So here we are. The beginning of Phase 2 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If that wasn’t a big enough deal on it’s own Iron Man 3 is also the film that has to follow the $1 billion+ juggernaut that was Avengers Assemble. Can it hope to follow up on that level of success?
Yes it can, just not in the way you’d expect.
A bold move was made straight away when John Favreau stepped down; to be replaced by Shane Black for co-writing and directing duties. Many of you may know that Black (Hawkins in Predator!), has worked with Downey Jr before, in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That film proved a successful combination, as Black’s witty writing perfectly complimented Downey’s natural charm. It was no fluke, as the combo is again a strong point, though not in the same way. Tony Stark is struggling here, with a lot of his ego being stripped away after his wormhole experience with The Avengers, and Downey Jr really adds meat to the character and shows us sides of him we haven’t seen in his previous three outings. No gurning drunkenly in his armour here. That’s not to say the film doesn’t contain humour. There is a fair bit of it. It’s just not always where you think it will be.
It’s extremely difficult to write about this film without going into spoilers. It’s so rich in detail and plot points that you would be forgiven for thinking it was too busy. Some characters do not get as much time as you’d expect but the script is tight (A 2 hour 10 minutes movie in a world where nearer 3 hour films are increasingly common), and everything comes together not only neatly, but answers the main questions the film poses in a strong manner.
As previously said, Downey Jr adds more facets to his character as he is stripped of his usual accoutrements. In a few ways I’m reminded of Batman Begins, as the film is really centred on him and his growth. However, he isn’t the only cast member bringing his A-game. Of particular note are Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce as The Mandarin and Aldrich Killian, who both provide fully resolved characters with understandable motivations behind their questionable actions. Gwyneth Paltrow again stands by Stark’s side as Pepper Potts; who has now moved in with him. Not all is well however as anxiety attacks suffered by Tony following the Battle of New York threaten to create a schism between the couple. Hiding himself away, he has created a series of different armours to keep distracted. Maybe there isn’t so much of the banter we’ve previously seen between them but that isn’t to say the great chemistry we’ve seen in previous films is still present and correct.
A re-branded War Machine (now the Iron Patriot) has more time than he did in Iron Man 2, which is great to see as Don Cheadle has struck up a realistic, brotherly relationship with Downey Jr. Their characters bicker and banter just as you’d expect a pair to when they’ve known each other this long. Hopefully we can get more of his character in future films. A spin-off or maybe Avengers 2?
Sitting through the credits to get to the now-obligatory end credits scene, I couldn’t help but notice how many people worked on the effects for this film. It clearly paid off, as both the practical and visual effects are amazing. This is most clearly shown in a spectacular free-fall sequence that you will have glimpsed in the trailers. It’s hard to figure out what was performed in reality, even if you’ve seen the various videos and images pre-release. That is surely the highest compliment it can be paid.
Iron Man 3’s central question is – Does the armour makes the man or the man make the armour? Not only is this answered emphatically, it is answered by a fantastic cast whose characters challenge our hero to show not only how far he has come, and how much further he can go. From drunken genius playboy to fully fledged superhero and responsible man, Downey Jr is Tony Stark. His multiple picture deal with Marvel has expired, and though I feel its doubtful he won’t return; if this is his swansong it’s a great way to go.
A high point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and not the film I expected at all; Iron Man 3 is a more mature comic book film, whilst still retaining all the adventure and humour we’ve come to expect. Hopefully it’s a great indicator of where Marvel is heading with their cinematic adventures.