What should a good comic book film be? Fun with a lot of action – with a little heart thrown in. Iron Man 3 ticked all of the right boxes.
Let’s start with a little context. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Iron Man film. It was a very ‘safe’ film to make, understandably so from Marvel’s point of view. The film was incredibly by the numbers and recognizable comic book territory – flawed hero with daddy issues. It also suffered from a Terrence Howard problem. On the whole, however, it was fun and enjoyable. The second film, on the other hand, sucked dick. Trust me, there’s not a more eloquent way of putting it, Iron Man 2 just plain sucked.
Iron Man 3 follows on from the events of The Avengers, but this time there are no other superhero friends to help out Tony Stark when he shoots his mouth off (of course it’s Tony’s own fault he gets into trouble, this is a recurring theme in these films). There is a terrorist, the Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey), terrorizing the US. When Tony’s ex-bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) is the victim of one of the Mandarin’s attacks, Tony takes things personally, vowing to take revenge (and idiotically announcing his home address to the press). The threat is announced almost immediately, and the stakes just get higher and higher from there. The tension is kept incredibly high from beginning to end, exactly as it should be in any good action film.
It was great to see Shane Black back in action. From Lethal Weapon, to The Long Kiss Goodnight, to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this kid is awesome. He understands what action films should be, a genre that tends to be overlooked by critics (unfairly, in my opinion). He is credited for the screenplay for Iron Man 3 as well as sitting in the director’s chair, and he has put his mark all over it. I especially saw a lot of influence from his other Robert Downey Jr helmed film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
The voice over/narration used in KKBB is present in Iron Man 3 as well. Which worked on two levels for me – it had the same tongue in cheek quality of KKBB’s nod to noir, while also tying in to the final scene at the end of the credits (I won’t spoil that). Voice over is a controversial technique, but I have never really had too much of an issue with it if it is done in that kind of noir style.
The credits for this film are also really awesome. Perhaps that is an odd thing to comment on, and it is true that it is an often-overlooked aspect of filmmaking. I personally really appreciate good credits. I think it helps add to the tone and general feel of a film. These particular credits again invoked the KKBB feeling, but they were also very true to the comic book feeling.
Robert Downey Jr was great as always – I’ve loved this man for a very long time. Even through his unreliable drug phase. And while I do prefer him without facial hair, I still think he is a great looking Tony Stark. What I loved about the Tony Stark character in this film was the growth. It is one of my biggest issues with actual superhero comic books – they tend to completely lack characterization and character growth. But Iron Man 3 had it in spades. Sure, it definitely needed it. There was no way that an ordinary man could walk away from the events of The Avengers unscathed, so it was great that the writers actually dealt with it. Also, as someone who struggles with anxiety attacks, it was nice to see the billionaire playboy philanthropist/superhero go through the same bullshit and come out the other side.
The supporting cast also did really well in this film. Gwyneth Paltrow is an excellent Pepper Potts. She is solid, steady, and grounding against Downey Jr’s flighty Stark. Without spoiling anything, all I will say is that it was great to see Gwyneth get to be a badass. It’s about time. Ben Kingsley is brilliant. His character is a commentary on what our society now perceives to be the ‘terrorist persona’ – not just in his actions, but his ethnicity and mannerisms. It is fantastic commentary, and interesting to see something a little deeper in an ostensibly fun, silly film.
Guy Pearce is also excellently menacing and pathetic enough when we first see him. I like Pearce as a bad guy. He never comes across well as someone that I would like (except in Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert) but it definitely someone I love to hate (I’m not sure why I have so many issues with almost every Aussie actor, but there you go). Meanwhile Don Cheadle is the best Colonel Rhodes they could ask for. Why didn’t they use him in the first Iron Man and save us all that pain?!
The weakest part of this film was the paper thin explanation as to why The Avengers weren’t getting involved in this, leaving it all to Tony. At the end of the day, I see the logic in the explanation, but it also seems extremely ‘convenient’. Basically, the story goes that this is just a regular, everyday terrorist, and therefore falls under ordinary US government business. After all, how does a terrorist compare to giant space aliens? Indeed!
Verdict: Go see this film. But don’t bother with 3D if you can avoid it (why do they insist on still making films in 3D anyway? It is completely pointless!).