Guys, I’m about to drop a bombshell. Don’t hate me too much when I say...
I DON’T LIKE SHANE BLACK! I think he’s just a weak movie maker. His early screenwriting credits (the first Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout) failed to impress me, and even his directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is a mediocre movie, an interesting idea with inconsistent executions. So when I heard he was replacing Jon Favreau as director of Iron Man 3, I said “That’s it! I’m done with Marvel. They have clearly given up.” So when I finally saw the movie... It was actually better than I thought. Gasp! Shane Black made a GOOD movie? Yes, and while Iron Man 3 isn’t as good as installment one, it is a grand improvement over Iron Man 2.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), plagued by insomniac spells and anxiety attacks after the events of The Avengers, tinkers endlessly with numerous Iron Man suits he has built in his spare time, much to the worry of his closest friends, including his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). In his own words, he’s a piping hot mess. Tony’s about to get more problems, though, as a terrorist by the name of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) plans to unleash deadly force upon the United States, specifically with soldiers implanted with a genetic mutation nicknamed Extremis, which... I’ll be honest, I know what it does, but have no idea how it works. Unexpected twists happen, one-liners are thrown around, and we get a lot of epic action.
Even though it’s under a new director, Iron Man 3 still feels right in line with Jon Favreau’s efforts, and it does what any great sequel should do. It’s continuing the story, keeping any rehash either at a bare minimum, or non-existent. It’s something of a refresher that the first half places so much focus on character rather than on action, and while the turmoil of Stark is never taken full advantage of, I can at least respect the movie for what they did manage to accomplish. The balance of these elements is a respectable approach, although the pacing may not be for everyone’s tastes.
It’s still the same great characters, and the same great chemistry between the stars, with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow giving their best performances for the series yet. The humor, however, is noticeably inconsistent. Shane Black’s Achilles’ heel is his comedy, which is what sank Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so bad(ly), but for every forced gag in Iron Man 3, he always made up for it with a good joke, and not only are they good, they’re hysterical, so that can at least be forgiven. If there’s any one unforgivable fault with the film, it’s with a certain twist involving one of the villains. I don’t want to spoil anything, but what is essentially played for laughs is a disappointment after such epic build up.
But anyway, it’s a Marvel movie, so what about the action? While it doesn’t compare to the spectacular heights of The Avengers or Captain America, it’s still Marvel action, which is always thrilling, visually stunning, and sounds great. One sequence involving Air Force One is of particular note, possibly being the highlight of the entire film, but one can’t shortchange the climax, which, even though I was expecting something grander, is still wildly entertaining in its own right.
Overall, Iron Man 3 is a rock solid super-flick, and a fitting kick off to the Summer movie season. The Iron Man series were notable for having served as the main blueprint for The Avengers universe, and even if they’re not the best of the Marvel universe films, on their own, they were all such funny, thrilling, fresh films that kept us entertained and coming back for more. They came out at just the right time, knew when to pull back, and when to let loose. For what could have been another disastrous Spiderman 3 or X-Men: The Last Stand, for Iron Man 3 to still keep the Iron so shiny and polished is nothing short of a great accomplishment.
And as if you don’t already know, be sure to stay for a hilarious scene at the very end of the credits. The Avengers 2 can’t get here soon enough.
**** / *****