By giving the keys of a massive superhero franchise to writer-director Shane Black, Marvel have not just restored one’s faith in threequels but have also proved that going ‘darker’ isn’t the only way to make the final chapter of a trilogy. Result: Iron Man 3 is bigger, funnier and more action packed than the previous two films put together.
Robert Downey Jr, at the top of his game is back as Tony Stark, who is now battling post-traumatic stress disorder after the events of The Avengers. A mysterious fundamentalist terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has emerged, wreaking havoc wherever he pleases. Also making an appearance are Botanist Maya Hanson (Rebecca Hall) who also happens to be Stark’s former one night stand acquaintance, and an ambitious, formerly crippled scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Right from the opening scene set to Eiffel 65’s Blue Da Ba Dee it is clear that this one is different from the previous two Iron Man films. Jon Favreau took things a bit too seriously in part two and Shane Black hurls the residual mess in the incinerator to bring in a swanky new coat to the franchise. Film buffs are in for a gleeful ride as Black embellishes Iron Man 3 with shades of his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon when you least expect it. He makes all the main characters in the film wear the Iron Man suit, his villains are literally iron men and yet he drives home the themes of being cocooned in a suit refined enough to remain in the backdrop rather than resorting to dark brooding Dark Knight style.
Black’s greatest strength, however, is that he understands that a superhero film should feel like a superhero film rather than making a half assed point about humanizing the man behind the mask. There is a subplot featuring a Tony Stark obsessed kid teaming up with Stark himself to kick some baddie butt, and with this Black makes the film about his fans. This could’ve gone horribly wrong like Shazaam or become a cheesy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from the 90’s, but Black nails it perfectly. Johnny Depp failed to make things interesting in POC 4 by repeating the same shtick of the first three films and it seems like Downey Jr has taken note - he is as hilariously acerbic as ever but adds that subtle extra layer of sensitivity that makes him an endlessly interesting watch. Don Cheadle is the perfect Danny Glover to Downey’s Mel Gibson and an amusing allusion to Hollywood shootout clichés is preceded by a cameo by Shane Black himself.
There are plenty of problems, especially in the second half. Guy Pearce is basically an extended version of Peter Weyland in Prometheus and Rebecca Hall’s role has less treatment or runtime than an item number – both characters display inconsistency and were clearly given the axe in the cutting room to make the film more about Stark. Also, one can’t help but wonder why Stark doesn’t call his friends from SHIELD or the other Avengers to help him fight the bad guy. It doesn’t matter because the goodies are plenty, biggest of which is Ben Kingsley in one of the best roles of his career – he is absolute fun and even in April he deserves to be handed the best villain of the year trophy – you’ll have to watch the film to believe this.
(First published in MiD Day)