“Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?” – Steve Rogers
Iron Man 3 answers two huge questions in the mythology of Iron Man, how do you humanize a genius and how do you make the invincible vulnerable. The original Iron Man put Marvel Studios on the map by reimagining one of their B grade heroes as Howard Hughes mixed with Hugh Hefner on speed. Robert Downey Junior and Jon Favreau lightened up what had become a one note comic character, but also added the weight of a real person still drowning in the shadow of his father. Iron Man 2 attempted to delve into Tony’s addictive personality but, the Demon In The Bottle storyline that defined the comic book Tony Stark, couldn't be repeated on the big screen because Downey’s Stark wasn't set up to have that weak of a psyche. Aside from Scar Jo’s wet dream inducing turn as Black Widow and some epic His Girl Friday banter between Pepper Potts and Tony, Iron Man 2 remains largely forgettable.
Enter Writer/Director Shane Black to save the day. I’m bias, Shane Black is an inspiration of mine. Black, who isn’t a household name, but in the geek circles he’s known (Aside from being epicly killed in Predator) for being one of the greatest screenwriters of all time. Having worked with Downey in the underappreciated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black knows how to write for Robert Downey as well as Quintin Tarantino knows how to write for Sam Jackson. While Favreau remains an Executive Producer, it’s clear that Iron Man 3 is given a shot in the arm and a total change in direction by Black's witty self-depricating dialogue.
This film quickly separates itself from the fantastical world of The Avengers and places us back in the confined space of Tony Stark the man. The movie begins with Tony’s narration, almost apologetically setting up the villains of the story by telling us that he’s the one that caused them to go to the dark side. An apathetic stance from a more mature Tony Stark, whom apparently learned a lot from his time with Captain America. AIM, Marvel comics ever present tech terrorist group, makes its movie debut, as founder Aldrich Killian (played with full James Bond villain swag by Guy Pearce) tries desperately to get Tony to help him change the world, only to be brushed off for the vagina of a young botanist back in 1999. Those are just the seeds for what’s to come, the heart of the film is Tony’s PTSD from his near death at the end of Avengers. Faced with the realization that he has to be ready for another attack and that Pepper’s life depends on it, Stark has begun to obsess over new armor designs capable of dealing with any threat (Hulk Buster anyone?). The latest being the Mark 32, a heat seeking mess of a suit that he just can’t perfect. In addition to his armor obsession, Tony’s suffering from anxiety attacks anytime someone mentions New York or Avengers. On both sides of the equation metal and flesh, Tony Stark is literally breaking down.
most likely thought, “How the hell can you make the Mandarin with his ghetto azz rings and Fing Fang Foom dragon into a realistic movie character?” Well Shane Black figured it out in a brilliant way that both upgrades the character for the 21st century and tongue and cheekily address the fact that the Mandarin just isn’t movie material. Portrayed as an Osama Bin Laden like terrorist leader being backed by AIM, Ben Kingsly shines (he would have stolen the show but Pepper Potts inches him out in my book) and just when you think you know where it’s going, Iron Man 3 manages to throw a curve ball that few people will see coming, word to Fing Fang Foom! The henchmen of the film are the Extremist, a group of ex-military Bio Weapons who are literally (human) torches. These Extremist radiates heat that shuts down Stark tech within seconds, making them the ultimate foes to face off against the Invincible Iron Man.
So is it a good movie? No. It’s an excellent movie. The problem with Iron Man post Avengers is that the bar was set too high, he’s a Super Hero who could go one on one with Thor, so how can you make people believe anything short of Thanos could harm him? Iron Man 3 solves that problem by striping him of the armor, and instead of a by the numbers Superhero movie we have a man on the run storyline. The majority of the film is void of Iron Man, and we get to see what Tony Stark is made of. The comedic element shouldn’t be under played, this is just as much a comedy as it is an action film. From his interaction with the precocious kid genius who’s helping him repair his suit, to using household appliances to battle the Extremist, it’s funnier than the last Hangover movie by far. Downey delivers some great one liners, and there were times I forgot that I was watching a so called, “super hero movie”.
best in the series, and I while it doesn’t have the grand action of The Avengers, it works on an even greater level character wise, proving that Iron Man isn’t just about a guy in a suit blasting things, it’s about finding the hero inside. The only negative I could pick out was Don Cheadle’s role as The Iron Patriot (Norman Osborn—you mad bro?). Cheadle’s Jim Rhodes never won me over in Iron Man 2 the way Terrance Howard did in the first film. Here he doesn’t have room to grow in order to make you care, as he’s relegated to errand boy or sidekick duty throughout. Despite that one blemish, Iron Man 3 is a welcome entry into the Marvel Studios cannon, a perfect way to start Phase Two, and if you stay until the credits end you’ll see why fans love these Marvel films so much.
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