline hinged on Kingsley’s performance and boy did he pull it off. Robert Downey Jr. is brilliant as usual, Guy Pearce always plays evil well, and Rebecca Hall adds a little depth to a character that is essentially a cliché.
Pepper Potts storyline has me divided. Gwyneth Paltrow is not my favourite actress but so far I have enjoyed her performance as Tony Stark’s assistant turned girlfriend Pepper Potts and this film is no exception. At some times I wanted to punch the air and scream girl power but at others I was slightly disappointed that a female character that had managed to avoid the trap of being a uniquely-empowered-woman had finally succumbed to the cliché. The movieverse depiction of Pepper Potts, while not without her problems, has been one of my favourite parts of these films and I’m not entirely sure this film truly understood her.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved this movie – I will definitely be making another trip to the cinema and I can’t wait to add it to my Blu-ray collection. It is well worth checking out even if you’re not a massive Marvel fan like me. Iron Man 3 works and a stand alone film, a brilliant sequel and an excellent addition to the Marvel cinematic universe (the references to the events of The Avengers were just enough to connect the film to the wider world without alienating casual viewers).
All in all this was a fantastic film and a great way to begin Phase Two of the Marvel cinematic adventure… seriously the road to The Avengers 2 never looked so good.