May 07 2013
“Nothing’s been the same since New York.”
It’s true not only for the fictional America we find in Marvel’s movies, that tends to happens when aliens attack a major city, but it’s true for the movies themselves. How do you go about making new films in the universe after the spectacle that was The Avengers?
Iron Man 3 is the first experiment in doing so, and by all accounts, it’s a success.
If we’re being honest here, the Iron Main strain of films is really the only reason The Avengers exists in the first place. Favreau’s first film was a wonderful surprise, and blew everyone’s expectations away despite being about hero relatively few used to care about. If it hadn’t been such a smash hit, it’s unlikely The Avengers would have ever assembled as quickly as they did.
It’s Robert Downey Jr’s charisma that carries these films. Hemsworth and Evans may look like Thor and Captain America respectively, but no one’s tuning in just to see them read their lines. But Tony Stark? That’s a different matter altogether, and Iron Man 3 shows that there isn’t much Downey Jr. can do wrong in the role.
New York is barely mentioned in the film, and when it is, it sparks chronic anxiety attacks in Tony as he flashes back to nearly dying in the wormhole above the city. But he must brush away his health ailments to deal with a new threat. And he doesn’t have a super team to back him up this time around.
The foils here are a pair of bad guys with their own special set of skills. There’s Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) a brilliant scientist who has developed a compound that allows the wounded to regrow body parts and heal from nearly any wound. The problem is that there are the tiny little side effects of psychosis, superhuman strength, the ability to melt objects (or people) with magma-like skin and the fact that overdose results in spontaneous combustion. Oops.
The formula creates human weapons better than it heals injuries, and so Killian works out a deal with radical terrorist, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who is blowing up various US interests around the world and constantly interrupting the airways with his propaganda videos.
When the Mandarin injuries Stark’s bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau, no longer directing) in an explosion, Stark declares war. Unfortunately, the war comes to him as his cliffside house is blown to bits by assault helicopters as he and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) barely escape with their lives.
Much of the film has Tony Stark out of his element. With nearly all his suits destroyed, he’s stuck with one that barely works and definitely can’t fly. Tony has to take on bad guys using some combination of his fists, traditional guns, a homemade suit assembled from hardware store materials, or at best, one of his power gloves or boots. For the first portion of the film, you’ll hardly see him in a full set of armor at all.
The film is funny, as we’ve come to expect from the series, and really, these films are practically more comedy than action at this point, as 80% of all Tony Stark’s lines are sarcastic quips that he fires off like machine gun rounds. But it’s great. There’s a place for dark and brooding with Nolan’s Batman or Snyder’s Superman, but Iron Man movies have always just been flat out fun.
You can debate whether or not this is the best movie of the trilogy. I quite liked Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian as a villain, certainly more than Jeff Bridges’ stoic Obadiah Stane, but perhaps a bit less Sam Rockwell’s dance happy Justin Hammer.
I was excited to see Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin in action, as his monologues were chilling in the trailers and I hoped he’d be the most memorable villain the series has to date. But his character takes a turn that should catch everyone off guard, and I’m afraid I can’t be less cryptic than that. I was a bit disappointed he didn’t get more of a chance to shine, but his role allows the plot as a whole to be the most interesting of all the films to date.
As for action? The film can feel a bit slow in between explosions some times, but the payoff of the final fight sequence featuring a few dozen of Tony’s suits is simply astonishing. It’s absolutely the best Marvel fight scene since The Avengers defended New York, and in terms of sheer creativity, it might even be better.
Many were worried with Jon Favreau leaving the series (as a director) and Shane Black stepping in that the film would suffer, but Black directed Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and knows how to bring one hell of a performance out of his friend. Tony Stark has never been better than in Iron Man 3, and subsequently we get yet another film that’s better than anyone expected.
4 out of 5 stars
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